Captain Andrew Strauss will take his men Down Under this winter, desperate to improve on the ill-fated 2006/07 showing. English cricket was ridiculed and it has taken almost four years to rebuild the national cricketing reputation. Despite his poor recent form, Alastair Cook will continue to open the batting alongside his more experienced partner. He scored a century on his last visit to Australia in Perth, and will be hoping to build upon his past success.
Many cricket journalists and commentators believe that Jonathan Trott will struggle to cope with the rigours of an Ashes series in Australia, and will be easily sledged by the opposition. However, I believe that the way in which Trott goes about his innings when batting has a calming effect on his team-mates as he always looks in complete control. His composed and methodical approach to batting may even enhance performance in Australia, allowing him to block out any comments from the Australians.
Kevin Pietersen will find himself in the spotlight even more than usual this winter. His poor form in Tests this summer against Pakistan and subsequent dropping from the ODI squad will have jolted his confidence, making his preparation in South Africa even more important. I strongly believe that for England to have a successful tour then KP will be critical. I fully expect him to respond to the criticism aimed at him; he is a “big-game” player and has a fantastic temperament when up against it.
Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan will all be vying for only two batting spots. The former will surely be picked due to his invaluable experience, fielding ability and previous success in Australia, notably scoring a double hundred in Adelaide in 2006. Despite Bell’s unquestionable talent I expect Morgan to retain his place thanks to his outstanding recent performances for England in limited overs cricket, and his battling nature; he has the potential to flourish in Australian conditions where England will certainly be placed under pressure by the home side.
Despite Steven Davies’ inclusion in the Test squad, following his efficient performances behind the stumps and opening the batting in the ODIs against Pakistan, Matt Prior will probably continue his wicket-keeping duties for England, and providing useful runs in the lower-middle order.
The bowlers provide a far simpler proposition than the batsmen. The same quartet used against Pakistan in the Tests (Broad, Swann, Anderson and Finn), will continue. I am pleased at the inclusion of Monty Panesar who has regained his form at Sussex over the past year, and Chris Tremlett, who has led the Surrey attack extremely well following his switch from Hampshire, taking 48 wickets in the season at an average of marginally over 20. Were it not for several injuries, Tremlett would undoubtedly have represented England more often than he has done, but it is certain that if he plays in Australia he can utilise his height on the quick and bouncy wickets. England’s final tour player is Tim Bresnan who was selected ahead of Yorkshire team-mate Ajmal Shahzad, presumably due to his superior batting ability and international experience, although he is unlikely to feature.
Without trying to be overly optimistic of England’s chances (see the football team’s abject failure at this summer’s World Cup), I genuinely believe that they have a realistic chance of success. They will come up against a fairly similar Australia side to the one that visited in 2009, but they will prove a harder nut to crack in their own back yard. Despite Ponting’s brilliance, and the consistent batting of men like Simon Katich, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, Australia’s bowling is erratic and nowhere near as potent as in recent years. If I were a betting man I would go for a 2-1 England triumph, but don’t hold me to it!
Andrew Strauss, captain (Middlesex), Alastair Cook, vice-captain (Essex), James Anderson (Lancashire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Paul Collingwood (Durham), Steven Davies (Surrey), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Monty Panesar (Sussex), Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire/Surrey), Matt Prior, wicket-keeper (Sussex), Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire), Chris Tremlett (Surrey), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire).