The 2009 Ashes series between England and Australia will start this morning as cricket looks to once again capture the imagination of the British public. Four years ago the two teams met to give us the greatest Ashes series of all time in a sporting contest that personified just why these two sides have such a long and respectable sporting history.
England come off the back of some impressive performances against a West Indies team and the Aussies start off in England having beaten South Africa in their own country. Despite the gap in quality between these two victories this could turn out to be a repeat of the 2005 series with every single match going right down to the wire.
The teams are very evenly matched and it appears that the side that bowls the better will win the series and the Ashes urn. Australia obviously do not have Glen McGrath and Shane Warne in their side any more, who between them bowled out in England five times by themselves in the last series to be held in England.
This is not easy to over come and is being put down as the main reason by many experts on the game as the factor that actually gives England a chance. England’s own bowling attack has the virtue of having now played together for a long period of time. There is no question that England have the better bowling options as they carry two world class spinners as well as players that can reverse swing the ball at great pace.
The batting line-ups of each side are very even and a lot will rest on the more experienced players in each side. Both England and Australia have four big names in their top six that can all go on and make big hundreds. If they do then every match should go down to the last day and will place all of the pressure on the bowlers to get everything right and earn their money.
A lot has been made of the fact that the first test match is being played in Cardiff and not at Lords as this is traditionally the case. There are two advantages already for England in this respect. Firstly, the Cardiff pitch should turn, this will allow England the freedom to name Monty Panesar and Graham Swann in their side whereas the Australians will probably only play Nathan Hauritz, a defensively minded off spinner.
Secondly, it has to be considered that whenever an Ashes series does start at Lords, England do tend to lose. It is important to get off to a good start in such a long series because it can give you vital momentum that you can carry forwards into the next match. Cardiff could work in England’s favour and it could give them a boost they need to believe that they can push on and win the series.
England should have thumped the West Indies when they played in the Caribbean but on too many occasions, seemingly certain wins were turned in to frustrating draws. If England can get their noses on front then it could be a long two months in this country for the Australians.
Team news is good for England who look set to name their strongest possible eleven. It has not been kept a secret that the pitch will turn and therefore Graham Onions could make way for Swann with Andrew Flintoff stepping back into the middle of the side. This will give England a nice balance and allow them to strengthen in more than one area. It also adds the important dimension of even more aggression that will be needed as there are no doubts over the fact that the Aussies are going to chirp away at all the English batsman that get to the crease.
For the Aussies they will be missing fast bowler Brett Lee. England will be more than happy about this. Lee has the ability to swing the ball at over 90mph and can cause all sorts of problems. Ask any Englishman in the side if they would rather he wasn’t playing and they’d all say yes.
Otherwise the Australian selection is hard to guess. Ricky Ponting has been keeping the cards close to his chest before the first game and it is expected that they will go in with three or four quicks and a spinner. However, you can never second guess the Aussies and it could well be the case that they have the next Shane Warne up their sleeve ready to bring out, a player who nobody would have heard of.
This would be a huge gamble though and it will probably be the case that the Aussies go in with only four bowlers and play an extra batsman. This would not be a stupid thing to do but it would automatically give a slight advantage to England who would fancy their chances of not being bowled out by a relatively one dimensional attack without Lee.
The toss is also crucial to England’s chances of winning the first game. As the pitch is expected to turn, it can also be expected that it will rapidly deteriorate, meaning that whoever wins the toss will bat first. You do not want to be batting on the last day in the last innings on a pitch that has unpredictable bounce and is turning square. From England’s point of view if they can get a good score on the board first up and then set the Aussies a massive target, it will allow Swann and Panesar to go mad and try to wreak some havoc in the later stages of the game.
It’s nice just to have the series back and it’s good that there is so much positive thinking surrounding the first test. A lot of people have already forgotten about the 5-0 thumping that was given to England in the last Ashes series and if the build up is any thing like the actual matches then we could all be on our way to buy box sets of the 2009 series as well.
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