By Stephen Giles
- Can a revitalised England be a match for Australia’s experience?
- 1st Investec Ashes Test Match takes place between 8-12 July, in Cardiff
The latest edition of sport’s oldest rivalry begins in earnest on Wednesday as millions around the world gear up to watch the 1st Investec Ashes Test match, at the SWALEC stadium, Cardiff.
New coach Trevor Bayliss takes over the reins and begins his England tenure against the nation of his birth, a baptism of fire awaits him and his inspired new team.
In his first interview as coach, Bayliss highlighted his wish for England to “play with freedom” instead of playing with fear. Music to our ears, but whether that approach pays off for the new kids on the block or Australia’s experience tells is up for debate, but there’s no denying it has already reinvigorated the public’s love and the Ashes spirit burns brightly once again, for five compelling battles.
Recent public perception has at least given fans hope of a fiercely fought battle if the last few months have shown us. After witnessing the highly entertaining Test & ODI series with New Zealand, under the interim guidance of Paul Fairbrace, England looked reinvigorated, full of fight, a new ODI-style has been implemented, fresh new ideas have been brought to the table and new exciting personnel have come in and blossomed, which has coincided with the timely return to form of captain Alastair Cook.
Contrast that with only four-months ago where English cricket plunged to new depths of despair, a disastrous World Cup campaign which promised very little and delivered even-less, culminating in a dire loss to Bangladesh and became cannon fodder for the big hitters. This was briskly followed by a confidence-zapped drawn Test series in the West Indies.
However, England look a new animal all of a sudden and like excited kids in a sweet shop now look to tackle the Aussies head-on and continue the current feel-good factor of England cricket, and pour scorn on those expecting Australia to win their first Ashes series in England since 2001 with consummate ease.
New-look England will give Ashes debuts to four or five players in Cardiff, depending on the state of the Wednesday morning pitch. Yorkshires’s Adil Rashid comes in, an unknown quantity to many Australian observers, which could work in the home side’s favour. Also coming into Cook’s squad are Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali, Lancashire’s Jos Buttler, Rashid’s teammate Adam Lyth and Durham fast-bowler Mark Wood.
Australia on the other hand arguably have more than enough experience and can boast one of the mightiest bowling cliques in world cricket, and possess 2015’s hottest batsmen Steve Smith – averaging a mere 56.23 with the bat.
Although admittedly not in the same class as Messrs Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and the Waugh brothers, the Green Caps have already disposed of South Africa in their own back-yard and most-recently the West Indies in theirs. Confidence breeds success, and after two-successful tour-matches under their belts, the Aussies will now fancy their chances of further success and look to exploit the lack of English middle-order experience.
Mitchell Starc, long been heralded as one to blossom in English conditions forms a daunting strike attack with Mitchell Johnson. Not so long ago he was the Barmy Army’s source of derision – now he is England’s tormentor. Add Peter Siddle, James Faulkner, Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins (recently called-up to replace the now retired Ryan Harris) to the equation shows the task England face this summer.
However, Jason Gillespie, coach of Yorkshire CCC, who took 259 wickets for Australia believes England can prosper and branded his country the epitome of “Dad’s Army” and believes England’s new guns can get at the Aussies by “wearing them out”
“England should look at Australia and go: hang on a minute, they’ve got a 37 year old keeper (Brad Haddin),” he said.
“They’ve got a 37 year old opening batter (Chris Rogers), their captain (Michael Clarke) has got a glass back and they’ve got [Editor’s note: read ‘had’] a fast bowler – Ryan Harris – who’s 35 years of age and who’s got a dodgy knee.
“I’ve no doubt that the Yorkshire contingent can play a big role in winning the Ashes. But if England have a positive attitude, they have a chance and home advantage will be very important.”