The battle lines are drawn as England hosts Australia for the Investec Ashes Series 2015 starting from 8th July at Cardiff; after a good performance against the Kiwis last month, England will look to regain some of its lost pride by conquering the Aussies in the upcoming series. Australia’s England tour starts at the back of a stunning World Cup performance followed by a ruthless demolition of West Indies in the recently concluded test series last month; it needs to be seen if they can repeat their last year’s 5-0 win against England. The hosts on the other hand have been going from strength to strength to build their confidence and do well to earn redemption here. Let’s look at the team composition and how they line up against each other going into this prestigious contest:
Alastair Cook will lead the side and this will be a big test for him career-wise; it’s been two years since they won an Ashes series and the team would be banking upon the talents of younger players like Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
Cook himself performed well against New Zealand helping the team win the first match and along with Adam Lyth, he will open the innings with the determination to build a good foundation; Stokes, Buttler, Root, Ian Bell and Gary Ballance are doing well and will need to provide the support in the middle order. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will lead the pace attack and with the youngster Mark Wood, who has been a revelation with his stunning performance against the Kiwis, being unknown to the Aussies the team has a strong combination of variety and depth. Moeen Ali can play a useful hand with his spin attack and contribute with the bat too; their all-rounders have been doing well and with a little confidence boost, they can surely put up a stiff challenge to the formidable Aussies.
England have a relatively inexperienced batting line-up and many players are appearing in their first ever Ashes. The bowlers were exposed in the last test and in ODIs versus New Zealand. Still, the batting line-up looks good and if they can preserve their wickets against the Mitchells and spinners, this team can definitely come out all guns blazing with some renewed vigour.
Players to watch out for: Joe Root, Mark Wood, Alastair Cook, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes
Outright Win Odds: 4.50 @ Bet365
The Aussies have the experience, the confidence and the versatility to combine their resources well in order to dominate the English players with both bat and ball:
Opening the attack, David Warner and Chris Rogers will provide the required foundation with Warner well-known for his hard-hitting skills and Rogers providing the required sturdiness. They also have Shaun Marsh as an option to open the innings with the bat; the middle order comprises of the experienced captain Michael Clarke, Steven Smith the young gun who has been the leading run-scorer for the team in the past one year, Adam Voges, Brad Haddin and Shaun Watson. Mitchell Marsh could also contribute with his all-rounder skills while Haddin and Peter Nevill are both available to do the wicket-keeping duty.
On the bowling front, Nathan Lyon and Fawad Ahmed will provide the spin options while Steven Smith has been successful with his leg-breaks against players like Ian Bell. The pace attack comprises of established bowlers like Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who are among the fastest swing bowlers currently and in top form whereas Ryan Harris and Mitchell Marsh will provide variety and depth to the attack. One can hardly find any negatives in this Aussie line-up.
However, there are causes of concern still. Shane Watson’s bowling fitness is a major issue. Shaun Marsh’s form hasn’t been particularly good, though he scored a brisk hundred against Kent in the warm-up game. Overall, it’s a well-balanced side with experience, youth and talent that can prove to be a tough nut to crack for the hosts yet again.
Players to watch out for: Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Michael Clarke.
Outright Win Odds: 1.40 @ Bet365
The resurgence of the English team in international cricket can make a perfect blockbuster. They’ve grown leaps and bounds since their early exit from the World Cup. They were brilliant in the first test against New Zealand, but weren’t as good in the second.
Australia, on the other hand, has all its bases covered. They have a sharp and lethal bowling unit led by Mitchell Starc ably assisted by Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Lyon. Watson and Mitch Marsh both can bowl important spells when required. Steve Smith can roll his arm too. Smith, however, will be key difference in the sides. His form and approach has been a benchmark in international cricket. Smith has kept the bowlers busy all this summer. With Smith’s batting from combined with Mitchell Starc’s speed and accuracy with ample support from Warner, Rogers, Marsh and Watson under the aggressive leadership of Michael Clarke, I see no reason of Australia not winning this Ashes. I’ll place my money on the Kangaroos.
Steve Smith has had a dream-like outing as far as his batting is concerned. He went past Sir Bradman’s record by amassing over 700 runs against India and was brilliant in the World Cup and IPL and then in the series against West Indies. He scored a massive hundred in the Warm up match as well. Considering his form, he is the most likely batsman to score most runs in the series.
Series Top Batsman: Steve Smith, 5.00 @ BetVictor