The Ashes 2013 May 22, 2013

Australia eye England swing with interest

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Michael Clarke knows his men will enter the Ashes as underdogs but they have taken some heart from the way England's batsmen struggled against New Zealand's swing bowlers in last week's Lord's Test. A group of Australia's Ashes and Champions Trophy squad members gathered in Sydney on Wednesday for a farewell event ahead of their departure for the one-day tournament and the battle for the urn that follows in July and August.

Among the group were several key members of the pace attack, including Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Ryan Harris, upon whom Australia's Ashes hopes will largely rely. Starc said that during an Australian training camp at Brisbane's Centre of Excellence over the past couple of weeks the team had discussed the right lengths to bowl in England, and had noted the way England were knocked over for 232 and 213 at Lord's by Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee.

"I think most of our guys actually watched that Test, so some good signs for the quicks over there," Starc told reporters in Sydney. "It was nice to see the Pommies struggle against the left-arm bowlers, I can tell you that much. There's some things we can take away from the English batsmen and the way they got out there.

"Obviously, the ball is going to swing a bit more in England ... but the key we can take out of that Test was the length the bowlers bowled and the length that troubled the batsmen most. So that's something we looked at closely as a group and spoke about in Brisbane."

However, the Australians could also be forgiven for some trepidation at witnessing the destruction wreaked by Stuart Broad and James Anderson, especially the 7 for 44 that Broad collected on the final day as New Zealand were skittled for 68. Australia's recent history against the swinging and seaming ball features some catastrophic innings, including their 47 in Cape Town, 88 against Pakistan at Leeds, and 98 on the first day of the 2010-11 Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG.

"If somebody bowls an amazing spell, you can get knocked over but if you've trained and prepared as well as you possibly can, you're giving yourself the best chance," Clarke said. "It seemed that Stuart Broad in the second innings bowled a pretty good spell so England deserved a lot of credit. We've got to try and find a way to combat that. I think [time of year] definitely makes a difference. I saw a forecast the other day that said it was 14 degrees in London. I'm hoping it's not 14 degrees there when we're playing our first Test match."

All the same, the Australian batsmen have plenty to prove after their dismal showing on the Test tour of India in February and March, when Clarke and Steven Smith were the only specialist batsmen to average better than 35. Notably, there was a worrying lack of runs from David Warner, Phillip Hughes and Shane Watson, all of whom averaged less than 25 and all of whom are part of the Ashes squad.

Not surprisingly, given Australia's miseries in India and England's current ranking as the No.2 Test team in the world, Alastair Cook's men will enter the series as firm favourites. There is a growing feeling that the series could be closer than it appeared it would be a few months ago, although that will largely come down to the way Australia's batsmen handle the conditions.

"I think it's a fair indication of where both teams are at," Clarke said of England being favourites. "England have a lot of experience. A lot of the guys have been involved in Ashes series before and they're playing some really good cricket. Our recent series in India wasn't nearly as good as we would have liked so I accept that we are the underdogs but we'll be doing everything in our power to have success.

"Our goal is to win the series, we know it's going to be tough, but we're going to have a red-hot crack at hopefully winning the Ashes for the Australian people. The batters know we didn't perform as well as we needed, we didn't make enough runs and we are certainly accountable for our performances. We know that if we can bat well as a unit, that will give our young, talented fast bowlers every opportunity to take 20 wickets."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • VillageBlacksmith on May 26, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    ''we're going to have a red-hot crack''... Im sure you will michael...

  • TallHawk on May 24, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    I saw an article that Trott, Pietersen, Cook and Bell all feature in the top-50 all-time list for England based on Test-match averages (all circa 50). Joe Root will make that list one day too, you guys are gonna hear a lot about him over the next decade, in fact over the next six months! Throw in player-of-the-year Matt Prior and the quality of Anderson and Swann and you may as well not bother showing up. Home and away Ashes series wins will take England above Australia in the all-time Series wins list.

  • RedDirt on May 24, 2013, 13:34 GMT

    You blokes who push for the selection of Khawaja - I just can't understand it. If he couldn't score a run against the Kiwi's & ODI's in Oz while at the top of his game, what makes you so sure he'll succeed against the Poms in England? Give me a break.

  • RandyOZ on May 23, 2013, 18:11 GMT

    We should be opening with Warner and Rogers. The line up is obvious: Rogers, Warner, Khawaja, Hughes, Clarke, Watson, Haddin, Pattinson, Starc/Lyon, Bird, Harris

  • dummy4fb on May 23, 2013, 13:56 GMT

    @ indiasux

    I think the Aussies will be as joyful as kids at Christmas time! Look at how England buckled under a bowling attack full of guys that averaged over 30 with SRs about 60. Now change that for a set of guys who average in the mid 20's with SRs of mid-40s going into the best seam bowling conditions around! The bowling alone obviously won't deliver victory on a platter, but it is truly baffling how the English can rationalise away the set of absolutely brilliant bowling figures the way they do. I accept the English batting is of better quality, why can't they admit that our pace squad is likely to cause them severe headaches?

  • indiasux on May 23, 2013, 12:59 GMT

    Looking at how Anderson and Broad bowled NZ out at Lords,,,will sent shivers down Aus spines... I think it will be a walk in the park for Eng, if Anderson and Broad continue with their form..

  • it_happened_last_in_2001. on May 23, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    Last Sunday at Lords was a good pointer for the upcoming ashes. England's batting can be pressured for sure, but if you're looking for a team who is likely to be rolled over in a session and a half for under 100 then it can only be Australia. Clarke averages 46 in England, there'll be no double and triple centuries on these pitches for him. I appreciate that Australia have a good bowling attack but I just can't see them scoring a run more than England over 2 innings.

  • Biggus on May 23, 2013, 9:43 GMT

    @5wombats-Fancy meeting you here eh? Yes indeed I'm in Perth, and as for our chances in the Ashes go, I think this one's a goner. A couple of years ago I felt that we would lose this series, but be a fair chance in the return series on our home turf. Now I'm not so sure, I see little in the way of 'proper' batsmen on the way up through our once exemplary first class system, I'm bewildered at the fragility of our bowlers, and find the selectors' infatuation with bits and pieces players similarly baffling. Whilst we're not yet at the point where one might declare, "It's worse than that, he's dead Jim!", the patient is in a coma and shows no signs of leaping to life any time soon. I do think Rogers is a good selection but, and it pains my Aussie heart to say this, I think your chaps will rule the Ashes roost for a little while yet, barring divine intervention or witchcraft and/or voodoo dolls. C'est la vie my friend, swings and roundabouts, 'twas always the way, to the winner the spoils.

  • poms_have_short_memories on May 23, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    If Jackson Bird can perform the same role that Terry Alderman did in 1981 and 1989 it will be quite an interesting series with Starc, Pattinson and Harris/Siddle as 145kph+ muscle as backup.

  • MaruthuDelft on May 23, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    What happened to Cummins who won a test match for Australian in the last SA tour?