By Rex Clementine
England have been playing a new brand of attacking cricket that has enabled them to succeed in the square turners of Pakistan and seaming tracks of New Zealand. But is that good enough to secure the Ashes? We shall know soon as the sport’s greatest and oldest rivalry gets underway in Birmingham later this week.
Not having Jack Leach is no doubt a blow for England but that has enabled them to bring back Moeen Ali and that could be a blessing in disguise. But more than anything England will miss Jofra Archer. Despite all the promise, Archer has not been able to live up to his expectations due to injuries.
But England should not worry about pace. They have plenty of it and it’ll be exciting to see Mark Wood having a go at the Aussies. He is now the quickest bowler in the world and generates pace that is quite unsettling for batters. Of course, there’s the ever-green Jimmy Anderson, who’ll turn 41 during the Ashes, involving in a tenth Ashes series. That is remarkable. And he may not be done yet.
Some could say that Joe Root is on the way out although it looks there’s plenty of cricket left in him. As one Yorkshire great is fading, another Yorkshire great is forming – Harry Brook is the lad’s name.
The 24-year-old Brook has played only seven Tests but has already scored four hundreds and over the next two months it will be a delight to see this bright young prospect piling up runs. Along with Afghan Ibrahim Zadran, Harry is the best young cricketer in the world.
Australia’s squad a little bit old and you tend to think they may pay the price for depending too heavily on the old guard.
A few chinks in David Warner’s armour has been exposed in recent years but the Aussies have backed him to come good. Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head will be the mainstay of their batting although Usman Khawaja has reinvented himself this year.
There’s plenty of space options in the Australians squad but it is the off spin of Nathan Lyon that could prove to be decisive in their bid to retain the Ashes. The 120 Test veteran is on the verge of the 500 Test wicket mark and with him unlikely to make the trip to England for another Ashes series, he would want to go on a high.
Ashes is a serious business. When England lost it last time in Australia heads were rolling. Chris Silverwood, one of cricket’s nicest men lost his job as Head Coach and so did Graham Thorpe, the batting coach. Captain Joe Root didn’t last long. Lord’s shows little patience when you lose the Ashes.
Now there’s nothing wrong that Ben Stokes could do but lose the Ashes and he will feel the heat. If he regains it and then defends England’s world cup title later this year in India, a knighthood will be around the corner.