The Ashes may still be just over a year away but the selectors must start planning ahead to ensure the England team is competitive down under. Generally, the England cricket team have been hugely ineffective in Australia with three of the last four series resulting in two 5-0 whitewashes and most recently a 4-0 defeat. England will look to the exception to those recent losses for hope and lessons to be learnt; their famous 3-1 victory in 2010/11. We look at two so-called ‘secondary’ players who must step up to the plate for England to regain the Ashes.
Much of England’s past struggles have revolved around the make-up of the bowling attack. Although Jimmy Anderson is clearly the best bowler in England’s history with an incredible 600 wickets, he has certainly had his difficulties in Australian conditions where his lack of express pace often proves ineffective. His bowling average of 38.44 in Australia is not good enough to lead a side to victory Down Under and, given he will be 39 years old at the outset of the next series, it seems exceedingly unlikely he will be able to improve on his past appearances.
Therefore, England must turn to pure pace in the bowling attack, alongside the obvious rising star of Jofra Archer, in the form of Mark Wood. Although the Durham player has not always been an automatic pick in the England team, his ability to hit 90mph should make him a no-brainer for the attack. The past success of similarly tall and fast players in Australia, like Chris Tremlett, should offer clear evidence for his effectiveness. If England are to spring a surprise and defeat Australia, despite being 11/4 to regain the Ashes in the cricket betting odds, the selectors must take tough decisions. England need to avoid sentimental picks like Anderson and focus on picking the right horses for courses: step forward, Mark Wood.
The Kent batsman showed incredible powers of concentration and flawless technique, which belied his tender age, in hitting an incredible 267 against Pakistan in the recent summer series. The ECB and fans alike must hope they have finally found the answer to their seemingly never-ending issue at number three.
Number three is an absolutely vital role for the Test side in Australia as they often act the anchor for the entire innings. Jonathan Trott was almost immovable in England’s victorious away Ashes win in 2010/11, hitting the third-most runs in the series across both teams with 445. England must hope that Crawley is able to bear a similar burden of responsibility and play a key role in building the foundations for several innings in the series.
Of course, to secure victory away from home against a battle-hardened and wily Australian team will require a collective effort of will. Established stars like Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad will be expected and needed to shoulder much of the burden. As a result of their specific roles within the team, however, under the radar players like Wood and Crawley may hold the ultimate key to unlocking the Australian dilemma in 2021/22.