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May 12, 2013
Darren Gough was at his best in the heat of an Ashes confrontation, and he was often central to the rare occasions England managed to overcome Australia during the 1990s, but he is not about to write off the current generation, ahead of the first of this year's back-to-back series.
Australia's 16-man squad was met with reactions ranging from ridicule to dismissiveness in some quarters. Even down under there is more trepidation about the forthcoming series than since the late 1980s. But Gough, who took 74 wickets in 17 Ashes Tests, believes the strength of their fast bowling resources gives them a chance in England.
"I'm not going to be as critical as some people are," he told ESPNcricinfo. "Their bowling attack is very strong and the fast bowlers are superbly talented. What's interesting to me is that most of them are coming over with the A team to have a little roll and I think that's very important. Last time they bowled too short so they'll be able to learn the length to bowl."
There has been little doubt of late that Australia are building a formidable pace unit - although keeping players like James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Ryan Harris fit for extended periods is proving a challenge, while Pat Cummins continues to lurch from injury to injury. But without support from the top order, they are often going to be in the position of trying to keep the side in matches.
Gough suspects that some of the batsmen on the trip will not be given much more of an opportunity to show they can handle Test cricket, but added that the decision to bolster the squad with the experience of Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin could prove a shrewd move.
"These guys have an opportunity," he said. "They had a poor series in India, got beaten by South Africa, and are now coming to England with a lot of them fighting for a spot in the Ashes back home. If they can get runs on the board, England will have a heck of a fight on their hands."
"They've realised you can't pick players who aren't ready. Against bowlers like Anderson, Broad, Finn and Swann you need some experience. Rogers has been a fantastic player for many years and Haddin still deserves to be Australia's No. 1."
The key to Australia's run-scoring potential is the captain, Michael Clarke, who has enjoyed a phenomenal run of form over the last six months. Beyond his batting, however, Gough sees an intriguing match-up between him and Alastair Cook as captains. Trent Bridge will be Cook's first Ashes match as a captain, while Clarke first lead Australia in the Sydney Test in 2011.
"Clarke's from the Shane Warne mould of captaincy. He likes to adventurous, sometimes a little controversial, he's a very attacking captain which will be vital. The head-to-head with Alastair Cook, who is a different style of captain, will be fascinating. I think Clarke has handled things well so far, especially India with some of the trouble they had - I thought he came out as someone with a strong personality."
ESPNcricinfo have teamed up with Last Man Stands to offer one of our lucky readers the chance to play a celebrity LMS match at Lord's nursery ground on Friday May 24. One team will be captained by Darren Gough, the other team by Ian Harvey. To be in with a chance of winning this unique opportunity, register a team to play Last Man Stands before May 17 and enter promotional code CRICINFO at www.lastmanstands.com
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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