Gideon Haigh
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Cricket historian and writer in Melbourne

No favourite, no underdog

Form or intuition - what does one go by when picking a team to back for the Ashes? Both Australia and England seem vulnerable this time round

Gideon Haigh

November 2, 2010

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A

The England squad celebrate after winning the first Ashes Test, Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 5th day, November 19, 1986
Unlike the 1986-87 side, which went on to win the Ashes 2-1, the current squad are not considered no-hopers at the start of the tour © Getty Images
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Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
Teams: Australia | England

Just as no battle plan survives contact with an enemy, few cricket predictions survive even a day of actual play. But the augurs of the forthcoming Ashes series are worth recording: England enter the series in the decidedly unfamiliar position of overdogs, forecast to ratify the possession of the urn they regained 14 months ago.

When did this last happen? England arrived with the Ashes four years ago, but vestigial belief in their hopes lasted approximately one ball - the Steve Harmison wide that zeroed in on Andrew Flintoff's sternum at second slip. Even when England last prevailed down under in Australia, they were decidedly unfancied, their tri-cornered triumph of 1986-87 coming after an immortal three-pronged assessment of their capabilities from the Independent's Martin Johnson: "Can't bat, can't bowl, can't field."

There was 1978-79, although the forecast that stands out from that series was Australian captain Graham Yallop's flippant prediction of a 6-0 scoreline, which Mike Brearley's Englishmen would almost entirely reverse. You must look back a further 20 years for a parallel with England's current favouritism, when Peter May's team of the talents arrived in Australia tipped to carry all before them - and were right royally stuffed. Expectations weren't ill-founded. It's hard to pick a bone with selection when you run your eye down the MCC team sheet, studded with such names as May, Cowdrey, Graveney, Bailey, Evans, Laker, Lock, Trueman, Statham and Tyson. As Jack Fingleton records in his classic account Four Chukkas to Australia, May's team was thought so strong that it would have "played the Rest of the World and beaten them"; their 4-0 defeat duly became the "biggest upset of modern cricket times".

One individual who was not surprised, however, was May himself. He embarked on the trip full of foreboding, believing "we were always going to struggle". The series was overshadowed by the Australian chuckers to which Fingleton's title slyly referred, but May declined to use this as an excuse, at the time or in retrospect: "Australian cricket played on huge ovals is a young man's game and we had too many players on their last tour. If you have lost the keen edge, Australia finds it out."

 
 
The fashion nowadays is for two - and three-Test series; Ashes cricket, over 25 days, fluctuates naturally, involves accepting that this will be so, and cultivating the competence of regrouping
 

So how does an XI's reputation inflate beyond its abilities, and do any such considerations apply to the circumstances preceding this Ashes series? May points to one common mistake: the tendency to read teams on paper rather than gauge the potentialities of individuals at particular stages in their careers and against particular oppositions.

Something similar applied ahead of the Ashes of 2005. On Statsguru, Ricky Ponting's team looked unassailable. McGrath, Lee, Gillespie and Warne versus Harmison, Flintoff, Jones and Giles? And had McGrath been injured at the end of summer and Jones at the start, what price the MBEs and open-topped bus rides? Yet as Adam Gilchrist has since admitted, the Australians, for all their battle honours, were an unhappy side, grumpily led by Ponting, absent-mindedly coached by John Buchanan. Andrew Strauss has also confided that a key conversation for him that summer was with Stephen Fleming after England's defeat at Lord's. Fleming urged Strauss to look past his chagrin - Australia were vulnerable, apprehensive about England's pace - and feeling turned out to matter more than figures.

An interesting aspect of the prognostications about the forthcoming Ashes is that they might be thought guilty of the opposite sin, of being intuitive rather than empirical. Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen rather drifted through the northern summer - in Pietersen's case, out. Andrew Strauss averages less than 25 in Australia and barely 30 this calendar year. Of England's key bowlers, Graeme Swann took just six wickets in the first four Tests of last year's Ashes, while Jimmy Anderson has paid 56 runs for each of his Australian wickets and 82 runs for each of his wickets in Australia. The vibe around England is that of a resourceful team rather than a particularly accomplished one, well led and well coached. But from whom do we members of the media pick up that vibe? Often from others just like ourselves, where it's easy to fall in with a consensus.

How, meanwhile, does one read form ahead of an Ashes series? Ashes form seemed to point only one way in 1958-59. England had won the three preceding Ashes series; Australia had won only two and lost eight of the previous 16 Ashes Tests. Yet there were other indicators. England had toured South Africa in 1956-57 and been well held; a year later Australia had stuffed the Springboks out of sight, Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson, previously disappointments against England, suddenly coming of age. Why did observers choose to ignore this? Perhaps because of the Ashes' cultural hold on both countries - the sense that only what happened in an Anglo-Australian contest counted. Perhaps also because overseas Test matches then took place well out of sight. Even their own countrymen were unaware what allrounders Benaud and Davidson had turned into.


Zaheer Khan had Andrew Strauss caught at the slips for 18, England v India, 1st Test, 3rd day, July 21, 2007
Strauss has fallen nine times to Zaheer Khan and Mohammad Amir in nine Tests. How will he deal with the similarly left-armed Doug Bollinger? © AFP
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Those considerations no longer apply. The Ashes are no longer the only game in town, nor do the cricket teams of Australia and England disappear from the view of their own followers when abroad, even if it is true that foreign cricket feats still tend to be discounted, football lording it over the sporting winter of both countries. A kind of comparative indicator is available today in the respective recent meetings of Australia and England with Pakistan. But who can now say with confidence that performances against Pakistan are corroborative of anything?

The ultimate reason to distrust form seems to me to be just how different Ashes cricket has become from even the rest of Test cricket. The fashion nowadays is for two- and three-Test series; Australia last played a five-Test series against other than England 10 years ago; England last played a five-Test series against other than Australia six years ago. Test cricket over the shorter timespan is often about winning first up, then attempting to live off that modish cricket concept of "momentum"; Ashes cricket, over 25 days, fluctuates naturally, involves accepting that this will be so and cultivating the competence of regrouping.

It is also a different physical proposition. The world now seems to want its cricket games to end in three hours. Each day this summer, Australia and England will spend almost as long as that simply preparing to play; twice, they face back-to-back Tests. So this is not like wondering whether racehorses bred to gallop 2000m have it in them to tackle 2500m; it's comparable to setting 2000m thoroughbreds the challenge of a 20km cross-country course lined with hurdles and equestrian hazards.

But while contemplating the Ashes in advance might be confounding, it also reminds us of just how intricate are the contests within the contest of a team game played in changeable conditions over such a long duration. We are not simply looking at two teams; we are looking at two teams against each other and over the longest cricket haul of all. Swann has prospered against left-handers in his career, but how many will Australia pick? Strauss has fallen five times to Zaheer Khan in five Tests and four times to Mohammad Amir in four, so how will he deal with the similarly left-armed Doug Bollinger? And because England and Australia are now both middling international teams, it is almost the case that the longer you dwell on one or other, the more palpable seem their vulnerabilities. England, you think, can't possibly be favourites - until you start looking at Australia.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

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Posted by   on (November 4, 2010, 21:45 GMT)

I read many comments proposing the likely importance of Swann in the Ashes.

I disagree with this contention strongly. In no test cricket series in Australia in 50 years has an offspinner, on either side, been a major influence. The great Jim Laker has a mediocre record in Australia; as do Murali, Harbajan Singh, Saqlain Mustaq and every English finger spinner since Laker.

If the the greatest offspinner of all, Murali, has a poor record in Australia, why would anyone think Swann is suddenly going to do any better?

I agree with Micky Authur, the ex SA coach. Pace bowling will determine the Ashes, as it almost always has since the 50's.

It will depend how well the Australian batsmen deal with the English pace bowlers on bouncy Australian wickets, versus how well English batsmen deal with the Australian pace bowlers on bouncy Australian wickets.

For what it is worth, knowledable outsider, Micky Authur when asked, suggested Australia would win - 'comfortably', he added.

Posted by Rahul_78 on (November 3, 2010, 7:33 GMT)

Swann and ponting are the most important players for eng and aussies respectively. If either of them are going to have a off series then that will seal the fate of their team. Also over the course of 25 days of grueling test cricket if any of them gets injured then we are looking at panesar as swanns and m clarke as pontings replacements. That will be massive for the outcome of the game. Everything looks good for poms but million dollar question is do they have plan B in case couple of key players go down with injuries or out of form. For aussies there is no such luxury. Ponting has to have series of his life. Period.

Posted by evenflow_1990 on (November 3, 2010, 2:00 GMT)

this contest will swing every which way, given the weaknesses of both teams. if swann finds form, we'll have a great contest on our hands. aussies looked circumspect against suraj randiv, so they may have difficulty with swann. i think ponting holds the trump card though - his form will dictate terms here. ponting in form - australia wins by virtue of his batting. if he doesn't, i think england become favourites. i expect pietersen to produce something good since he is under pressure and australia's bowling isn't particularly strong.

Posted by Nujee on (November 3, 2010, 1:05 GMT)

Swan is the key for england. Watson is crucial for australia.

Posted by left_arm_unorthodox on (November 2, 2010, 22:25 GMT)

Australia are a rabble. The bowlers are unproven (most of them), coming back from injury (Siddle, Bollinger) unreliable (Johnson) or just not very good (Hauritz). The batters are out of form (Ponting, Hussey -- North most of the time, but wait half an hour) the keeper is coming back from injury. The team has been, by Australian standards, a revolving door of players more like we are used to seeing from England. Compared to the Australians, Swann Anderson and Broad are seasoned players and the English team is stable, full of familiar faces. I am an Australian, but I predict England 2:1.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 22:06 GMT)

I think Finn is the worry for England, Whilst he has shown potential he is only young and hasnt played in tough conditions at this level. I think Anderson is a much better bowler than four years ago and with Broad opening with Anderson i will only worry about the first change. I think its unfotunate the Onions is injured becuase with his wicket to wicket style he could have been key for England. Bresnan doesnt do it at this level and i believe Tremlett is no longer relevant. The batting will deliver and i believe they will outscore the Australians as long as they can pick out Doug Bollinger quickly. Mitchell Johnson will probably be a different player to the one we saw 15 months ago in the last ashes. Hauritz can be dangerous and shouldnt be underestimated like last time. We all remember how he got smacked around at hove in the warm up game in the last series but turned out to be a bit of a secret weapon. We all know KP struggled last time against him but this will be KP's series.

Posted by OutdoorMiner on (November 2, 2010, 20:14 GMT)

Ricky Ponting's due, he is a legend imo, at home, he's gonna score plenty. While Hifenhaus and Bollinger are going to wreck the English batsmen. Home advantage for Australia is too big, Australia win 4 - 0

Posted by Stevo_NZ on (November 2, 2010, 19:38 GMT)

I know Australia has international commitments to play one-day series but their preparation must be questioned as should the scheduling of the Sheffield Shield fixtures (get international players playing more 4 day cricket early in the season). Surely having Clarke, Hussey, North, Haddin, Johnson & Hauritz playing 4-day cricket will be more beneficial than repetitous on-day cricket crap that may reinforce the selection of several players who have definitely seen better cricket form. Hate to say it but I would rather lose the Ashes and see whether Ferguson, Khawaja, Paine, Hughes and co. can make it in the big time. Short-term pain over long term gain. Move on Australia!

Posted by Crazy_Cricket_Fan on (November 2, 2010, 17:53 GMT)

Despite being at #5, Oz is still the TOUGHEST team to beat anywhere in the world..at home? forget..my guess 4-0..I've been watching the game for last 20+ years and never seen ONE ENG player(be it bat or bowl) doing their job with consistency for two consecutive matches..its going to be a memorable ashes for punter for sure..he will be the man of series..no doubt..i'm from Ind fyi..

Posted by Dr.K.H.Iyer on (November 2, 2010, 17:40 GMT)

While NO Country has dominated India @ Home , the Oz will be decidedly better on their home turf! If Ponting leads from the front, it will be Oz all the way b'coz Poms don't have Flintoff! If someone equates Pietersen to Ponting, it will be a joke! Sachin, Lara & Ponting are the best of this era! Kevin is nowhere near! But if Poms play with calculated aggression thet CAN win!

Posted by Biggus on (November 2, 2010, 16:07 GMT)

@Truemans_Ghost-I get where you're coming from. It's been a while since England have won down under and if they're good enough to win the series all power to them. @TheOnlyEmperor-Get a life mate. You really are a bit childish.

Posted by Herbet on (November 2, 2010, 15:21 GMT)

I think relatively little has been made of Australia's bowling, and I dont know why. I havn't seen anything from Siddle, Bollinger, Hilfenhaus, Johnson or Hauritz to have me worried. So Bollinger is left handed? So's my dad. I would be significantly more worried if I saw Brett Lee and Shaun Tait's names on the team sheet. But this seems unlikely.

Posted by JimDavis on (November 2, 2010, 14:04 GMT)

You got it in one with your last line. Expecting 2 of 5 first innings collapses each and probably just as many successful run chases each if allowed. Throw in at least 1 rain affected draw and it will all come down to who can turn their advantage into wins. Unfortunately for me the last 3 years means, right now, I don't have any faith in Australia to make their advantage count any more.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 13:54 GMT)

A fairly even contest, with the result depending on two key batsmen; Punter for the Aussies and Petersen for England. Even the vaunted Australian fielding is showing fraying around the edges. Swann could make the difference. He is a fighter every inch of the way and shows that even when batiting! Odds slightly in favour of the Poms putting one over the Aussies.

Neither team can have any pretensions of being the world's best Australia is on the way down and England on the way up. But Ashes series will always be interesting .

Posted by Herbet on (November 2, 2010, 12:01 GMT)

While I agree with Meety's point that England appear to have good preparation, it worries me. Before the start of the last Ashes all the talk was of Philip Hughes being like Donald Bradman except better, and he duly set off like a house on fire for Middlesex. But then someone noticed he didnt lke bouncers, Harmison proved it and England capitalised on it. I'm worried someone will figure out Swann in a build up game and then the Aussies will have him covered come the tests.

Posted by Herbet on (November 2, 2010, 11:45 GMT)

I tend to agree that the series will hinge on Swann. If he continues on his upward trajectory and can bag 25 or so wickets then I can see England winning. If he doesn't, I think Australia's solid batting line up will be too strong for an inexperienced seam attack that relies a bit too much on overhead conditions to be genuinely effective.

Posted by Biggsey on (November 2, 2010, 10:20 GMT)

You're right, numbers don't reveal what really happened.... the fact that Australia had over 80 runs to play with to take just two wickets to win the game and they still couldn't seal the deal. Says a lot about their "winning mentality" or lack of it.

Posted by Tom_Bowler on (November 2, 2010, 9:15 GMT)

England and Australia are both decent but flawed teams so this could be a very close series. I think England are, by a fine margin, the better side but Australia have the advantage of the conditions and an awesome home record to draw on. Generally if any of the top five sides in the current rankings toured any of the others I'd rate the home team favourites, there is very little between them and certainly no outfit worthy of comparison with the dominant West Indies and Australian sides of recent history, but in Strauss and Flower England have genuinely astute leadership that may be critical. It's the first time for a long time that England start an Australian tour with even a sniff of a chance and although the standard pre-Ashes phoney war is tiresome the excitement is building up nicely.

Posted by RJHB on (November 2, 2010, 9:06 GMT)

Couldn't agree more with many of the comments regarding the out of form players that will decide the series outcome. I reckon its Australia that have more at this time. Hussey, North and Clarke have been poor to average with moments of glory here and there for some time. Ponting is not making the big runs we need and we may not have the right keeper anymore. And the bowlers, Johnson continues to be far too erratic and is just as likely to throw down party pies as much as deliver a decent ball. And Hauritz might be ok or he might be cannon fodder, unknown. England by and large have been better since the Ashes though much depends on their ability to stay on the park in Australia and not get injured so often as with other Aussie tours.

Posted by amit1807kuwait on (November 2, 2010, 8:30 GMT)

Its a typical aussie view this - writing down the visiting team and talking up your own team. What this article fails to espouse is that the English team is on the way up, but the Aussie team is on the way down. Its an article which garbles without any meaning.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 8:24 GMT)

I think Australia will be a very difficult team to beat in Australia, no matter what their current ranking says. The sides look evenly matched with the exception of Swann. I don't expect Anderson to swing the new ball as much as he did in England.

For England to win, they need Graeme Swann to show just why he is considered the best spinner in the world. Broad is another performer from them. I dont expect much from the other bowlers. As a neutral, its going to be a good series to watch and may the best team win.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 8:19 GMT)

Can't wait to see Broad and Swan out here. Going to take a sickie and see them at the MCG against the Vics. So many question marks about this series. Could go either way. As TimmyF_23 said above, it will be a question of which out-of-form players can rise to the challenge. Not at all happy with the pathetic preparation the Aussies have had for this series. CA has been chasing the Indian rupee and I suspect it will come back to bite them on the bum.

Posted by KP_84 on (November 2, 2010, 8:09 GMT)

Haigh: England have not played a 5-Test series other than against Australia in six years.

England's 1-0 series loss to West Indies in early 2009 was a 5-Test series. (Or do you only count four of the Tests, since one was abandoned?) Anyway, both England and Australia have played several 4-Test series in that time (Australia when contesting the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against India, and England once every non-Ashes northern summer against various opponents). A 4-Test series is by no means an 'abbreviated' contest, and offers adequate preparation for a marathon best-of-five.

Posted by varunrallapalli on (November 2, 2010, 8:01 GMT)

One feels that this Ashes is going to be a great ambassador for Test cricket in the midst of the rise of T20. With both teams having equal chance of overcoming other, its gonna be a fascinating series. England have the firepower in their armory, but its home conditions for Australia,so its gonna be a closely contested series.The performance of a key player like KP would rub off on other members of the squad.For Australia though the batting would revolve around Ponting.It would be great if the scoreline is 2-2 and poms retain the urn.

Posted by Truemans_Ghost on (November 2, 2010, 7:56 GMT)

Pukka article Mr. Haigh. Cricket may have changed a lot in recent years, but the fundamentals of the mental game remain unchanged (cue refrain from Casablanca) and a historical perspective is instructive. Biggus, to pick up our previous thread, I lack your sporting (almost) neutrality. I desperately want England to win, and win well. However, just becasue I want them to win doesn't make Ricky Ponting rubbish or Stuart Broad the new Imran Khan. I hope I can be both partizan and objective and appreciate and admire the opposition whilst still hoping for theri downfall.

Posted by TheOnlyEmperor on (November 2, 2010, 7:55 GMT)

Yawn! It's just a series between the No 4 and No 5 teams.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 2, 2010, 7:54 GMT)

Perhaps the most objective and therefore balanced preview of the Ashes I have read so far. There are, however, a few considerations that have been omitted that must have a bearing on the outcome.Of these, by far the most important is leadership. Strauss is sound, but not inspired - and Ponting seems to miss the occasional trick, being more reactive than proactive, in my opinion. Then there is the relative fielding skills: unusually, England can match the Aussies here (Panesaar excepted). Finally, the elephant in the room: KP. I see that he has been sounding off (alright moaning) in his inimitable style about the absence of WAGS for the early weeks of the tour and this must have created some tension between the management and him. If he shows poor form, will he be dropped? England can win without him (picking Morgan instead). The cohesion of the team and the success of the tour may depend on how he is handled -- which comes back to the overriding issue: decisive, inspired leadership.

Posted by Gizza on (November 2, 2010, 7:32 GMT)

Good article Gideon. Both Australia and England's batting seems vulnerable but remember the series will be held in Australia, where the pitches are much flatter. Yes there is bounce but the bounce is even. Doesn't matter how experienced you are in England, no batmen can truly survive against quality swing bowling. But that is not the case with true, bouncy wickets. Even the subcontinental teams have gotten used to it in recent years as seen from India's and SL's recent performances (although it will still take a while for them to win a series in Aus).

I think the pro-batting pitches (except for the Gabba probably) will balance out with the weak batting orders but relatively stronger bowling attacks. It should make an excellent series!

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 6:40 GMT)

Lets hope KP finds some form to make the series fascinating to watch!

English lads! Keep still and dont be complacent - yes Aussies suffered a 2-0 drubbing by the Indians - thats mere numbers. In reality India barely managed the first test hanks to VVS and the Lanky pace man and It wasnt smooth sailing in the second test. Series was closely fought but the numbers can never reveal what really happened! careful!!!

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 6:29 GMT)

Don't know where you got "England enter the series in the decidedly unfamiliar position of overdogs, forecast to ratify the possession of the urn they regained 14 months ago."

As it stands, Australia are odds on (1.82) to win the series outright, whilst England are distant second favourites at 3.40.

Appreciate that kinda negates the entire article though, and everyone's entitled to the odd straw man from time to time...

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 6:18 GMT)

Great article! But Just a word of caution for the English lads-- Yes Aussies were snubbed 2-0 Test series in India. Facts which go unnoticed since it just looks like 2-0 drubbing but India barely managed to cross the Line in the first Test, Even in the 2nd Test it wasnt easy going at all, Aussies are more like great whites - Its all ok they seem to be in their own zone but one small drop of blood in the water they are after you!!!

Englishmen ! beware! one shot of complacency can change the entire game! All the best for both the Teams

Posted by TimmyF_23 on (November 2, 2010, 6:03 GMT)

For me, its going to be a battle won by the so called "out of form players". Which ever side can get the most out of these players, North and Hussey for Aus, Pieterson Cook and Collingwood to a degree for Eng, will go on and win the series. It will be these players who will decide the series, rather than players like Strauss and Ponting who are almost certain to play well and score runs. For the record whilst i think Pieterson will stand up and be close to player of the series i think the other two might struggle. Where as Hussey and North in home conditions will thrive and do very well. Im tipping Australia.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 5:31 GMT)

I'll be very surprised if England win more than one Test Match in Australia. For all their relative weakness, let us remember that Australia almost beat India in India just last month. In Watson and Katich, they have a solid opening pair. At home, their middle order of Ponting, Hussey, Clarke can be quite a handful. Their bowling attack of Hilfenhaus, Bollinger and Johnson might not quite be McGrath, Warne and Gillespie, but they're not bunnies either.

I don't know how people can even call England the favourites. Plain ridiculous.

Posted by Biggus on (November 2, 2010, 5:20 GMT)

Couldn't agree more Gideon. My crystal ball is all clouded over on this one. I'm off to the W.A.C.A. on Friday for a look at England's form Versus W.A.

Posted by catalyst213 on (November 2, 2010, 5:11 GMT)

Bulls-Eye, finally a decent article Gideon, well done. I dont like u very much but have to tell that it is a very good article and i totally agree with you. Honestly we readers have nothing personal with u but we know when u sometimes try to stir crap. Keep up the good work.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 4:53 GMT)

Nice piece. They are actually two ordinary sides with a couple of extraordinary players and I agree that it might not be the best position ot make predictions about the outcome of the series. I would not take too much out of the Pakistan series as it was in England and it was much more suited to Pakistan than it was to Australia. I would also take England"s performances at home with a pinch of salt as the ball swings, seams and even reverses. None of that might happen in Australia. Australia will depend on Ponting and if he bats as well as he has done in previous Ashes encounters, then Australia could have a slight edge. Ponting did bat really well in India and should have definitely got one hundred at least. May the better team win . sridhar

Posted by   on (November 2, 2010, 4:42 GMT)

Great article, Gideon. I am definitely looking forward to this series in the hopes that my beloved Aussies can indeed pull something out and finally win a game. It's been much, much too long since we even won a game, let alone a series. It's funny though, isn't it? As "Something)Witty" has said, both teams are not what they used to be, Aussies are ranked 5 and the Poms, what, 4th? And yet, bragging rights being what they are, I'd much rather lose to the Kiwis (and I certainly never want to see that), than to lose the Ashes. I want those braggin rights!

Posted by Meety on (November 2, 2010, 4:24 GMT)

6 mths ago I thought Oz would wipe the floor with the Poms. However, everything the Poms seem to be doing is showing intent; Pick a massive squad, play 3 warm up matches, get to Oz early. What has Oz done, play a useless series in India, then follow up with a meaningless limited over series against Sri Lanka. I think Oz has thrown away home ground advantage, & this series will end up being close. The biggest factor against the Poms is I suspect their young pace attack will get over excited by the bounce on offer & bowl too short or alternatively think they can swing the ball like in England & bowl too full. I think KP has had great preparation, but I think Finn will be shown to be overrated, in saying that I thought Broad was overrated & he smashed us. It will probably come down to whether Swan is the real deal, if not Oz to win 3-1, if he is the bees knees maybe Poms 2-1?

Posted by 9ST9 on (November 2, 2010, 3:51 GMT)

True both sides are not what they were - England are on a high but still have their insecurities. Aussies are understrength but they have a habit of pulling games back from defeat while the English have the knack of throwing away games that they are in control.

Posted by dyogesh on (November 2, 2010, 3:51 GMT)

Gideon not writing on BCCI, is Gideon at his best. Effortlessly flirting between the past and present of cricket. I hope that the Ashes divert Gideon from BCCI and push him into what he does the best - write on on-field cricket.

Posted by Something_Witty on (November 2, 2010, 3:42 GMT)

Also, forgot to mention, great article.

Posted by Something_Witty on (November 2, 2010, 3:38 GMT)

Both teams are very inconsistent, which makes for an interesting, if bizarre contest. Both batting lineups are brittle all the way down the order (Australia's being slightly more steady given the strong top 3), and both bowling attacks are capable of being inaccurate and conceding large scores. Should be an interesting series even if the quality of the cricket isn't as high as in previous series.

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Gideon Haigh Born in London of a Yorkshire father, raised in Australia by a Tasmanian mother, Gideon Haigh lives in Melbourne with a cat, Trumper. He has written 19 books and edited a further seven. He is also a life member and perennial vice-president of the South Yarra CC.

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