Ashes 2013: Why We Should Not Rule Out The Australians... Just Yet

ashes cricket 2013 It is an important summer for both England and Australia. It always is when it comes to Cricket's greatest rivalry - The Ashes. Australia enter the five match series on the firing line and with several doubts about their credentials both here and back home, while last month Cricket Australia took the drastic decision to fire coach Mickey Arthur cancelling his contract two years early, possibly as a direct consequence of the fact that the former South Africa coach had reportedly lost the dressing room. This was brought to light most notably on the disastrous tour to India in March where four senior players including vice-captain Shane Watson were dropped for failing to do their 'homework'. Refusal to carry out the most simplest of tasks suggests that the relationship had already eroded long before it became front page news, and that his departure on the 24th June was the point at which his position became untenable. Australia were far from harmonious under his tenure and now move forward under the stewardship of former Australian international Darren Lehmann who faces the unenviable task of trying to regain the Ashes from an England side who have claimed three out of the last four series. England must avoid complacency at all costs however. It is rare - given Australia's dominance in this fixture in the last twenty years - that England enter an Ashes series as clear favourites. Australia are the side who have attracted media attention for all the wrong reasons and are the side with a point to prove following recent defeats in the 2009 and 2010/11 series, although as Australian legend Shane Warne rightly pointed out during an interview with Sky Sports, an Ashes series always makes you raise your game and the 'Aussies' will want to repair their reputation and re-install a sense of national pride - particularly in the wake of the British and Irish Lions success last weekend! Sir Ian Botham the Sky Sports commentator and pundit recently stated that he feels regardless of the coaching change England will still go on to win the Ashes 5-0 this summer and 5-0 down under this winter. On one hand it may simply be mind games as is commonplace prior to a series of this magnitude - you only have to listen to Glenn McGrath prior to the 2005 series to know that! - however in my view this could backfire spectacularly. The Australians are fighters. If anything this is only going to serve as inspiration and could spur them on to a few surprises over the next seven weeks, just like it did after those aforementioned comments eight years ago. In this sense, the visiting party enter the fray as somewhat of an unknown quantity but a side that is clearly in a happier frame of mind and rejuvenated following the arrival of Lehmann late last month. You only have to listen to his introductory press conference to know that he is trying to re-establish the Australian identity, tenacity and confidence that has clearly been lacking for some time. Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 13.40.50Australia have a side that can cause the English problems. Watson has been reinstated as an opener following a spell lower down the order, and generally speaking he fares better when he opens the innings averaging 43 as opposed to the mid thirties when batting at five and six, and in left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc they have a man who has had experience of English conditions following a spell with Yorkshire last year, and he could be somebody who may just pose a problem for England captain Alastair Cook whose struggles against left-arm bowlers have been well documented recently, particularly against Mitchell McClenaghan of New Zealand. Furthermore, Australian captain Michael Clarke can be difficult to contain when he is at his free flowing best and is rightly considered one of the world's best batsman too though he has suffered with a back injury recently that forced him to miss the entire Champions Trophy campaign. It is not an exaggeration to say he will be crucial to the visitors chances of success this summer, and that he needs to score runs from the outset otherwise an inexperienced test side could be horribly exposed by James Anderson and the England bowling attack. It is worth noting though, that most of the Australian fast bowlers - including Peter Siddle and James Pattinson - currently average under thirty which suggests that it would be foolish to right them off, particularly as a ball has not yet been bowled. England have questions that need answering too, particularly regarding the fitness of a certain Kevin Pietersen whose recently underwent hernia surgery and also with spinner Graeme Swann who has suffered immeasurably in recent times with a chronic elbow injury. Arguably a fit and in form Pietersen is just as vital to England's chances as Clarke is to Australia's hopes of winning an Ashes series for the first time since 2006/07, while Swann has the potential to be a game changer as we have seen on numerous occasions since he became a regular part of the England team in late 2008. Additionally, Joe Root who has been promoted to open the batting alongside Cook - in favour of Nick Compton - has not looked that assured in recent times against the new ball, particularly during the Ashes warm-up game at Chelmsford against Essex. While he has opened the batting for Yorkshire since making his debut in 2009, batting at the beginning of the innings against international bowlers is an entirely different proposition to at county level. His club teammate Johnny Bairstow is likely to feature at number six and with only eight tests to his name and an average of 31, he is certainly unproven and the jury is still out on whether he will become a regular at test level. In fact, since Paul Collingwood's retirement in 2011, the England selectors have not found a long term replacement as Eoin Morgan - like Bairstow - has had his doubters regarding his credentials in the longer format. Moreover, the home sides' middle order is not necessarily in as good touch as some might think. Ian Bell is in need of a big knock as he averaged a mere 18 during the recent series with New Zealand. It seems Jonathan Trott who has received criticism about whether he is suited to one-day cricket is the only batman in the England eleven who arrives with no point to prove to a certain extent. 2013-14-Ashes-itinerary-unveiled-Cricket-News-Update-203265 So as England and Australia prepare to do battle this summer, the cricket on the field is sure to be enthralling. Andy Flower's side arrive - on paper at least - in better shape than their counterparts yet they carry with them the burden and expectation of the whole nation. Australia can enjoy their cricket safe in the knowledge that many have already written them off and can now focus on delivering the aggressive brand of cricket that Lehmann promised when he was unveiled as coach only a fortnight ago. The Australians should not be dismissed, undermined or disrespected. England might be raising the urn in seven weeks time victorious, they may be doing the same this winter, but they would have done so having been pushed all the way by a side that has so much to prove.
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I am a hard working, versatile and enthusiastic writer who covers a variety of topics - mostly Sports related - including articles on Football, Cricket and the NFL. I have had experience writing for Northwood Football Club in the last couple of years as well, and I am somebody who is always looking to embrace a new challenge. Follow me on Twitter @Matt_Journalist