May 2, 2013

Don't write off Australia just yet

Dynasties are frequently built from the depths of humiliation. A nip here, a tuck there, and Australia could pose a serious threat
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The Australian cricket team of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the West Indian cricket team of the 1980s, Liverpool FC around the same time, and the Welsh rugby team from the '70s: what do these exceptional sporting dynasties have in common? A dramatic fall from grace, of course, a collapso so dramatico that the journey back, the summit once so easily conquered, must appear only as an apparition.

The creation of a dynasty is one thing, its maintenance quite another (ask JR Ewing), but to sustain one, well that's a different, and often impossible, trick. West Indian cricket had no infrastructure. Out of disparate territories abounding with natural flair came a fluke. As Sir Frank Worrell had done some years earlier, Clive Lloyd seized the moment with a collection of dazzling fast bowlers and proud batsmen all born within a tick of one another, eager to speak to the world. The cricketers who followed were lazy, or to put it more kindly, laissez-faire. Being that good is difficult and the next generation - less talented by definition - didn't like difficult. So they went back to the beach.

Liverpool's slide is less easily explained, Neither has it truly been a "collapso". But it does bear scrutiny. The club's general ordinariness since Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley - Hughes, Hansen, Thompson, Dalglish and Rush - can only be down to management, in both boardroom and bootroom. The age of commerce confused a culture born in that bootroom. More players were bought and fewer developed, so the inherent standards and sense of unity that had driven performance were diminished. Oh for my Keegan and Callaghan of long ago…

The Welsh? Well, let's go with the fluke theory. They washed us with pleasure, and led those of us growing up at the time to believe that rugby was a thing of beauty. We couldn't see inside the Pontypool front row but we heard Max Boyce sing about it. We couldn't feel the power of Mervyn Davies but we heard South Africans talk in awe. Yet with our own eyes we bore witness to the speed and genius of Gareth Edwards, Barry John and Phil Bennett, of JJ and JPR Williams, Gerald Davies and John Dawes. They made us dream though rugby is not for dreamers. These fine men retired and reality set in. The gene pool was exhausted. Those who followed had no chance.

The real conundrum though is Australian cricket. What on earth happened? Immigrants and the AFL, perhaps: fewer Warners and Clarkes, more Katiches and Henriqueses. Once upon a time the fleets brought new Aussies from England - "the daftest thing you blokes ever did was sending us here and keeping that place for yourself". Fair call. Now the talk is about immigrants from Italy, Greece, Lebanon, the Middle East, China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands. Not much cricket anywhere there. It's a slow drip but has started. Maybe Indians will save the day.

Aussie Rules football and Rugby League pay well. Maybe the best athletes are attracted to them. Odd as it might sound, and obvious exceptions are excluded, the present Australian side has neither especially good catchers or ground fielders. It is a worry. So is the lost art of batsmanship. And so is the lack of bowlers who spin the ball.

Much of man's strength is derived from situations that appear hopeless. Desire, desperation, hunger - all the clichéd words that apply to warriors and sportsmen are clichéd for a reason. Stuff happens

The T20 Big Bash is an obsession. Last summer Warney and Hoggy, both 40-plus, wheeled away. The Sheffield Shield is shrinking from public perception. A living is available from the short form but it is a living, not a love. And the injuries! And the uncertainty over selection. And Michael Hussey's unexpected retirement - how that hurt his captain - and a suggestion that Ricky Ponting might be called back, and so on and so forth. Oh, and Shane Watson and "the homework four". Logic, or good old-fashioned common sense, has gone AWOL. And yet the bookies make it no more extreme than 3-1 against winning back the Ashes. There's no chance. Probably.

Let's think. Australia do have a good captain, which is a start. And they do have fast bowlers, though the odds of the best set staying on the park for longer than the time it takes Jonathan Trott to mark his guard are not good. Michael Clarke's herculean form must continue but the smile better disappear. Remember Allan Border in England in 1989? All grumpy and no one's mate, when he was actually everyone's mate but would not allow it to be so.

That team of 1989 was the worst on paper to have left Australian shores, they said. That's until this one leaves. Rather like 1958, when Peter May's England arrived in Australia with the best side ever, yes ever! So the Aussies were no-hopers on each occasion. The results? 4-0 to Australia both times. You don't play on paper. Clarke better stop being nice to people and get dirty. Either that or he must find Richie Benaud's Midas touch.

Imagine England with Kevin Pietersen's knee in a post-operative brace, and Graeme Swann's elbow in a sling. In other words imagine the England who were in New Zealand. Imagine a niggling muscle strain that haunts James Anderson, and see a canvas without Alastair Cook at his unforgiving best. It's sounding a bit different now, huh. Imagine Clarke winning a couple of crucial tosses, David Warner coming off, and Brad Haddin clinging to everything. Imagine everyone imagining the unimaginable. See the mood change. Assume nothing, assumption is the mother.

Dynasties are frequently built from the depths of humiliation. Much of man's strength is derived from situations that appear hopeless. Desire, desperation, hunger - all the clichéd words that apply to warriors and sportsmen are clichéd for a reason. Stuff happens.

Rather than a rebuilding, Australian cricket needs a renovation. No, do not write off Australia just yet. South Africa made that mistake in Brisbane and Adelaide late last year. First the rain, then injury to James Pattinson and then Faf du Plessis' most amazing hour, nay day, denied Clarke his moment. What has significantly changed since? Only the retirement of Michael Hussey. Ponting was shot anyway. The tour of India is a red herring when compared to a tour of England.

So that's it Pup. Plug the Hussey hole and sell the value of the baggy green like you have never sold it before. Australians have cricket in their soul. The present lot just need to find it, to understand that it won't come easy, and it won't come with money or celebrity. Once they do, Australia won't be as far off the pace as the lip-licking critics suggest.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • KK47 on May 2, 2013, 6:46 GMT

    Aus are going in as underdogs which should help their cause. I hope they fight it out more than they did in India. Eng should be wary of Aus bowling attack. They have good pace bowlers and if they can remain fit for majority of the series, it has the ability to mask batting collapses. Throughout the history, we have seen that good bowling sides have always done better than good batting sides especially in tests.

  • Edwards_Anderson on May 2, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    My comments on some of our key players who can help us win the ashes are as follows: Cowan - love his tenacity & the fact he truly cares about his wicket but needs to convert his starts Warner - gifted enough to dominate (if he does it once every 2/3 tests that's enough) Khawaja - best no.3 option in the country and fantastic future prospect if he cang get his chance Clarke - He is in exceptional form and needs to bottle his form Rogers - His experience of UK conditions will be good Hughes - after his failure in India is on his last chance, hope he comes throug Haddin - good choice as VC for his experience and catching ability Siddle - so much heart & good enough bat to be our "all-rounder" Pattinson - best real quick & good bat too Lyon - proven to be our best spinner Harris - One of our best quicks when fit Bird - will be his making in UK.

  • on May 2, 2013, 4:31 GMT

    It's not always that i can say i agree with Mark Nicholas, but you we all have to give credit when it's due. This is a well written article. I completely agree in stating that Australia should not be completely discarded from having a chance at a good Ashes this year. No doubt they were a bit too below average in India, but this will be a completely different ball game. For England, no doubt, Cook has to be at his best and so does Anderson. These two are going to be vital for them to be able to win (and also Trott). For Australia, stating the obvious here, Clarke will be of the utmost importance for them. But I am really looking forward to see a few splendid innings from Haddin. The new editions to the team (should have been selected earlier if you ask me) will also have an X factor to their line up. Two more thing very crucial for the Aussies if they want to win the series will be their pace attack have to be on song & most importantly Warner will need to get them off to a good start.

  • jay57870 on May 5, 2013, 19:26 GMT

    Mark - Yes: What a "collapso so dramatico" for OZ cricket! What OZ needs is a good dose of hot, new Hollywood flicks for introspection & inspiration. Yes, Clarke's team surely looked like the "Evil Dead" in India! No, it wasn't "A Good Day To Die Hard" for the "Quartet"! With "Dark Skies" looming, the axe was wielded by "Jack The Giant Slayer"! Watson was banished to "Escape from Planet Earth"! There was no "Safe Haven" for Wade either, with his devilish "Side Effects"! So Haddin was flown in to expel Wade's demons with "The Last Exorcism Part II"! The collapso was as dramatico as "Zero Dark Thirty", the conundrum for OZ far worse than "Les Miserables"! So "Iron Man 3" Arthur forced the remaining "Warm Bodies" on a crash course with "Silver Linings Playbook"! Now if they excel in their "Pain & Gain" homework, the zombies could bounce in England from "Oblivion" to the glory days of "OZ The Great And Powerful"! Dream on: It's only an apparition of a dynasty, Mark!

  • on May 5, 2013, 3:26 GMT

    most importantly the aussies are forgetting their unique batting techniques that made them excel around the world. strong back-foot and demolishing front foot drives. Still ricky and huss dint make a real good contribution but their presence had been felt in the field. and one can see the difference between the style of play of langer-hayden and cowan-warner , the premier duo are very positive in the approach than the latter ones. Hayden was a destructive batsman and continued to be destructive in the test format but warner is neither explosive or tentative. wel michael clarke does the heroic saving all the time, well the law of averages dosent allow him all the time. C'mon aussies make it count.

  • Vikramaditya100 on May 4, 2013, 20:45 GMT

    Well, never write off Aussies....but for them to stand any chance... they must not constantly keep changing sides...between the matches...and also their batting lineup needs to be set in order...

  • ScottStevo on May 4, 2013, 14:49 GMT

    @Adam Griffin, exactly! Based on the somewhat comparable results of two different series played in India, England are far superior in English conditions? But then forgetting the 2 other somewhat comparable series against SA where one side was all over SA and the other completely humiliated... I think the English are in for a shock as I actually think Aus can win this series. Granted, England should and will start as firm favourites, but if the Aus batting order can avoid being rumbled for less than 200 every other innings, then we will threaten to win each of these tests. If they actually get it together and bat well, which for some here seems to an almost impossible scenario to even contemplate, then we just might leave Eng with the little urn. I'm quietly confident that we are going to get some runs out of Warner and for some strange reason, I think P Hughes might play well. Was unlucky last time to be dropped early in the series after NOT being caught at slip by Strauss.....

  • Franklin83 on May 3, 2013, 22:00 GMT

    I am always disappointed to find Mr Nicholas' written work so plain and unimaginative, especially given his talents as an orator.

  • Beertjie on May 3, 2013, 17:39 GMT

    Precisely because of what you write about comparative differences between English and Aus pitches, @cric_J on (May 3, 2013, 6:12 GMT), Bird and Harris (and his replacement Sayers) will thrive just as Alderman did in '81 and '89! Of course it will require a massive performance from a number of inexperienced batsmen to support the likes of Clarke, Haddin and Rogers, but as Mark says, it's not inconceivable.

  • criteek on May 3, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    England are playing the old fashioned test style. A team with several players who play the dogged innings and disciplined bowling. However, the guys winning it for them are Pieterson, Anderson and Swann, their attacking options. Aussies need to blunt these three, a not so easy task, or hope they falter, and their spirit of playing the game harder will provide them opportunities that they need to drill down to nick it.

  • KK47 on May 2, 2013, 6:46 GMT

    Aus are going in as underdogs which should help their cause. I hope they fight it out more than they did in India. Eng should be wary of Aus bowling attack. They have good pace bowlers and if they can remain fit for majority of the series, it has the ability to mask batting collapses. Throughout the history, we have seen that good bowling sides have always done better than good batting sides especially in tests.

  • Edwards_Anderson on May 2, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    My comments on some of our key players who can help us win the ashes are as follows: Cowan - love his tenacity & the fact he truly cares about his wicket but needs to convert his starts Warner - gifted enough to dominate (if he does it once every 2/3 tests that's enough) Khawaja - best no.3 option in the country and fantastic future prospect if he cang get his chance Clarke - He is in exceptional form and needs to bottle his form Rogers - His experience of UK conditions will be good Hughes - after his failure in India is on his last chance, hope he comes throug Haddin - good choice as VC for his experience and catching ability Siddle - so much heart & good enough bat to be our "all-rounder" Pattinson - best real quick & good bat too Lyon - proven to be our best spinner Harris - One of our best quicks when fit Bird - will be his making in UK.

  • on May 2, 2013, 4:31 GMT

    It's not always that i can say i agree with Mark Nicholas, but you we all have to give credit when it's due. This is a well written article. I completely agree in stating that Australia should not be completely discarded from having a chance at a good Ashes this year. No doubt they were a bit too below average in India, but this will be a completely different ball game. For England, no doubt, Cook has to be at his best and so does Anderson. These two are going to be vital for them to be able to win (and also Trott). For Australia, stating the obvious here, Clarke will be of the utmost importance for them. But I am really looking forward to see a few splendid innings from Haddin. The new editions to the team (should have been selected earlier if you ask me) will also have an X factor to their line up. Two more thing very crucial for the Aussies if they want to win the series will be their pace attack have to be on song & most importantly Warner will need to get them off to a good start.

  • jay57870 on May 5, 2013, 19:26 GMT

    Mark - Yes: What a "collapso so dramatico" for OZ cricket! What OZ needs is a good dose of hot, new Hollywood flicks for introspection & inspiration. Yes, Clarke's team surely looked like the "Evil Dead" in India! No, it wasn't "A Good Day To Die Hard" for the "Quartet"! With "Dark Skies" looming, the axe was wielded by "Jack The Giant Slayer"! Watson was banished to "Escape from Planet Earth"! There was no "Safe Haven" for Wade either, with his devilish "Side Effects"! So Haddin was flown in to expel Wade's demons with "The Last Exorcism Part II"! The collapso was as dramatico as "Zero Dark Thirty", the conundrum for OZ far worse than "Les Miserables"! So "Iron Man 3" Arthur forced the remaining "Warm Bodies" on a crash course with "Silver Linings Playbook"! Now if they excel in their "Pain & Gain" homework, the zombies could bounce in England from "Oblivion" to the glory days of "OZ The Great And Powerful"! Dream on: It's only an apparition of a dynasty, Mark!

  • on May 5, 2013, 3:26 GMT

    most importantly the aussies are forgetting their unique batting techniques that made them excel around the world. strong back-foot and demolishing front foot drives. Still ricky and huss dint make a real good contribution but their presence had been felt in the field. and one can see the difference between the style of play of langer-hayden and cowan-warner , the premier duo are very positive in the approach than the latter ones. Hayden was a destructive batsman and continued to be destructive in the test format but warner is neither explosive or tentative. wel michael clarke does the heroic saving all the time, well the law of averages dosent allow him all the time. C'mon aussies make it count.

  • Vikramaditya100 on May 4, 2013, 20:45 GMT

    Well, never write off Aussies....but for them to stand any chance... they must not constantly keep changing sides...between the matches...and also their batting lineup needs to be set in order...

  • ScottStevo on May 4, 2013, 14:49 GMT

    @Adam Griffin, exactly! Based on the somewhat comparable results of two different series played in India, England are far superior in English conditions? But then forgetting the 2 other somewhat comparable series against SA where one side was all over SA and the other completely humiliated... I think the English are in for a shock as I actually think Aus can win this series. Granted, England should and will start as firm favourites, but if the Aus batting order can avoid being rumbled for less than 200 every other innings, then we will threaten to win each of these tests. If they actually get it together and bat well, which for some here seems to an almost impossible scenario to even contemplate, then we just might leave Eng with the little urn. I'm quietly confident that we are going to get some runs out of Warner and for some strange reason, I think P Hughes might play well. Was unlucky last time to be dropped early in the series after NOT being caught at slip by Strauss.....

  • Franklin83 on May 3, 2013, 22:00 GMT

    I am always disappointed to find Mr Nicholas' written work so plain and unimaginative, especially given his talents as an orator.

  • Beertjie on May 3, 2013, 17:39 GMT

    Precisely because of what you write about comparative differences between English and Aus pitches, @cric_J on (May 3, 2013, 6:12 GMT), Bird and Harris (and his replacement Sayers) will thrive just as Alderman did in '81 and '89! Of course it will require a massive performance from a number of inexperienced batsmen to support the likes of Clarke, Haddin and Rogers, but as Mark says, it's not inconceivable.

  • criteek on May 3, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    England are playing the old fashioned test style. A team with several players who play the dogged innings and disciplined bowling. However, the guys winning it for them are Pieterson, Anderson and Swann, their attacking options. Aussies need to blunt these three, a not so easy task, or hope they falter, and their spirit of playing the game harder will provide them opportunities that they need to drill down to nick it.

  • on May 3, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    As an Indian fan I wouldn't really call the current Aussie scenario a downfall of a dynasty! The situation isn't as bad as that of Liverpool or WI of the past. Key players have resigned and its just the transition phase. They definitely have a great crop of bowlers in Siddle, Patto, Starc, Bird who will get a lot from the swinging english pitches unlike the spin friendly ones they toiled on in India. An offspinner who would definitely be knowing better about his craft after the India tour. The batting doesn't look bad too: Rogers, Cowan/warner, Hughes, Clarke, watto, Khwaja, Haddin, Starc, Siddle, Pattinson, Bird/Lyon with Watson bowling is the best combo.

  • ooper_cut on May 3, 2013, 11:44 GMT

    Well, put that way, Ozs can take courage. Maybe Mark should be their team mentor for the ashes !!!

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on May 3, 2013, 11:34 GMT

    It's England's series to lose. Complacency, poor team choices and lacklustre bowling once again from England could again leave them struggling to pick up the 20 wickets required for victories. Batting-wise, the first few opening spells against Aus. quicks will be key! Most of the England batsmen are shakey starters, but once they get in they can be top-class. Once the Aus. quicks are jaded, there is not much else to occupy the bowling quotas... Siddle key here perhaps?

  • Amith_S on May 3, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    We. Can win, our bowling is great, Watson will be our all rounder and Clarke will lead our batting with Khawaja and Warner to also fire around him, but they will be a tough team to beat in their conditions, no doubt about it

  • gemmy123 on May 3, 2013, 11:14 GMT

    For me, it comes down to how well the Aussies bowl. We heard a lot about their fire and pace before the last series down under, but in reality (Siddle apart, and bar one Mitch spell that was superb) they were just 'up and down'. If they can move the ball in England, then they're in with a shout.

    I don't, however, see their batsmen dominating England's attack in the way the 1989 side did. Simply because if one of the host's bowlers is struggling, then there is proven quality to call upon. In '89 that wasnt the case, Gus Fraser was our best bowler and he was a complete novice. This time around, it'll be Tremlett, Onions, Bresnan etc all in the wings and they've knocked the Aussies over before.

  • it_happened_last_in_2001. on May 3, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    Just prior to the last Ashes series, in Oct 2010, Australia lost a 2 game series in India 2-0. They should have at least drawn that series. We all know that the following ashes series was 3-1, with 3 defeats by an innings. This year Aus goes off the back of a pretty severe 4-0 defeat in India to play the poms once more. The key question for Aus supporters is do you think that the team named for the forthcoming ashes is a better team than the one that lost 3-1, with Ponting, Hussey,Katich etc? The poms will probably field 9 players who played in 2010/11, with only Strauss & Collingwood having moved on. We've got great bowlers you will all cry - and yes, indeed you have, but you have to bat on the strips that your bowlers do well on. 2 examples: Cape Town 2011, Saffers 96 all out, then Aus all out 47. Perth 2012 where you got the Saffers out again for 225 only to be 6 down for 45. So is this a better or worse Aus team than 2010/11 ? I say worse & heavy defeat on way.

  • Ozcricketwriter on May 3, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    Australia went in as underdogs to the Indian tour too, don't forget. Most pundits were expecting it to be 4-0, though 3-0 was seen as a possibility, or even 3-1 with some luck. And so Australia lost 4-0, as expected. Australia were actually competitive for long periods, before, in each game, India took it away. It was far from an upset loss. It was as predicted. India are hard to beat in India.

    For this 5 test tour to England, most people are expecting 3-1 to England with 1 draw. In other words, the expectation is that Australia will get a little closer to beating England than they got to beating India; but will still lose badly. The squad, as chosen, isn't terrible. For me, there are only 2 in the squad that shouldn't be there (Hughes and Haddin) and only 2 that definitely should have been there (Smith and Johnson). And who knows, maybe I am wrong. With a poorly performing side, nobody is ever going to agree with selections.

    Australia can win, but it would be a huge upset.

  • Chris_P on May 3, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    @gmoturu. "Warner can't play swing"? Go look up his undefeated century against the Kiwis (& carrying his bat) in Hobart where the ball was swinging a mile. Not one other batsman came anywhere near a centruy in a low scoring match then come back & tell me he can't play swing. How could you ever have come up with that assumption anyway?

  • sajid_rana20 on May 3, 2013, 10:13 GMT

    Lack of Spin bowlers is an real problem for aussies .

  • deekss on May 3, 2013, 9:45 GMT

    Aussies: Clarke is the back bone of the contention in their upcoming feature, and having said that it is very weak & poor team as meant on talent, skill & experience, but they can do wonders if they can regain & inspire by the professionalism & dedication the legacy of aus cricket had in the past.they would be on the winning side in the end....i hope...#professional

  • Ayush_Chauhan on May 3, 2013, 9:07 GMT

    This is as motivational as they come, an article about sports rather than a breakdown of stats which most articles end up becoming. Loved it for its pure sense of hope.

  • Sir.Ivor on May 3, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    This Australian team looks similar to the one Alan Border had when he took over with Australian cricket in the doldrums. They have a terrific set of fast bowlers. Even if a few are injured,they have a fearsome bench as well. In Lyon they have a good off spinner who could match Swann with the confidence he would definitely have got bowling to the India batsmen. He flights the ball well and is accurate.England may have won in India but I believe that it may have been because of Dhoni's wayward luck after winning everything.It may have been the law of averages catching up. With Kevin Pietersen doubtful, the rest of England'd batting barring Cook -- if his good luck holds--will certainly find Pattinson,Siddle,Bird Harris and Hilfenhaus quite a handful.Add to that a fully fit Watson and the new star in the making Faulkner and you have the whole package. Cowan,Warner Clarke,Hughes and Watson will be able to more than hold their own against the Anderson led English attack.

  • RednWhiteArmy on May 3, 2013, 6:30 GMT

    NZ are much tougher opponents than the aussies. I think we should concentrate on this series first.

  • on May 3, 2013, 6:20 GMT

    Stop over emphasizing on these Ashes and treat this as another tour. Now NZ will play against England and treating this as a rehearsal for Ashes is very unfair to cricket. Australia lost 4 tests against India and in all fairness, introspection and corrective action should start with those results as base and they must plan for future matches as a whole and not just for these Ashes alone

  • cric_J on May 3, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    @ RodStark : Good points there. Right on the money.

    The aussie supporters need to understand that talent and skill alone won't help one's cause. Agreed that almost all of the young fast bowlers that Australia have tried out in the past 1-2 yrs have been very good , but they have played too few matches to be billed as "unplayable" and "threatening". And remember that most of those series have been in Australia. Although England's conditions are pretty similar , it does make a difference when you are playing at home. Also, Aussie pitches are much more fast paced than English pitches and offer more bounce , which makes the Aussie bowlers look all the more difficult to play. English conditions on the other hand are more about swing ,accuracy and the proper use of seam movement. So the seamer that handles these three aspects the best , should be the most successful one at the end of the series.

  • Moppa on May 3, 2013, 3:56 GMT

    @Munkeymomo, good pick-up, I originally read it is less *Warnes* and Clarkes, not *Warners*. It seems he is not commenting on the relative merits of the players, but just highlighting the multi-cultural nature of Australia today, by picking Katich (with Croatian heritage, albeit Australian born) and Henriques (who was born in Portugal).

  • Nerk on May 3, 2013, 1:33 GMT

    It should be a fine series between two flawed teams. On their day both these teams can win at a canter or, if it isn't their day, collapse like a canvas tent in a gale. But that is when cricket is at its best, when teams rely on their guts and determination. Its going to be a marathon and the team that wins will be the team that fights the hardest.

  • the-moose on May 3, 2013, 1:04 GMT

    this is wishful thinking for certain. i have seen this England team playing when the victory means something to them. their last two series against India were the litmus test. The current Australian squad is the worst in my living memory, which includes the team under Border. It does not stand a chance and another loss to England looms. 5-0 is not impossible, provided no days are washed-out.

  • Meety on May 3, 2013, 0:41 GMT

    @pauln2 /Beertjie - I agree that Hughes, Khawaja & Rogers would not be amongst the best fieldsmen going around & that there are question marks over Haddin & Wade as Keepers, but the rest are pretty bloody good. Cowan is doing well as short leg, the slips are better than they were 5 years ago, with Clarke & Watto, losing Hussey in the gully is going to be hard to fix - actually have no idea who will field there, maybe Rogers?

  • on May 3, 2013, 0:18 GMT

    i think that aus will win the series 3-1

  • gmoturu on May 3, 2013, 0:18 GMT

    Warner can't play swing like Sehwag. Swann & Peitersen will be in the squad. Bowling is the only area which can save Australia. I want to see Aus loosing 5-0 which never happened.

  • on May 3, 2013, 0:01 GMT

    I think the only team to beat England this year will be NZ, sorry Aussies :P

  • Chris_P on May 2, 2013, 23:39 GMT

    @JG2704 The result in India didn't surprise me in the least & I woite it up as such well before the tour started. Unlike this Ashes side, the side was an odd assortment of collectable cricketers with form not even a consideration. I have written a lot on Watson's merits to be in the squad given his dismal fc form over the past 3 years, Maxwell should never have been selected (however I rate him one of the best T20 players around), Doherty's selection really did stagger me as he had taken 2 wickets in 4 fc games for 160 runs. Wade's keeping efforts against Sri Lanka were very poor, & he took them to lower levels in India. No, the selection was a disaster with the expected results achieved. At least with this squad, Haddin over Wade (although I would have brought in Paine as well over Wade) is pretty well chosen on form (only MoHen for Watson should have happened).

  • RodStark on May 2, 2013, 23:16 GMT

    It's going to be a great series! A couple of points.

    First, Clarke has been amazing lately, but even ignoring his back problems, there's no guarantee that his form will last. Everyone has a dip at some point, and he's due. I imagine England will "target" him just as the great Australian teams always targetted the England captain.

    Second, everyone is talking up the Australian pace attack, but it's pretty unproven. Siddle has 41 tests (way less than Anderson and Broad), but other than him, the next most experienced is Harris with 12 tests (behind Finn and Bresnan). The others range between zero and ten. True, after the four I've mentioned, England don't really have any other remotely experienced pace bowlers in the frame, but they shouldn't need them (I hope).

    I'm not knocking Australia, just pointing out that their two biggest assumed advantages are open to question.

  • 2nd_Slip on May 2, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    If Hussey steps out of retirement maybe Aus can make a contest out this but having said that Eng can be just as pathetic at times(a weak NZ team that SA mopped the floor with earlier this year showed us how ragile Eng can be)

  • hhillbumper on May 2, 2013, 20:47 GMT

    all of this is just supposition.Lets see what happens when we play and England need to take it a game at a time.The reason they lost no1 was because they lost focus. They need to go back to what they do best and play their way and not to try to match someone else.

  • on May 2, 2013, 19:37 GMT

    The Aussies lost the 2010/11 series 3-1, and each of those defeats was by an innings.

    And that was in Aussie conditions. With Ponting, Hussey and Katich in the top order.

    England will be almost unchanged, save for Strauss and Collingwood (the latter of whom contributed nothing in that series anyway).

    I like Mark Nicholas but it'll take more than this article to convince me that the Aussies are going to make a game of it.

  • JG2704 on May 2, 2013, 19:21 GMT

    @Adam Griffinon (May 2, 2013, 3:12 GMT) - The India result genuinely surprised me. Aus had fewer probs vs SL who have the world class Herath in their ranks. Maybe they're still lost without guys like Ponting and Hussey. I'm wondering if they're more missing Hussey than are that bad against spin , but you're right in that this is a different series and if Aus do have a problem with spin it's unlikely to be shown up as much in England. Aus were excellent vs SA and unlucky not to get something from that series so I certainly wouldn't write them off on seaming pitches

  • Batmanian on May 2, 2013, 18:36 GMT

    England aren't that good. Sure, Australia look worse; the bowling is solid but one dimensional at times, the batting brittle, but surely set to improve. England has brittle bowling and strong batting that could yet fail at the wrong time. Neither of these teams is anywhere near RSA in standard, but, like BD in Zim, it's going to be a great series nonetheless.

  • on May 2, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    looking forward to this series....I'm English through and through and thus have learnt over the years that you write Australia off at your peril!.....Admittedly not the strongest Aussie side to leave their shores but rest assured it will be a titanic battle...The aussies simply aren't bottlers (unlike the England teams of the 90's) In India they were beaten by a team smarting after their English humiliation and were out for Aussie blood and the aussies had to contend with totally alien conditions.....They'll be up for the challenge in England, and England will have to banish any complacency right now!....saying that, England have been a very good test match team for several years now and won't become a poor team overnight. With that in mind, if both teams play to the best of their abilities then England to Win 2-0 or 3-1, but if England are off the boil then don't be surprised to see Australia sneak it!....cricinfo, please publish

  • wrenx on May 2, 2013, 15:22 GMT

    Has it been since the early 20th-century when there were only 2 test-teams in the world that 2 sides will have played 10 consecutive test matches against one another? Almost feel bad for the side that takes the first series, as they'll run the risk of holding Ashes bragging rights for all of 4 months...

  • Harlequin. on May 2, 2013, 14:44 GMT

    Yes, a couple of improvements from where they are at the moment and Australia will be a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, it will only take Clarke's back giving way for Australia to crumble entirely.

    By the same token, if Anderson breaks down then England will struggle to win tests - Swann is unlikely to take sack-fulls of wickets in England and Finn is the only other wicket-taking bowler but he still seems to be coming to terms with his new run up.

    Should be an interesting series

  • cric_J on May 2, 2013, 14:42 GMT

    @ Electro_loco_WAP4 : Now, you are just the only one who has got it right on this forum. Australia won't even need 4 days in any of the 10 Ashes tests to crush England. The poms will suffer just like they did in Ashes 2009 and 2010. And Australia will be as ruthless as it was against India.

  • Lara213 on May 2, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    I share with Boycs' view on his weekly call that we're all going to enjoy the Aussies getting a taste of the medicine they've dished out to Eng and others over the last two decades. Whitewashes, innings defeats, humiliating, comic batting collapses after their bowlers have done all the hard work.

    Aus bowlers may be good enough to win a test, but to avoid losing you need good solid batting and that's their big weakness. Aus will play well for a few seesions of each test, even getting into winning positions - as England often did in Ashes' past. But unlike their invincible predecessors they will mess it up at the death and suffer a collapse that will make all their bowlers' good work irrelevant.

    I agree

  • latecut_04 on May 2, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    ''A nip here, a tuck there''--what Nicholas means by that are 1.Cowan and Warner(?)posting good opening stands 2.Khwaja establishing himself as the new No:3 for Aus 3.Clarke carrying on his prolific form throughout the series 4.Aus not missing Michael Hussey and middle and lower middle order posting 150-200 runs atleast regularly(?)5.Starc-Patto-Cummins-Siddle-Watto-Bird satying fit for 5 tests (?)...will this happen.lets look from Eng perspective..Cook,Trott bating as solid as ever(leave Compton out for the moment).KP showing his genius sometime.Matt Prior sheperding the tail and adding invaluable runs.Anderson swinging the ball in England.Broad,Finn,Tremlett,Swann,Bresnan doing their job.which is more likely its a no brainer.BUT these pre match predictions and analysis are the only futile exercises in the game of cricket...still... should say Eng are heavy favs....

  • liz1558 on May 2, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    This is impossible to call. If England hadn't toured NZ, it would be a different story. England left India victorious, with a strong all- round attack and their best batsman rehabilitated. Anderson and Finn bowled well, Swann and Panesar brilliantly, whilst Cook piled up the runs. On the other hand, Australia got blanked for the first time in 40 years 4-0, and looked awful in every way. NZ, however, made the same England side look past its best and very ordinary. All they did was compete rather than fold and they outplayed England. The question is which result for England was the aberration - defeating India, or squeezing a draw out of NZ? Only time will tell.

  • 2.14istherunrate on May 2, 2013, 12:17 GMT

    The danger for English fans is to get too happy before the series starts.Maybe even jokes about the Aussies being the pudding course after the main dish v Kiwis-a small dish albeit of 2 Tests-- should be tempered though NZ batting looks better than Clarke and co. on paper. That is where the real problem lies and by selecting Rogers at 35 the selectors have tried to fill in a large crack,but others exist. There is still the normal buzz about this Ashes series, more if you are English ( the outlook was always depressing in the '90's). There is respect for the Aussie quicks as well as the knowledge that they not really series fit. Harris's latest scare hammered that home. The talk has been about their greater depth of seamers but I think that is pie in the sky. Our resources are plentiful seamwise-look at Onions, and others this season.Will Finn even be needed for game 1?We know the Aussie fighting spirit but it seems more infighting these days. Do the players even like Clarke,he them?

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on May 2, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    England will be W/W 5-0 in UK . The red hot young Aus quicks will be too much for the ageing Eng top 7 . Be more even contest Down/U still with momentum in their side Aus should look for 5-0 and complete a 10-0 Ashes triump .

  • latecut_04 on May 2, 2013, 11:44 GMT

    I grew up watching Aus handing thrashing after thrashing to England and the first time I saw a change was in 2005.(although it was not a thrashing,that was the first time i was witnessing an Eng series victory over Aus).The prologue was catastrophic for England as we all know.But one thing happened in 2006-7 to England which everyone seem to have forgotten right now.A certain Michael Waughn had to step down due to injury from captaincy and the team.All the defeats which England suffered down underthen had a bit of Waughnlessness to it.especially the first test and the way they coped with that defeat.This time the skipper is Cook who will be as cool as a cucumber and no paddelo is gonna replace him...And for that reason alone i think urn wil stay in the Queen's country..this from India..please publish...

  • Hammond on May 2, 2013, 11:28 GMT

    When an ex-Hampshire captain starts saying "don't worry Australia will go alright" it is clearly the lowest ebb of an Australian cricket team (in my lifetime anyway). England doesn't fear us in any way (nor should they) it has turned into "Let's hope we don't thrash them and the crowds turn away because of the lack of contest". Not even bog average anymore, Australia are now clearly below that.

  • on May 2, 2013, 11:16 GMT

    There is nothing wrong with this Australian team. Yes, this side and its composition has been changing for a while, but that's how it is. That's how it happens to every team after a while. I have read many comments over here from Australians and non Australians after the Indian debacle. I believe, sometimes because of a loss and humiliation factors which spoil the future endeavour are pure worries. Worries those can't lead anywhere. Be it any team from Australia that has been selected to play test matches in England, enthusiasm should be the only key. One great start can change it all. Then, ordinary stars gradually become SUPER STARS. We all start relying on them from that very moment. So India was just a lesson and the real test begins now. You sustained injuries..you are badly hurt within and the most important thing on Earth is simply to play at your best now.All these new players, may be, needed a severe crisis to bring it on. Should be dramatic, but well fought..this ASHES.

  • sarangsrk on May 2, 2013, 11:03 GMT

    After the spin test in India, it would be time for swing test in England. Even the great Aussie team of last decade struggled against quality swing bowling, I don't see how this batting line up can stand up to red hot english bowling. They bundled out for 48 vs South Africa I guess.The question would be how does aussie pace bowling do against English batting? I don't want Poms to win this one but don't see how thats not possible. Some extra super powers required, I guess.

  • Flemo_Gilly on May 2, 2013, 10:51 GMT

    @Naman of all the younger batsmen, Warner is the best performed in tests and first class cricket (39.5 tests 45.3 FC) of any of the younger brigade. As I pointed out in another article he didnt have a good Indian tour, but he still was one of only three to score over 50 twice. And I think he has developed markedly since he first came on the scene. His consistency in the preceding four or five tests was as good as any bar Clarke and Hussey and he consistently was scoring over 50. Another young batsman who I think will do well for us is Khawaja, he was in great shield form before christmas and has been on the bench since then but he lead Derbyshire to division 1 last year and will do well in English conditions. Other then that we need Watson as an allrounder and if we get that right our bowling will take care of itself.

  • cloudmess on May 2, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    England have a stronger batting line-up, no doubt (so long as Pietersen is fit). But their bowling attack is also slightly in decline, while Australia's could be quite a handful in English conditions. It won't be 1989 again - England, for one, are not being led by a couple of Victorian gentlemen-amateurs this time - but Australia certainly have more than a chance.

  • Mary_786 on May 2, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    @Edward believe that we wont see a repeat of the Indian debacle in England and share your enthusiasm as well. Several of these players are familiar with English conditions and have thrived such as Hughes Khawaja and Clarke. Hopefully Warner will also benefit from more predictable tracks. Cowan will do what he does, occupy the crease and then on average getting out for around 30. Haddin's experience will be important and i am predicting that Watson will shine with both bat and ball.

  • thirst on May 2, 2013, 10:08 GMT

    We are going to get creamed...

  • Mitty2 on May 2, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    First of all, the usual dribble of an article from nicholas, refer to @_PK and @dutchy's comments as to why.

    Watching england against NZ alleviated my fears by a large degree - they were mediocre at best. They allowed pretty much every out of form and unproven NZ batsman to succeed, and NZ's unproven (albeit ostensibly good) seam attatck to prosper on flat decks. That said, NZ played the best cricket i've seen from them in a looooong time and they were vitalised by the sniff elicited from getting england out for 160 first innings and mccullum's brilliant captaincy.

    That said again, we were truly terrible against india, whereas england were great. But that was a first experience on (terrible) turning tracks, and with england's first encounter (with the core group) of these turners being abysmal (pak whitewash), england had experience and good selection (after the first test); we didn't

    England should win, but we've all seen how riddled they are with complacency - against SA, pak, NZ

  • on May 2, 2013, 9:45 GMT

    Covering the possibility this time Mr. Nicholas? You've learnt I see. The Aussie team will never be weak. It all depends on when their new recruits start finding confidence at test level. My money is on a draw for the series - but only because it's an away series. I reckon the English groundsmen will prepare flat wickets to negate any chance of the OZ quicks getting them into the matches. They would probably fancy their chances against inexperienced batsmen on flat wickets...but that's where they will go wrong. As I've said, all that the Hughes', Khawajas, Katiches and Henriques' of Oz cricket need is an opportunity to find confidence and that might be their perfect opportunity to do so.

  • on May 2, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    I just heard about chances of having rogers, hughes, warner, cowan and watson in one side. That is 5 openers, and I heard chris rogers say that it will work as openers face the swinging ball more often. firstly, using the old fashioned definition of openers, their job is to survive and anchor. Well over flooding the team with that many openers isn't getting their batting any where. Also watson, hughes struggle against quality swing and every batsman apart from clarke struggles against quality spin (monty and swann are much better than ashwin, jadeja and harbajan in current form). Hughes and warner have a good temperament, but that is not going to do more than get an odd hundred. Warner particularly reminds me of Marcus North - typical hundred or nothing player.

  • on May 2, 2013, 9:04 GMT

    while Aussie team needs to be picked on merrit not on paper as said by Mr.Nicholas himself. Matches are not won on paper. there were three top perfromers in shield last year. Cosgrove, Doolan and ponting.Ponting has retired, where is cosgrove and doolan.

  • Beertjie on May 2, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    @pauln2 on (May 2, 2013, 6:11 GMT) agree about the fielding. By the end of the series win or lose we'll have sorted the men from the boys. The top 4 may then read Rogers, Warner, Khawaja, Clarke. These will be good until younger guys like Silk and Burns join probably sooner rather than later. Not only in sports, @Sachin Sharma on (May 2, 2013, 3:21 GMT), ask Julia Gillard! Selectors have taken a decent squad. Now those on tour just need to pick the best XI on the day. No repeats of the Oval 2009 when sticking with a winning team and ignoring conditions cost the Ashes.

  • Dashgar on May 2, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    Australia are heavy underdogs, England will fancy themselves, but the gap between the two teams is much smaller than the surface would have you believe. Australia's bowling has the potential to run through anyone, especially on a helpful pitch and the batting lineup, while unreliable has enough individual brilliance to put up some winning totals. I'm think 3-2, but not sure which way it'll go. Gonna be a classic, especially if the Aussies take test 1.

  • divdude on May 2, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    This guy can write. Facts and content be dammed, the write up is a fine piece of art, a poetry. Keep it up Mr. Mark Nicholas.

  • Munkeymomo on May 2, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    > Fewer Warners and Clarkes, more Katiches and Henriques. > Implying Warner is a better batsman than Katich.

    ...You lost me there.

  • on May 2, 2013, 7:49 GMT

    This years Ashes in my opinion will be the most boring. Not only Australia have the weakest of team in a very long time but 10 tests within a span of 6 months is ridiculous and boring. Just shows how unpopular Cricket especially Test Cricket in our big world is :)

  • Yasin123Patel on May 2, 2013, 7:20 GMT

    you just can't win the series on basis of strong on paper side. Though england is a good side but not unbeatable. Ya, I know Aus. Have poor india series but every aus side which tour to india face it. Plus english condition is far different than india. It suits aussie more than indian condition. Oz so close to defeat protease two time in recent series. Just need a couple of batsman to stick with clarke. Bowling is no issue for kangaroo. So I think they 'll show a better fight than they show in india .

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on May 2, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Oh what a dynasty that was - the Aus circa. mid to late 90s ---- mid noughties !! All I can say is RIP ... there's not going to be another like those evar again ... long live !! I have not seen the great WI team of 80s - being just a baby then -:) ... but I guess from what is read ,seen and heard of them and the comparison drawn with the Aus on topic of greatness ,I can deduce they were just as great and irrestible force . The fact that that the best allround Test side at present by far, Smith's S Africans just look pretty pale imitation of these 2 past giants tells a tale... Oh and how about another 'dynasty' a.k.a 'mighty' Eng cricket team that dominated for a year or so...from about 2011 ?? Didn't last long, did they ? Poss the shortest 'sporting dynasty' ? ... what say ? -:)

  • Clarkemen on May 2, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    Everyone writing off Australia,Just coz of one bad series in completely different condition.The battle is in the ground after all not in the paper.I m not yet in the stage to think England will win the series coz Kiwis proof that they can be beatable and attack like Aus can surely destroy the England top order(takes 20 wickets).It Just couple or more batsmen need to step up and if it happen which is not impossible,I just dont know why Australia cant win the series.I suggest English fan and other not to do no-brainer predict just now.

  • dalboy12 on May 2, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    England needs to forget about the Ashes for now --- it's not a matter of whether they can beat Aussie, it's a matter of can they beat the Black Caps, hey they couldn't in New Zealand, and their much famed bowling attack looked weak.

  • pauln2 on May 2, 2013, 6:11 GMT

    Mark, you slipped a big point in with a minimum of fuss but it was still there. The fielding, a great barometer for any cricket team, is bloody awful and has been for several years now. It's like defence on a rugby or league field - all about attitude and everyone should be able to do it well. You can learn to be a good fielder much more easily than becoming a class batsman or bowler. If the fielding stinks, you have to suspect the attitude ain't all it should be. If we see the Aussies doing what Australian teams have almost always done, taking away 50 runs in an innings of normal length thanks to aggressive and polished work by the whole 11, it will be one of the best signs that the team is on its way back. Without that sign, I suspect there will still be some way to go.

  • landl47 on May 2, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    No-one should ever take Australia lightly. I know the series will be hard-fought and that England are very beatable. I'm hoping England wins, but over 50 years of supporting England against Australia has meant that my hopes have more often been dashed than not.

    They'll be a good side, they'll be hard to beat and England will have to be at their best to win. They're Australia!

  • Pinarsh255 on May 2, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    Yes 1958 England's side was the best ever English team. They had own the Ashes thrice before, in the same decade. That was a side who had May, Cowdery, Trueman, Stantham, Jim Laker, Tony Lock, Godfrey Evans and I am in doubt If Barrington was there or not. Certainly better than Stauss's team.

  • on May 2, 2013, 4:37 GMT

    As per my previous comment, I do believe though that this Aussie side don't really have that much of a chance. Probably 10% chances of winning, but cricket being such a funny game, that 10% can turn out to be very costly for the English side. I cannot wait for this series to start. History is going to be made no matter what the result!

  • __PK on May 2, 2013, 4:10 GMT

    Seriously? Collapso Dramatico? Australia never slipped below no 4 in the world and it took five years to fall that far. And with one more wicket last summer they would have been back to no 1, however briefly and undeservedly. You can't compare this to abyss into which the Windies fell. And then the writer used a soap opera as a source of historical precedent. And got the pun wrong! JR Ewing was a character on Dallas, not Dynasty. OK, I've read one paragraph plus half a sentence and I'm giving up and going for a shower.

  • cric_J on May 2, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    Although I am an Indian and will be supporting England during the Ashes , I would never make the mistake of taking the Aussies too lightly.Not now , not ever. And the simple reason for that is that they have this incredible ability of not giving up till the end , something that I have always admired. But this very ability has been somewhat missing in recent times.

    England are a better side .There is no doubt about that. And they should win the series. But it won't come off too easily. Probably a 3-1 in England's favour. Or if the aussies do really well , it might be 2-1. I am expecting Australia to win one match atleast . And it would do them a world of good if they can do that in the first two matches itself and put some pressure on the home side.

  • dutchy on May 2, 2013, 3:31 GMT

    It's always fascinating to read a Mark Nicholas article because no matter how long he's been associated with the game, he always seems to make silly assertions. He suggests Australa's cricket decline could be due to multiculturalism (which has been happening since the late 40s well before our 90s hey day), the attraction of football (at a time when cricketers have never made more money and frequently earn more than football players), injuries and uncertainty over selection (as if these aren't things which have existed in Australian cricket since the dawn of time), and T20 (as if every other country doesn't play it as well). There is no mention of Australia's dogged, disastrous determination to have all rounders (Watson, Henriques, White), the consistent failure of batsmen to develop into vital senior players a la Hussey(Symonds, North, White), the gutting of Sheffield Shield to accomodate the big bash. Aren't there smarter columnists out there?

  • on May 2, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    you just cant write off australia. they can make a comeback. this australian team has quality but needs a consistancy . they cant just only rely on michael clark for getting runs other palyers must also step forward. the biggest problem with australian team is to fill the boots of shane warne. there is no spinner even close to shane warne and present australian side lacks spin quality. but still they cant be written off. they will definately make a comeback.as far as AFL is concerned cricket will always remain australia premier sport and post of australian test captain will always remain highest honour in sports in australia.

  • on May 2, 2013, 3:12 GMT

    It's strange to me that few recognise just how out of place a series in India is. Australian batsmen have always struggled against spin and this was just the worst example in recent history. But isn't it plainly obvious how unrelated this will be to what happens in England then again at home in Australia? The conditions could not be more at odds with the dusty slow tracks that undid Australia over and over again. And yet it seems to have everyone forgetting the games against South Africa where Australia not only held their own but threatened to take the series. Immense credit to the mindset of SA to deny them that, and I don't doubt England have the same capacity, but it wasn't a whitewash at all. It was a competitive series and not in the least a reflection of a greatly declined Australian side. Australia can and should be expected to win tests against England in both series. Their batsmen will fare better. That their bowlers will too is obvious enough to barely be worth the mention.

  • on May 2, 2013, 3:12 GMT

    It's strange to me that few recognise just how out of place a series in India is. Australian batsmen have always struggled against spin and this was just the worst example in recent history. But isn't it plainly obvious how unrelated this will be to what happens in England then again at home in Australia? The conditions could not be more at odds with the dusty slow tracks that undid Australia over and over again. And yet it seems to have everyone forgetting the games against South Africa where Australia not only held their own but threatened to take the series. Immense credit to the mindset of SA to deny them that, and I don't doubt England have the same capacity, but it wasn't a whitewash at all. It was a competitive series and not in the least a reflection of a greatly declined Australian side. Australia can and should be expected to win tests against England in both series. Their batsmen will fare better. That their bowlers will too is obvious enough to barely be worth the mention.

  • on May 2, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    you just cant write off australia. they can make a comeback. this australian team has quality but needs a consistancy . they cant just only rely on michael clark for getting runs other palyers must also step forward. the biggest problem with australian team is to fill the boots of shane warne. there is no spinner even close to shane warne and present australian side lacks spin quality. but still they cant be written off. they will definately make a comeback.as far as AFL is concerned cricket will always remain australia premier sport and post of australian test captain will always remain highest honour in sports in australia.

  • dutchy on May 2, 2013, 3:31 GMT

    It's always fascinating to read a Mark Nicholas article because no matter how long he's been associated with the game, he always seems to make silly assertions. He suggests Australa's cricket decline could be due to multiculturalism (which has been happening since the late 40s well before our 90s hey day), the attraction of football (at a time when cricketers have never made more money and frequently earn more than football players), injuries and uncertainty over selection (as if these aren't things which have existed in Australian cricket since the dawn of time), and T20 (as if every other country doesn't play it as well). There is no mention of Australia's dogged, disastrous determination to have all rounders (Watson, Henriques, White), the consistent failure of batsmen to develop into vital senior players a la Hussey(Symonds, North, White), the gutting of Sheffield Shield to accomodate the big bash. Aren't there smarter columnists out there?

  • cric_J on May 2, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    Although I am an Indian and will be supporting England during the Ashes , I would never make the mistake of taking the Aussies too lightly.Not now , not ever. And the simple reason for that is that they have this incredible ability of not giving up till the end , something that I have always admired. But this very ability has been somewhat missing in recent times.

    England are a better side .There is no doubt about that. And they should win the series. But it won't come off too easily. Probably a 3-1 in England's favour. Or if the aussies do really well , it might be 2-1. I am expecting Australia to win one match atleast . And it would do them a world of good if they can do that in the first two matches itself and put some pressure on the home side.

  • __PK on May 2, 2013, 4:10 GMT

    Seriously? Collapso Dramatico? Australia never slipped below no 4 in the world and it took five years to fall that far. And with one more wicket last summer they would have been back to no 1, however briefly and undeservedly. You can't compare this to abyss into which the Windies fell. And then the writer used a soap opera as a source of historical precedent. And got the pun wrong! JR Ewing was a character on Dallas, not Dynasty. OK, I've read one paragraph plus half a sentence and I'm giving up and going for a shower.

  • on May 2, 2013, 4:37 GMT

    As per my previous comment, I do believe though that this Aussie side don't really have that much of a chance. Probably 10% chances of winning, but cricket being such a funny game, that 10% can turn out to be very costly for the English side. I cannot wait for this series to start. History is going to be made no matter what the result!

  • Pinarsh255 on May 2, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    Yes 1958 England's side was the best ever English team. They had own the Ashes thrice before, in the same decade. That was a side who had May, Cowdery, Trueman, Stantham, Jim Laker, Tony Lock, Godfrey Evans and I am in doubt If Barrington was there or not. Certainly better than Stauss's team.

  • landl47 on May 2, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    No-one should ever take Australia lightly. I know the series will be hard-fought and that England are very beatable. I'm hoping England wins, but over 50 years of supporting England against Australia has meant that my hopes have more often been dashed than not.

    They'll be a good side, they'll be hard to beat and England will have to be at their best to win. They're Australia!

  • pauln2 on May 2, 2013, 6:11 GMT

    Mark, you slipped a big point in with a minimum of fuss but it was still there. The fielding, a great barometer for any cricket team, is bloody awful and has been for several years now. It's like defence on a rugby or league field - all about attitude and everyone should be able to do it well. You can learn to be a good fielder much more easily than becoming a class batsman or bowler. If the fielding stinks, you have to suspect the attitude ain't all it should be. If we see the Aussies doing what Australian teams have almost always done, taking away 50 runs in an innings of normal length thanks to aggressive and polished work by the whole 11, it will be one of the best signs that the team is on its way back. Without that sign, I suspect there will still be some way to go.

  • dalboy12 on May 2, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    England needs to forget about the Ashes for now --- it's not a matter of whether they can beat Aussie, it's a matter of can they beat the Black Caps, hey they couldn't in New Zealand, and their much famed bowling attack looked weak.