The Ashes 2013

Don't write off Australia - Gough

Andrew McGlashan

May 12, 2013

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

Darren Gough, May 12, 2013
Darren Gough: ' If they can get runs on the board, England will have a heck of a fight on their hands' © Last Man Stands
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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

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by ScottStevo on (May 18, 2013, 17:20 GMT)

@WeFinishThis, possibly he'll only be useful in T20. He's very medium pace and has a good slower ball...sounds like a limited overs bowler to me.....I hope we don't get to see them slug it out as I wouldn't like to see him in the side. Don't get me wrong, if he is chosen, I'll back him all the way and hope he does rip through....just don't see that as a likely result and would much prefer to see Starc in the side as I think he's a much better bowler...

Posted by ballsintherightareas on (May 16, 2013, 22:51 GMT)

Sorry, cancel my last post. Wrong stats.

Here are the correct ones, for all bowlers 1980 - present:

Aus overall: 30.06 Aus in Aus: 28.87 Aus in Eng: 30.23

Eng overall: 34.41 Eng in Aus: 37.36 Eng in Eng: 33.54

And while I'm at it, here are the batting figures:

Aus overall: 37.20 Aus in Aus: 39.33 Aus in Eng: 37.68

Eng overall: 32.73 Eng in Aus: 30.10 Eng in Eng: 34.21

So there is a definite home advantage for both teams, but not nowhere near as large a difference as I'd thought based on home vs away. I still learned something today. Will stick by my Eng 2 -1 Aus prediction.

Posted by ballsintherightareas on (May 16, 2013, 22:32 GMT)

@Lyndon McPaul... Interesting theory. Here are some stats:

Aggregate bowling average of Aussie players, 1980 - present: Ave overall: 33.40 Ave in Aus: 33.55 Ave in England: 33.65

This includes all types of bowler, not just pace bowlers, but still as the majority of bowlers are pace bowlers, it does suggest my earlier assertion was wrong.

And for England:

Aggregate bowling average of England players, 1980 - present: Average overall: 33.55 Average in Aus: 33.49 Average in Eng: 33.88

I have to say I'm quite astonished by this. Thanks for prompting me to look up these stats. I learned something today.

I'm changing my prediction to....Eng 2-1 Aus. Should be a pretty close series, but England should just edge it.

Posted by Meety on (May 15, 2013, 4:04 GMT)

@ by oscoli67 on (May 14, 2013, 10:33 GMT) " test career wickets taken, average and strike rate between Swann & Lyon - you'll find your fodder..." - rather odd response. Surely you must realise that wickets taken, is a product of longevity & NOT directly related to quality. Bear in mind that Lyon has NOT played Bangladesh (Swann has) & during his time, mostly bowled behind a wicket taking pace attack. I chose WORST averages against teams - as that would be the most relevant to deciding who has been "fodder" more often. As for "...what's Swann's average in England against left handers who..." - a little bit touchy aren't you! LOL!

Posted by Wefinishthis on (May 15, 2013, 0:15 GMT)

ScottStevo - Faulkner's 50 over record is far worse than his FC record, whilst Starc's is the opposite so if anything, it's Starc who is heading towards being the Bracken-like short form specialist. Also may I reiterate, he's a bowler, not an all-rounder. In FC he averages less than 30 with the bat and he's never even scored a century (in any form) so he's definitely not a batsman. Either way, the good news for this discussion is that they're both in the squad so they can 'duke' it out and see which one really does perform better in a series that matters.

Posted by   on (May 14, 2013, 22:59 GMT) your analysis balls! (in the right areas of course)...very clever. As far as the away bowling averages are concerned however;I would back Australia's bowlers to perform considerably better than their general away average for the simple reason that England offers the most swing and seam friendly conditions in the world unlike places such as India and Sri Lanka. You could almost guaruntee that bowlers such as bird and Harris, as stump to stump bowlers who get prodigious swing and seam movement, would perform even better than their home averages. I also think if they can score around their batting average consistently in the first innings that might be enough because of a bowling attack of which when all the right players are combined (uninjured) rival South Africa's in terms of potency.

Posted by ScottStevo on (May 14, 2013, 11:41 GMT)

@WeFinishThis, You're being very harsh on a bloke who has played in 9 tests, sporadically. Also, think you'll find he took 6 for against SA when nobody else was taking wickets and we were getting panned and 8 wickets for the test, the only one he played in. His first 2 tests were against NZ, so you shouldn't really expect the bloke to be taking 5 fors, his debut wasn't great, but he bowled well in the second against NZ. He single handedly won us the test against SL. So, I think, for a young bloke, he's doing very well indeed. On top of which, it's pretty clear to see that he's got all the skills to be very good and I quite fancy him in English conditions, especially against someone like Cook. it's clear to see that he has genuine potential. Faulkner on the hand has the potential to become N Bracken overs specialist. He should be last in the pecking order for a place in the side and I'd have preferred we'd taken an extra bat rather than this allrounder pipe dream...

Posted by oscoli67 on (May 14, 2013, 10:33 GMT)

@ meety, you choose your statistics with great care, compare test career wickets taken, average and strike rate between Swann & Lyon - you'll find your fodder. A quick question for you, "what's Swann's average in England against left handers who are ....... past it (Rogers) ........gung ho T20 specialists (Warner) ....... clueless against spin {and pace} (Hughes) ..... totally untested (Khawaja) ....... and average to be polite (Cowan) ........... I'll tell you in September !!

Posted by Meety on (May 14, 2013, 0:06 GMT)

@ashes61 on (May 13, 2013, 19:31 GMT) - you sound a lot like English fans circa May 1989....... @oscoli67 on (May 13, 2013, 10:26 GMT) -Lyon's worst average against a country is 40.13 (v Sri Lanka), Swann's worse average is 40.13 (v Oz). Against the #1 side in the world (SA), - Lyon has a better average. Nothing to suggest that Lyon has been fodder more than Swann. == == == It is worth noting that in 2010/11 Ashes, Oz had several bowlers who were returning from injuries - Siddle, Hilfy & Bollinger. Oz's bowling under performed, & were ground down by England. This time around - Oz have still got question marks over the fitness of their bowlers, but so do England. Fortunately for England, they have plenty of time to guage where the fitness level of Swann & Bresnan will be at.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (May 13, 2013, 22:34 GMT)

ScottStevo - Cleaning up the tail isn't that important. Taking care of England's quality top order is. Starc, after 17 innings is almost performing at I.Sharma levels of incompetence. He was almost useless against NZ, good against India in seam-friendly Perth, expensive against SA in Perth, poor against WI, useless against SL in Sydney and pathetic in the first innings against SL in Hobart, though he cleaned up the tail in the 2nd innings. He was of course absolutely appalling in India. Not to mention that he has been very mediocre at FC level where the conditions always suit him and batting is poor. He has no accuracy or seam control which is everything in bowling, but we shall see if he can improve and at least try to average less than 25 this England series. Faulkner has done absolutely everything asked of him in FC cricket so far and he was outstanding under pressure in the finals. Also Faulkner is a bowler, he should never bat above no.8.

Posted by poms_have_short_memories on (May 13, 2013, 20:56 GMT)

As an Australian I am the first to admit that England's batting is stronger.The key players in my opinion are Cook, Trott and at times Pietersen, although Prior can be quite annoying down the list.BUT if Australia's pace bowlers get the dukes ball to swing consistently England are going to be in trouble, I see England winning 2-1 due to an Aussie collapse or two.

Posted by ashes61 on (May 13, 2013, 19:31 GMT)

I had no idea there were still cricket fans Down Under who genuinely believed AUS can somehow compete in the forthcoming series. I agree that games aren't won on paper, however much stronger one side looks - on paper. If OZ play out of their skins & ENG are very disappointing, it could be a bit closer than it should be. Or if AUS show their traditional, gritty fighting qualities - something all ENG fans have long grown to recognise and admire over the years - then they could surprise us all & drag it out a bit. But 5 or 6 stars have got to emerge very suddenly this time from among the virtual unknowns on a 1989-type of scale x10, just to even things up a bit, surely? McGrath used to love predicting a 5-0 whitewash before Ashes series, and once he was dead right. But surely, surely, not since the early 1990s, and before that the very early 1920s, has a 5-0 score been really on the cards before a ball is bowled. Could be wrong - but it's hard to see it ... rain permitting.

Posted by gemmy123 on (May 13, 2013, 14:27 GMT)

@ Dashgar - are you sure some of those replacements are better? Recent performances would say otherwise and Marcus North was your best bat over here last time round. Katich could easily have slotted in instead of Rogers given his experience in England. Just a shame he has a tendency to try and strangle his (now) national captain.

@ Juiceoftheapple - I like Onions too, but he does have the advantage of his home ground in terms of his FC record. His outings in NZ were disappointing and painful to watch. As was Meaker's and Wright's on the Lion's tour, they have a lot to learn before being ready for the international scene.

For me, England are currently over-rated and Australia the opposite. If both teams perform to their potential then its England's series, but thats a big 'if' given a few of Eng's bowlers have been struggling for form and fitness for a while. Lets hope Bresnan and Swann's surgery has sorted some previously under-reported problems that were behind that demise.

Posted by ScottStevo on (May 13, 2013, 12:33 GMT)

@WeFinishThis, I'd take Starc over Faulkner every day of the week. One guy has proven in tests that he can take big wickets early and also that he's capable of cleaning up the tail, as he did against SL, where recently Aus have struggled - mainly due to a lack of threat with our spin options, but our pace bowlers have forgotten basics of bowling to lower order blokes - namely yorkers/full and straight...Faulkners FC records are drastically overstated as the guy bowls every second match on the most seam friendly patch in Oz. looks a decent limited overs prospect, but if we use him at 7, we may as well not even bother playing...You know you can't compare the 2, you're just deciding you like one over the other based on FC records, even though one guy has most of his FC cricket as tests...Faulkner is a rubbish selection, so too is Rogers - he's a 35 year old rookie. if we keep looking for this 5th bowler, we'll continue to lose against the better sides...I'm not sure why Clarke isn't it...

Posted by Juiceoftheapple on (May 13, 2013, 12:18 GMT)

I am really looking forward to seeing the celebrated new Australian bowling attack, not because I want to try and make anyone eat their words, but because quality quicks making a game of it are the essence of test cricket. Regarding our bowling line up. I know Tremlett isnt fit which is a huge shame, but Broad still bowls match winning spells, Finn is hugely improved and quicker, Bresnan is better in English conditions. BUT I think most of you are missing the slight unassuming stature of wicket to wicket himself, Mr Onions. If you dont believe me just check the stats last year in Div1, and the stats so far this season. I also like Meaker, and Chris Wright. But unless injuries ravage us, you will see a lot of the first 5 (and I would personally opt for Onions over Bres as we bat so low with Prior at 7). As for Swann, if he's not taking wickets and winning matches, he's containing the scoring, which is exactly what we want from him. And if he gets injured we have 2 good replacements.

Posted by oscoli67 on (May 13, 2013, 10:26 GMT)

@valvolux, I'd have to agree Swann has been a lucky boy in his Ashes series appearances so far. He's been in a dominant side. Oval 09 and Adelaide 10 were the only times we've really needed anything from him. I think if you looked up the word fodder in most cricket fans' dictionaries the words Nathan Michael Lyon would be considered far more appropriate. I wish you luck but fear the worst for you.

Posted by Beertjie on (May 13, 2013, 9:52 GMT)

Knowing your limitations (unlike in the 2010-11 series) is the first port of call. Gaining experience in English conditions via the pre-Ashes games is second. Picking the best XI is obviously vital, as is taking all the opportunities offered. I'd wager its 60-40 for England (mostly be cause there's no Hussey) but I'll be happy with a drawn series as a step in the right direction. Good point about the limited bowling back-up @jezmondo on (May 12, 2013, 14:56 GMT). Apart from Tremlett there's not much, it seems. My great fear, like yours, @valvolux on (May 13, 2013, 5:53 GMT) is getting the selection wrong. Agree with your choice of the mainstay bowlers, and if Harris breaks down get Sayers in there. Siddle is dependable but to win tests you need wicket takers. Starc might get you vital wickets with his unplayable balls, but these guys can be used to rotate others - Bird/Siddle; Pattinson/Starc. Faulkner as part of a 4-prong pace attack provides much needed variety.

Posted by Dashgar on (May 13, 2013, 8:45 GMT)

In many ways Australia are actually a lot stronger than last ashes series. Consider this. These are the players from the last ashes who won't play this ashes. North, Smith, Hilfenhaus, Doherty, Beer, Bollinger, Johnson, Katich, Ponting and Hussey. Hussey is obviously a huge loss, Ponting and Katich were already waning and provided little in that series. Other than that the rest have been discarded for better alternatives. The ins on the other hand are Warner, Cowan, Rogers, Wade, Faulkner, Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Lyon. All of them bring value to the team. Some have become key performers in the team. Add in the improvement of guys like Hughes and Siddle and the team is much better than it was. The loss of Hussey is huge, in every other way Australia is a better side. Can England say the same?

Posted by   on (May 13, 2013, 6:42 GMT)

@valvolux..I agree with most of what your saying but would never go past Siddle in our main attack if only for the reason his proven ability to stay upright. Siddle doesnt get enough credit for being the number one constant in a time of transition over the last few years. You would never back him to blast out 2 or 3 quick wickets but Clarke knows that whenever he tosses Siddle the ball he will find a nagging line and length straight away and give much needed support to all the other bowlers whilst picking up crucial wickets steadily throughout the day. For me Bird has shown a lot of promise with the new ball but I am still unconvinced about his ability in the middle sessions when the shine is off the ball. I would therefore have Pattinson, Harris Siddle and Faulkner (allrounder) at 7 as our first choice attack along with lyon but rotate bird for Harris every second test to try and stave of Injury to Harris and to keep the Poms guessing.

Posted by   on (May 13, 2013, 6:08 GMT)

England have hardly been on fire over the past two years. In house fighting that is player personality based is a bigger demon than the Aust players being baffled by the performance management programme. Aust had South Africa at home in the first two tests. Performance management killed test 3 and the series. Other than India the Aussies bats have been good. All of them bar Watson have tons over that period and they batted themselves into nearly pinching the number 1 test spot a few months ago. Huss leaves a hole. This will be a very good series to watch all the same.

Posted by valvolux on (May 13, 2013, 5:53 GMT)

It just comes down to whether or not Australia can find 2 or 3 batsmen to help Clarke out. If Australia can do that, in my opinion Australia is a great chance to win this. You don't need spin to win in England and as good as Swann appears to be when we watch other English series, he has been fodder in his two Ashes series to date. Australia have the bowlers, if fit, to skittle England. Selectors have to get it right though - chucking in a wayward Starc in place of Bird would be a huge mistake. If they can come to their senses and play Harris, Bird and Pattinson as the main seam attack - I can't see even the stone walls of Cook and Trott rear guarding for more than half a session. However with invarerity at the helm, we will no doubt get it severely wrong. If our top order can see off Jimmy Anderson, England's fast bowling stocks are so limited and reliant on conditions that we only need 2 or 3 bats in form to get to 400. Let's hope Broad is fit and for blue skies!

Posted by Wefinishthis on (May 13, 2013, 3:48 GMT)

Mitty2 - I agree. I would rather an untested lineup than the one that has already failed twice both home and away (Siddle/Johnson/'haus/Doherty/Beer). Thankfully almost all of that baggage has been dropped (it took far too many series for that to happen) and replaced with fast bowlers such as Harris, Bird, Pattinson and Faulkner who all absolutely deserve their places. Siddle and Lyon have been acceptable whilst not world-beating but Starc has been a huge disappointment so far in the test and FC arena. He's looking like becoming another inconsistent MJ, but he should use this ashes series to prove me wrong. Our spin choices were a disaster, we really needed O'Keefe in the squad, even if it's to discourage England from preparing a dusty turner. If there's no turn on offer, we shouldn't hesitate to pick four fast bowlers. I'd love to see Bird and Pattinson opening the bowling against Cook. In that case I think he'll find his form might strangely abandon him.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (May 12, 2013, 22:43 GMT)

This is a good sound article which I think reflects the situation for the Ashes. Hopefully though England can win 2-1,with one genuine draw and one rain affected one. England's better batting should be the difference along with the spin department. I hope we do not prepare flat wickets. Our guys are brought up on seaming pitches, and should have the techniques for the Aussie seamers under most conditions. The Aussies though will always fight well in the Ashes. It feels quite exciting even though two months away. Pity the writer can't play!!

Posted by Juiceoftheapple on (May 12, 2013, 18:43 GMT)

The South Africa series in England was a huge wake up call to us, in that the idea of invincibility at home had crept into our psyche. We'd faced talented but ill prepared, disjointed teams and workmanlike bowling attacks (except Pakistan), who we easily turned over. Coming up against SA we were shown just what a united settled world class balanced team in their absolute prime could do. And unfortunately for Oz, unless thats what they are sending over, if there are just a few weaknesses/injuries/newbies/inexperience/doubts then England will punish them and I think, give them an almighty mauling that will have heads rolling in Cricket Australia, and probably set them back a few more years. ps. Lovin it.

Posted by The_bowlers_Holding on (May 12, 2013, 15:25 GMT)

I agree that the series will be a lot closer than some are saying and a lot depends on JA remaining fit and how the supporting bowlers perform; if Finn succeeds in performing as he can (consistently) along with Broad and probably the new improved Big bad Bres then the established top order England batting will probably prove the difference. Good decision to call up Rogers and I wonder if they might call up his opening partner during the tour to stop any future England career. I personally hope it is a good sporting contest with England ultimately being victorious and great banter between the fans unlike some other recent opponents.

Posted by jezmondo on (May 12, 2013, 14:56 GMT)

am i missing something here or do i just keep not hearing english fans/press writing off the ozzies? any true and educated english cricket fan realises the strength of the oz bowling (and our limited back up) and the fact that australia always lift their game in the ashes. Its going to be close maybe england by one test or a draw. Although i wouldnt complain iif it was 3-1 again..........

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (May 12, 2013, 14:24 GMT)

I think a big factor in the series will be graeme swann & how he bowls to the many aussie left handers.

Posted by Mitty2 on (May 12, 2013, 13:18 GMT)

If the media keeps on about our collectively untested bowling attack (no hilfy, no johnson for the first time in eons), there might be incentive to prepare flat wickets, and in that case, it would suit us more. I've seen some compare NZ to us, and on flat decks with an inferior but faster scoring batting line up: the NZ line up outshone the english, and NZ's bowling was also superior. As seen in Adelaide (twice), sydney, and the gabba, treat clarke with flat decks and he will get doubles - even a triple.

@villageblacksmith makes a very valid point, but this time, our batting has turned for the worse (no huss/punter), whilst our bowling has vastly improved (no more innocuous hilfenhaus and expensive johnson, along with an improved siddle and the promising bird and patto.) However, clarke did nothing in '10/11 and with his form you'd expect a much greater output, and you'd expect a much greater output in more familiar conditions from our batters than in india.

Posted by   on (May 12, 2013, 12:41 GMT)

At long last...An Englishman who has some Idea about the talent of Australia's young (+ Harris) bowling attack. It is foolish to underestimate the likes of Pattinson, Bird, Harris, Siddle, Starc and Faulkner. I have the feeling that it will be bowling that will decide this series. Though England's batting is it's strength, they must bowl well to win. If England dont bowl well then they will let Australia's talented though still unproven batting lineup off the hook. Even in India Australia scored some good first innings totals. If England do bowl well as a team then it is highly likely that their superior batting though challenged; will shine through. Their could be a serious upside were Australia's bowlers given their due credit before the series if the groundstaff created batting wickets in response and were to therefore to assist in strengthening Australia's main area of weakness!

Posted by VillageBlacksmith on (May 12, 2013, 12:30 GMT)

Eng will be able to field an almost identical team that beat the aussies in oz by 3inns & plenty when clark & co were derided by their own press... and eng will now be playing at home... aussies have a depleted team even from that downunder thrashing with now no ponting or hussey and an inexperienced bowling attack... it wd always be unwise to write aussie off but it's just a thought...

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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