Bitter rivals Australia and England are gearing up to face one another in a five test series and mind games have already started between the two camps. It is not exactly India v Pakistan, but these teams have a long and deep enmity and the Ashes is always one of the highlights of the cricketing calendar. Neither team can hold a torch to India right now, and both have been vanquished by Virat Kohli’s men in the past year, but you could argue that these two are the most likely to one day knock them off their perch.
England won the Ashes 3-2 in its last iteration, in 2015, but they are the underdogs this time around as their preparations have been a mess. All-rounder Ben Stokes has been suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board as he is on police bail on suspicion of assaulting a fellow reveller outside a nightclub. He will not make the trip Down Under and he will be a huge loss to his team, particularly in the bowling department, as it piles huge amounts pressure on the ageing James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Those two cannot expect to go through five tests at their best, so Australia will have a great chance of racking up some hefty scores.
England suffered a whitewash last time they toured Australia, in the 2013-14 Ashes, and bettors have been queuing up to back a repeat of that. That looks unlikely, but Australia are the favourites to win this series and that looks a good bet right now. If you are looking to place some action, check a review of Intertops and get involved. The most likely outcome right now is a 3-1 series win to Australia and that sounds about right. Former captain Steve Waugh has already claimed England cannot win in Australia without Stokes, and the England fans are full of pessimism.
But former fast bowler Mitchell Johnson believes it is dangerous for the Aussies to think they already have the series in the bag and insists England can still win it, despite the loss of Stokes. “I don’t think you can read too much into what people are commenting on ‘no Stokes, no England’,” said Johnson. “I think England can win without him. I think at a contest at that high level, anyone can win. If you’re Australia, you don’t want to be thinking they can’t win because Stokes isn’t there – that can bite you in the backside pretty quickly.”
Stokes sold for a world record amount in this year’s IPL auction and lived up to the hype with some scintillating performances in India, but England are by no means a one-man team. However, they will find life extremely difficult from the off as they are sending several inexperienced batsmen to face a brutally aggressive Australia attack. The wickets are bouncy and quick, and these rookies could struggle, but former England captain Michael Vaughn had words of encouragement for the likes of Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan, claiming it is easier to plan your innings in Australia than it is in India. “Australia, of all the places you play as a batsman, is one where you can sit in your room the night before and plan your innings,” he said. “In India, you’re not too sure whether the ball will swing up front, and it will spin. In Australia, you know that for 20 overs, the Kookabura ball will swing. After 20 overs, it doesn’t swing. It goes dead straight up until that second new ball.”
The home team has won the Ashes on six of the last seven occasions and England will be up against it from the off, but if experienced heads like Joe Root and Alastair Cook can guide Stoneman, Vince and Malan it could turn into a really interesting series. In a couple of months, we will have a clearer idea of who the real pretender to India’s throne is.