Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane November 20, 2013

No fear for England as four in a row looms

Whatever the pitches and whatever the attacks, England appear to have the stronger side, while Australia's bluff and bluster seems a sign of insecurity
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It says much about the relative success of the current England side that they enter this Ashes series with the chance to emulate feats not achieved since the days of WG Grace.

It was 1890 when England last won four successive Ashes series. The days when this England team talked about 'legacy' are largely in the past, but Alastair Cook and co, with victories in the last three such encounters, may well never have a better opportunity to create a slice of Ashes history.

On the face of it, England should be strong favourites for this series. It is not just that they have won the last three Ashes series but they are also unbeaten in their last 13 Tests against all opposition and have won seven of the last 11 Tests against Australia. Australia, by contrast, have one win in 11 Tests against England and none in their past seven. They have won only one Test this year - in the first week of January - and have lost seven of the subsequent nine.

And yet there is a sense of a revival in this Australian team. After a series of panicked selections in the England summer - Phillip Hughes, Ashton Agar, Usman Khawaja et al - they appear to have found a unit that should see them through the series and, after the chaos that preceded the defeat in England, they at least have a settled coaching set-up now.

It remains to be seen how they react to adversity and setbacks - key characteristics of winning teams - and there must be some unease at the level of reliance upon a player as unpredictable as Mitchell Johnson. But this is a team with two fine quality, proven seamers in Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris, several good quality batsmen who should enjoy these conditions and an unbeaten record at this ground that stretches back a quarter of a century. The gap between them and England may well have narrowed.

There are some chinks in England's armour, too. They have yet to settle upon the second opening position or the No. 6 position since the retirements of Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood respectively. While Michael Carberry is an experienced, hungry cricketer, he has much to prove at this level, and there are lingering doubts about the potency of Chris Tremlett, who looks likely to return as England's third seamer. There is little evidence that, after a couple of serious injuries, he can recreate the form that rendered him so impressive in 2010-11.

Most of all, though, England's top order have to prove that their struggles of the previous series were an aberration. Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook, who averaged 29.30 and 27.70 respectively in England, will need to deliver far more if their side are to prevail here. Much of the success of 2010-11 was built upon the top three seeing off the new ball and it remains a key ingredient to success.

"That's certainly an area we knew we'll have to do better in this series," Cook said. "We were 30 for 3 a number of times in England and I was partly responsible for that. It's an area we've spoken about and we know we have to get better. I'm happy with how I played in these warm-up games. I feel in a good place."

England's experience in Perth on the last tour might also encourage Australia. Confronted with an unusually quick and bouncy wicket, England were blown away by Harris and Johnson. If they are confronted by such pitches throughout the series - and they will certainly be a great deal quicker than those seen in England - England will have some tricky questions to answer. Generally, though, most of their bowlers and batsmen should enjoy such conditions as much as their Australian counterparts.

One problem that looks to have been resolved is the keeping issue. Matt Prior came through another vigorous training session on Wednesday without obvious reaction and looks very likely to play. As vice-captain, experienced player and a sound head on DRS calls, his availability will be a substantial comfort to Cook and co.

To read much of the Australian media in recent days, you would think the England team were a pretty hopeless bunch. Amid the storm of bluff and blunder, England have been accused of fear of Australia's bowling, a lack of pace with the ball and, variously, an arrogance and disregard for the rules of the game. Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad, in particular, are goaded and ridiculed at every opportunity.

But there is a sense that the tide of propaganda is a sign of insecurity. Certainly the best sides, the West Indies of the '80s and the Australians that followed, did not bother with such tactics and it was noticeable at the captains' pre-match media conferences that while Cook was calm and assured, Michael Clarke appeared more tense. It's hard to avoid the impression that much of the hubristic talk emanating from the Australian camp is an attempt to compensate and mask deep insecurities. Australia underestimate England at their peril.

Certainly the days when England approached a series in Australia with trepidation are gone. It is likely that nine of the 11 who play at the Gabba will have experienced Ashes success in Australia before. They know they can win here now.

"There's no reason to feel intimidated," Cook said. "A lot of players in this squad were here in 2010-11, so we've all got experience of winning in Australia. We're trying to use that to the best of ability and we know how important this game was last time for setting up the series."

Indeed, such is the sense of the Gabba as one of the last remaining fortresses in Australian cricket, that it is possible that defeating the hosts here could prove a fatal blow in terms of the rest of the series. The self-confidence they talk about at every opportunity can only be thin as it rooted in belief rather than achievement.

And there's the rub for Australia, for whatever the pitches and whatever the attacks, England still appear to have the stronger side. There are, by a generous assessment, four great players involved in this series - Pietersen, Cook, Swann and Clarke - and three of them play for England. Australia may well be on the rise and England may be coming towards the end of their period of success, but in this series at least, they should still have just about enough to retain the Ashes.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • chechong0114 on November 21, 2013, 1:42 GMT

    I wonder what the first day attendance will be at the GABBA, I hope that cricket's number one fan "EMPTY SEATS" does not show up at the stadium and spoil the first day of a great series the Australian people need to stamp him out early and show their patriotism and love for their team and get out there in full support. Come on Aussies dig your hands deep into your pockets and show your patriotic side get to the ground.

  • mk49_van on November 20, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    If a couple of the Aussie bowlers can fire - they might able to turn the table on England. And no Siddle won't do. A lot rests on Johnson. Too bad Pattinson is injured.

  • TheBigBoodha on November 20, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    I have to say that there is a great deal of uncertainty about this game - mostly for Australia, but some for England too, given some of the recent issues with top order batting, and seeing how Swann and the third seamer perform. Tis Australian team is a bit of a hodgepodge of untested or underperformance players both old and young, so anything could happen. They will need to get off to a good start to get the self-belief going. Whoever wins the toss will bat, but they could be in for a testing time.

    Can't see how Bailey will do anything but fail in the long term. But hopefully he might strong together some good scores in the short term. You'd think the selectors would have learned from picking players like North, Marsh and Cowan, who all had sub-par first class records before being picked. Anyway, hope he proves me wrong. But I doubt it.

  • milepost on November 20, 2013, 20:03 GMT

    Here's some news for youEngland have rolled into Brisbane both undercooked and unsure of their best XI, softened up by slow pitches and inexperienced attacks in the tour matches so far. Jonny Bairstow has never before kept wicket at this level.Likely third seamer Chris Tremlett, he of 17 wickets in three matches in the last Ashes series down under, has taken just one wicket in the warm-up matches

  • on November 20, 2013, 17:57 GMT

    You can add Ian Bell to the list of great players involved in this match: four centuries in his last six Ashes matches.

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 20, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    History very much regards the Gabba as the venue of broken dreams and hopeless ventures. It is termed 'The Gabbatoir' for a real reason. QAsk Hussein,Flintoff and many players stretching back. There is also a street named to show exactly what this place is about. The Vulture Street End. It is one of Australia's most precious venues against all comers. It is 27 years since Eng;land won there with Beefy doing the doing the damage. The record desperately needs correcting in England's favour though on the 2010/11 tour it became the place where England established a massive batting superiority over Australia wit 535-1. The toss is important but the first ball shenanigans something which all players and followers would be wise to exorcise from their mind. It is the scene of Cook's greatest triumph if not biggest innings,with the highest ever score an Englishman. If they do nothing silly in the first 2 days they may yet repeat the 2010 superiority throughout.

  • YorkshirePudding on November 20, 2013, 16:29 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, if you have no interest then why comment.

    In terms of other nations greats, Botham was the leading wicket taker of his era, and gooch at one point was the 3rd/4th highest run scorer of his generation with only Alan Border and Sunil Gavaskar ahead of him.

    As for the relatively poor record of england in the 1990's that is well documented and mainly due to a selection policy (revolving door and not putting faith in youth) along with a generally poor standard in County cricket.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    @Its.Rachit: Age is over-rated, it's all about performance. Look at the ages that we have seen batsmen retire at lately, Sachin/Dravid/Laxman/Punter/Hussey, all these blokes were 37+. You talk about Bailey at 31...Mate, he could play 6/7 years if he gets it right, that could take us till 2020..By which time Australia hopes its young talent has come to fruition and we arn't in a 'transition phase' as it has been put.

    You can be 17 or 37, if you are performing better than everyone else, you should be in the Australian Cricket team. That's how we work, that's how it has always worked and that's how it should continue to work. Ricky Ponting didn't get picked when he did simply because he was young, he was topping the shield tables....simple as that.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 16:03 GMT

    @Yorkshipudding: Couldn't care less about the English stats who have struggled to produce great cricketers in the modern era, no way i would double check on them. Besides my point is still relevent, those blokes are no where near the standard of other cricket nation's greats.

    @Landl47: If you think performance in cricket is defined by some sort of negative linear progression, you're mistaken. Many a cricketer have been performing at their peak when they retire, Mike Hussey was in the form of his life at 37/38 when he retired. Misbah ul Haq is playing as good as he ever has at 39/40, your spinner Graeme Swann is nearing 35 and is bowling as well as he ever has.

    Australia being on the rise is nothing to do with England. Whether they are rising or falling, we couldn't care less, the fact is after 5/6 years of floundering in international cricket, we have finally reached some sort of platform from which we can begin to plan our future, and another great era for Australian cricket.

  • JG2704 on November 20, 2013, 16:01 GMT

    Love these debates re who is/isn't great. Re Broad - he has the potential to be great (depending on what you call great) for sure. Much depends on how much he learns over the forthcoming years and also if he can remain injury free. I'm not saying either way if Jimmy is great or not but if you're saying Jimmy is great then I'd be interested to know how many wickets he had taken and what his average was when he was 27 years and 149 days (Broad's current age) and compare the stats with Broad's present stats of averaging just above 30 and with 217 wickets

  • chechong0114 on November 21, 2013, 1:42 GMT

    I wonder what the first day attendance will be at the GABBA, I hope that cricket's number one fan "EMPTY SEATS" does not show up at the stadium and spoil the first day of a great series the Australian people need to stamp him out early and show their patriotism and love for their team and get out there in full support. Come on Aussies dig your hands deep into your pockets and show your patriotic side get to the ground.

  • mk49_van on November 20, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    If a couple of the Aussie bowlers can fire - they might able to turn the table on England. And no Siddle won't do. A lot rests on Johnson. Too bad Pattinson is injured.

  • TheBigBoodha on November 20, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    I have to say that there is a great deal of uncertainty about this game - mostly for Australia, but some for England too, given some of the recent issues with top order batting, and seeing how Swann and the third seamer perform. Tis Australian team is a bit of a hodgepodge of untested or underperformance players both old and young, so anything could happen. They will need to get off to a good start to get the self-belief going. Whoever wins the toss will bat, but they could be in for a testing time.

    Can't see how Bailey will do anything but fail in the long term. But hopefully he might strong together some good scores in the short term. You'd think the selectors would have learned from picking players like North, Marsh and Cowan, who all had sub-par first class records before being picked. Anyway, hope he proves me wrong. But I doubt it.

  • milepost on November 20, 2013, 20:03 GMT

    Here's some news for youEngland have rolled into Brisbane both undercooked and unsure of their best XI, softened up by slow pitches and inexperienced attacks in the tour matches so far. Jonny Bairstow has never before kept wicket at this level.Likely third seamer Chris Tremlett, he of 17 wickets in three matches in the last Ashes series down under, has taken just one wicket in the warm-up matches

  • on November 20, 2013, 17:57 GMT

    You can add Ian Bell to the list of great players involved in this match: four centuries in his last six Ashes matches.

  • 2.14istherunrate on November 20, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    History very much regards the Gabba as the venue of broken dreams and hopeless ventures. It is termed 'The Gabbatoir' for a real reason. QAsk Hussein,Flintoff and many players stretching back. There is also a street named to show exactly what this place is about. The Vulture Street End. It is one of Australia's most precious venues against all comers. It is 27 years since Eng;land won there with Beefy doing the doing the damage. The record desperately needs correcting in England's favour though on the 2010/11 tour it became the place where England established a massive batting superiority over Australia wit 535-1. The toss is important but the first ball shenanigans something which all players and followers would be wise to exorcise from their mind. It is the scene of Cook's greatest triumph if not biggest innings,with the highest ever score an Englishman. If they do nothing silly in the first 2 days they may yet repeat the 2010 superiority throughout.

  • YorkshirePudding on November 20, 2013, 16:29 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, if you have no interest then why comment.

    In terms of other nations greats, Botham was the leading wicket taker of his era, and gooch at one point was the 3rd/4th highest run scorer of his generation with only Alan Border and Sunil Gavaskar ahead of him.

    As for the relatively poor record of england in the 1990's that is well documented and mainly due to a selection policy (revolving door and not putting faith in youth) along with a generally poor standard in County cricket.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    @Its.Rachit: Age is over-rated, it's all about performance. Look at the ages that we have seen batsmen retire at lately, Sachin/Dravid/Laxman/Punter/Hussey, all these blokes were 37+. You talk about Bailey at 31...Mate, he could play 6/7 years if he gets it right, that could take us till 2020..By which time Australia hopes its young talent has come to fruition and we arn't in a 'transition phase' as it has been put.

    You can be 17 or 37, if you are performing better than everyone else, you should be in the Australian Cricket team. That's how we work, that's how it has always worked and that's how it should continue to work. Ricky Ponting didn't get picked when he did simply because he was young, he was topping the shield tables....simple as that.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 16:03 GMT

    @Yorkshipudding: Couldn't care less about the English stats who have struggled to produce great cricketers in the modern era, no way i would double check on them. Besides my point is still relevent, those blokes are no where near the standard of other cricket nation's greats.

    @Landl47: If you think performance in cricket is defined by some sort of negative linear progression, you're mistaken. Many a cricketer have been performing at their peak when they retire, Mike Hussey was in the form of his life at 37/38 when he retired. Misbah ul Haq is playing as good as he ever has at 39/40, your spinner Graeme Swann is nearing 35 and is bowling as well as he ever has.

    Australia being on the rise is nothing to do with England. Whether they are rising or falling, we couldn't care less, the fact is after 5/6 years of floundering in international cricket, we have finally reached some sort of platform from which we can begin to plan our future, and another great era for Australian cricket.

  • JG2704 on November 20, 2013, 16:01 GMT

    Love these debates re who is/isn't great. Re Broad - he has the potential to be great (depending on what you call great) for sure. Much depends on how much he learns over the forthcoming years and also if he can remain injury free. I'm not saying either way if Jimmy is great or not but if you're saying Jimmy is great then I'd be interested to know how many wickets he had taken and what his average was when he was 27 years and 149 days (Broad's current age) and compare the stats with Broad's present stats of averaging just above 30 and with 217 wickets

  • its.rachit on November 20, 2013, 15:56 GMT

    @landl47 - u hit the nail right on the nail mate ... and to top it all, most of Australia's age ones are brittle and broken ... watson-harris-clarke .. their 3 and only match winners in this series are all unlikely to last the 5 matches ... most of the England old ones were either at their peak 1-2 years ago (trott, pieterson, swann) or are at their peak (anderson,bell) ... so the decline, if any is relative only to their peak and not compared to the horrible standard of the aussies ... this whole story cooked up about England on the decline is a loser's plea from the Aussies ... a 36 yr old rogers, 31 yr old debutant bailey, 36 yr old haddin, 32 yr old johnson (some hit and mostly miss), 3 30 plus broken players... where is the stability ... where is the future ?? if smith is batting at 5, where hussey/martyn used to bat, i shiver in fear for their future ....

  • YorkshirePudding on November 20, 2013, 13:43 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, and finally your comment about no engand player receiving more than 122 caps, is incorrect, Alec Stewart has 133.

  • YorkshirePudding on November 20, 2013, 13:39 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, please if you are going to quote stats atleast quote the correct ones. The highest wicket taker for england is Botham with 383, and highest run scorrer is Gooch with 8900.

    Part of the reason for this is that both players missed a number of tests when at their peak through going on rebel tours (Gooch in 83), and Botham missed a couple of years due to a back injury and falling out of favour with the powers that be.

  • landl47 on November 20, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    I'm mystified by the continual reference, repeated in this article, to Australia being 'on the rise'. The Australian probable line-up, with their ages, is:

    Rogers- 36; Warner- 27; Watson- 32; Clarke- 32; Smith- 24; Bailey- 31; Haddin- 36; Johnson- 32; Siddle- 29 (on Monday); Harris- 34; Lyon- 26.

    There are 6 players 32 or older. Total age 340 years.

    Same details for England:

    Cook- 28; Carberry- 33; Trott-32; Pietersen- 33; Bell- 31; Root- 22; Prior- 31; Broad- 27; Swann- 34; Anderson- 31; Tremlett- 32.

    5 players 32 or older. Total age 334 years. It should also be noted that this is just about the oldest side England could pick out of the squad (unless they drop Broad for Rankin or Panesar, which is, to put it mildly, unlikely). The other members of the squad are Ballance- 24(tomorrow); Bairstow- 24; Stokes- 22; Finn- 24; Rankin- 29; Panesar- 31.

    In what universe does this show Australia on the rise and England on the decline?

  • wonderstar1 on November 20, 2013, 13:19 GMT

    @martin owen jones Broad is one of Englands greatest bowlers? A bowler who is hit for maximum runs possible in an over(though the format is different) is claimed as best. what next? swann the best bowler in the history of cricket?

  • crockit on November 20, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    England much the same but slightly weaker without Bresnan at start of series. Aus a bit of momentum from end of last series, better to have Bailey than Khawaja, Johnson more of a threat but also liability than Starc. Aus small home advantage. All in all maybe 3-1 to England with Aus best chance at perth especially if Johnson bowls straight. if Harris stays fit England will not rack up the massive scores of last time so do not bet on any game being an easy innings walk over

  • its.rachit on November 20, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    @Martin Owen Jones - BROAD IS ONE OF ENGLAND'S GREATEST BOWLERS ??? cant get funnier than this ... Broad is not even among the top ten bowlers of last 5 years (not in term of wickets but quality) ... and Bell is one of the greatest english batsmen ?? what about barrington, hammond, compton to name just three ... and Anderson can never be better than Trueman even if he takes 500 wickets ... just the volume does not matter my friend ... Trueman was selected by Cricinfo in the 2 best all time World XI ... are you saying that Anderson can replace him in the team after 3 years ???

  • on November 20, 2013, 12:46 GMT

    Anderson is without question one of the greatest fast bowlers of this generation. I regard him as a better player than Swann, who is doubtless very very good but I would not call great.

  • u_guys_are_history on November 20, 2013, 11:42 GMT

    If Swann is classified as a 'Great' player, Anderson should be too. But this article is very pro English..as most of Dobell's articles are...

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 11:32 GMT

    @Henrik Loven: He is a very good bowler, if he can keep up his form for 3/4 years then he probably will be an all time great. But i was surpised that the highest wicket taker for England is only 353 and the highest run getter is 8200 runs odd or something, no one has plaed 120+ tests for England. For the creators of the game, they are no where near the standard set by the other nations such as Australia, India, South Africa.

  • Biggus on November 20, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    George seems a little worked up by the press over here. Has he never read any of the hyperbole written in Fleet Street? Or his own? One would be foolish to take much notice of either, especially at this point when a ball hasn't been bowled and everything that can be said has been. Thank God we start tomorrow, the article writers and the comments section have been spinning their wheels for weeks now, at least tomorrow we'll have something to discuss. My prediction? Don't be silly, I haven't any more of a clue than all those who have made one. Winning the toss could make all the difference, such could the unpredictability of this series.

  • on November 20, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx - James Anderson is already second on the all-time England list ahead of both Trueman and Willis. Such is his fitness that he will overtake Botham at the head of that list in another 12 to 15 tests. He is almost certain to finish his career with 400+ wickets and if he plays another four to five years, he's may even get to 500. Anderson already is an England all-time great and if he gets to around 450 wickets, he will be a true all-time great. His list of batsmen most often dismissed is proof of this, just look it up on StatsGuru!

  • milepost on November 20, 2013, 10:54 GMT

    Pietersen is the only potential great here though Cook is racking up the runs and his record as captain could end very well, excluding the pasting they are about to get in Australia of course. Yes, I'm one of the crazy ones who honestly believe that Australia will win comfortably.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 10:41 GMT

    The only English cricketer in that side with a hope of being a great player is Pietersen. Swann, if he had played for longer would probably be a great, Anderson took too long to get running to be an all time great. Clarke, i think he is now a very,very good player, but how he finishes his career from now on will determine whether he is a great or not and captaincy is a big part of that. Basically, if he transforms this Australian side then he will probably be a great.

  • on November 20, 2013, 10:37 GMT

    Pietersen - a flat track T20 blusterer. Swann - good bowler not great Cook - good batsman on his day, not even close to great Clarke - good when he plays, not close to great

  • on November 20, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    George, George. Only four English bowlers have attained 300 test wickets and you leave out Jimmy Anderson, second only to Botham on that particular list, from your count of great players? Tsk, tsk... ...not really a generous assessment on your part is it!

  • Cutting_Edge on November 20, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    The most telling stat correlation pre-series is

    Australia's batting: 35 centuries of which 24 have been scored by M Clarke. Err...who averaged 21.44 at home against England last time round. Watson, Haddin and Warner all have 3.

    England have 89 centuries; 3 players with 20 or more, Trott (who adores Aussie decks) with 9 and Prior with 7...oh, and a young kid called Root with 2.

    Ask yourself one question: Which top order would you want a crack at?

  • OfftoHeadingley on November 20, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    Surely if Swann is classed as a great player then Anderson has to be as well? Both Englands key bowlers, both equally skilful

  • on November 20, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    A reasonably two eye assessment of the series. England slight favourites but Australia with the potential to upset them if they don't perform well and if Australia do perform well. You generous assessment of 'great' cricketers is wrong though. By England-only criteria Anderson is one of our greatest ever bowlers, soon to be the greatest ever. Prior is certainly our greatest ever keeper, Broad is one of England's greatest bowlers and Bell one of the greatest batsmen. This chnages on a world perspective, of course

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  • on November 20, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    A reasonably two eye assessment of the series. England slight favourites but Australia with the potential to upset them if they don't perform well and if Australia do perform well. You generous assessment of 'great' cricketers is wrong though. By England-only criteria Anderson is one of our greatest ever bowlers, soon to be the greatest ever. Prior is certainly our greatest ever keeper, Broad is one of England's greatest bowlers and Bell one of the greatest batsmen. This chnages on a world perspective, of course

  • OfftoHeadingley on November 20, 2013, 9:14 GMT

    Surely if Swann is classed as a great player then Anderson has to be as well? Both Englands key bowlers, both equally skilful

  • Cutting_Edge on November 20, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    The most telling stat correlation pre-series is

    Australia's batting: 35 centuries of which 24 have been scored by M Clarke. Err...who averaged 21.44 at home against England last time round. Watson, Haddin and Warner all have 3.

    England have 89 centuries; 3 players with 20 or more, Trott (who adores Aussie decks) with 9 and Prior with 7...oh, and a young kid called Root with 2.

    Ask yourself one question: Which top order would you want a crack at?

  • on November 20, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    George, George. Only four English bowlers have attained 300 test wickets and you leave out Jimmy Anderson, second only to Botham on that particular list, from your count of great players? Tsk, tsk... ...not really a generous assessment on your part is it!

  • on November 20, 2013, 10:37 GMT

    Pietersen - a flat track T20 blusterer. Swann - good bowler not great Cook - good batsman on his day, not even close to great Clarke - good when he plays, not close to great

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 10:41 GMT

    The only English cricketer in that side with a hope of being a great player is Pietersen. Swann, if he had played for longer would probably be a great, Anderson took too long to get running to be an all time great. Clarke, i think he is now a very,very good player, but how he finishes his career from now on will determine whether he is a great or not and captaincy is a big part of that. Basically, if he transforms this Australian side then he will probably be a great.

  • milepost on November 20, 2013, 10:54 GMT

    Pietersen is the only potential great here though Cook is racking up the runs and his record as captain could end very well, excluding the pasting they are about to get in Australia of course. Yes, I'm one of the crazy ones who honestly believe that Australia will win comfortably.

  • on November 20, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx - James Anderson is already second on the all-time England list ahead of both Trueman and Willis. Such is his fitness that he will overtake Botham at the head of that list in another 12 to 15 tests. He is almost certain to finish his career with 400+ wickets and if he plays another four to five years, he's may even get to 500. Anderson already is an England all-time great and if he gets to around 450 wickets, he will be a true all-time great. His list of batsmen most often dismissed is proof of this, just look it up on StatsGuru!

  • Biggus on November 20, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    George seems a little worked up by the press over here. Has he never read any of the hyperbole written in Fleet Street? Or his own? One would be foolish to take much notice of either, especially at this point when a ball hasn't been bowled and everything that can be said has been. Thank God we start tomorrow, the article writers and the comments section have been spinning their wheels for weeks now, at least tomorrow we'll have something to discuss. My prediction? Don't be silly, I haven't any more of a clue than all those who have made one. Winning the toss could make all the difference, such could the unpredictability of this series.

  • xtrafalgarx on November 20, 2013, 11:32 GMT

    @Henrik Loven: He is a very good bowler, if he can keep up his form for 3/4 years then he probably will be an all time great. But i was surpised that the highest wicket taker for England is only 353 and the highest run getter is 8200 runs odd or something, no one has plaed 120+ tests for England. For the creators of the game, they are no where near the standard set by the other nations such as Australia, India, South Africa.