Don’t forget to check out our Australian Team for the 1st Test at Trent Bridge
Here it is. Our Ashes Prediction for the upcoming series in England. Mere weeks ago, the interest levels in this upcoming Ashes were insignificant with many believing a 4-0 or even a 5-0 whitewash was on the cards for England. Recently though, the formerly hapless tourists have gotten their act together. Chris Rogers is being afforded an opportunity at Test level, Darren Lehmann has replaced Mickey Arthur and all of a sudden Australia’s touring party seems to be finding some form.
There is no doubt that many, both English and Australian now anticipate a fierce Ashes contest and whilst England are still expected to win, with another series just 5 months away, Alastair Cook’s men would like crush their opponents, not just retain the urn.
Cook v Clarke
The clash of the captains puts two of the greatest batsmen of this generation head-to-head. In terms of ingenuity in the field, the Australian has the advantage, having surprised everyone with his strategic competency. With bat in hand, the contest is far more even. Both he and Cook have experienced prodigious periods of form since taking over the captaincy, averaging 66.10 and 69.00 respectively. Clarke’s runs came earlier in his leadership whilst Cook’s lower 2013 average of 45.22 is all from his 5 Tests against New Zealand – a team who impressed against England but are hardly world-class. Both are showing signs of slowing down and becoming their former earthly once more, however this Ashes could be decided by whichever one decides to hold on to this Bradman-esque form the longest.
In targeting Cook, Australia will utilize their pace arsenal. In Test cricket,the English captain has been dismissed by I. Sharma (7), M. Morkel (6), S. Clark (5), P. Siddle (4) and M. Johnson (4), all pace bowlers who are either extraordinarily tall, very front-on or aggressive with a good bouncer. Pattinson, Starc and Harris all fit into at least two of those categories and must succeed against the English skipper. Bird and Faulkner are probably the only Australian front-liners who Cook would relish facing whilst Shane Watson could also see his effectiveness mitigated.
A strategy against Clarke is more complicated. Notoriously prolific against spin, his only weakness has been against left-arm off-spin (both Swann and Root are right-arm). Looking to England’s pace attack and James Anderson seems the logical answer having dismissed Clarke 6 times in Tests already. Whilst not having played since the Australian summer of 2010, Clarke has shown that despite improving almost every element of his game, he is still susceptible to late swing, especially in-swing. Very few can move the ball both ways like Anderson and he’ll need to be at his best for the Australian captain.
Both players have high expectations and it is likely that neither will fail. Australia need their captain to win the battle if they’re to challenge for the Ashes though with Cook’s surrounding cast more adept in the English conditions.
Clarke: Requires an average exceeding 65, have a strike rate exceeding 55 and score at least 3 centuries.
Cook: Needs to maintain his average of 50.56 against Australia and be at the crease when Nathan Lyon enters the attack in 75% of England’s innings.
Pattinson v Anderson
The two best fast bowlers in their respective teams and two of the best in the world go head to head for the first time. Following a horror tour of Australia in 2006/2007 in which he averaged 82.60, Anderson has refined his discipline, becoming the premier swing bowler in world cricket. Pattinson on the other hand has hit the ground running, taking 40 wickets in his first 10 Tests and should lead his nation without Peter Siddle this series.
With England’s bowling attack boasting more experience than Australia’s and Graeme Swann expected to comprehensively outplay Nathan Lyon, Pattinson needs to be the standout bowler in this battle.
Pattinson: Take 30 wickets for the series at an average of 5 better than Anderson. Must contribute no greater than 10% less than Stuart Broad with the bat.
Anderson: Needs to remove Michael Clarke at least 3 times whilst conceding under 30 runs to him. Taking 25 wickets at 32 should get the job done.
Haddin v Prior
Several months ago, Matt Prior was named in our Test Team of 2013. The South-African born Englishman has done very little to justify that selection since and Brad Haddin enters this series as a player with the potential to comprehensively beat his counter-part. With the gloves, Prior has a slight advantage despite Haddin’s keeping being of a higher standard than Matthew Wade’s. It is with the bat in hand though that these players, particularly Haddin must perform.
On average, when their respective teams are 5 wickets down and they come to the crease, Haddin will have fewer runs on the board than Prior, meaning that the two keeper/batsmen have two very different roles.
Haddin: Must average over 40 with the bat and if batting with the tail, must remain at the crease until partnered with the number 11. Can drop no more than one catch.
Prior: Needs to average just 30 with the bat but have a strike rate of 70 and ensure keeping mistakes (dropped catches and missed stumpings) lead to no more than 120 runs over the the series.
Watson v Trott
Shane Watson could easily find himself paired up against any of England’s players. Battling Pietersen as his team’s most destructive batsman, Cook as an opener or Bell as an experienced leader, we’ve gone and matched the temperamental Queenslander against the statistically brilliant Jonathan Trott.
Just 56 days separate the two in age, just 2 Test matches split them in experience, both face criticism and often hostility from the home front and the media, but only one of them has taken it in their stride. Trott has become the consummate modern cricketer and one of just a handful of players able to average over 50 in both Tests and ODIs. Having averaged 86.42 in his 6 matches against Australia, he has high standards to maintain, however without a doubt has the potential to mirror his previous successes. Watson on the other hand needs his apparent revival under Darren Lehmann to continue if he’s to match his counterpart. His one advantage is his bowling, an undeniably valuable commodity in English conditions.
Undoubtably, more pressure lies on the shoulders of Watson than Trott. If Australia are to win, they need their all-rounder to fire, leaving his performance indicators the highest of any player this series.
Watson: Must average over 53 with the bat (2 centuries) and under 26 with the ball, taking 15 wickets along the way. Cannot drop a catch in the slips. Must be Player of the Series.
Trott: Needs to average over 45 and score under 10 in 3 innings or fewer. Trott averages over 100 when getting scoring more than 5 runs against Australia.
There has never been a mathematical formula for predicting sports matches with any certainty. These seemingly arbitrary numbers have come from boiling down the statistics which have led to victories and defeats by a player’s respective team throughout their career.
The likelihood of players living up to them though seems vastly more probable for the English than it does their Australian counter-parts. As such, we’re predicting a 3-1 series win for the hosts. Australia could reduce the scoreline to 2-1 with a performance reminiscent (but 3 runs better) than Edgbaston in 2005, but England’s class should be too much.
Both bowling attacks are lethal and many expect batting totals to be relatively low this series, however with Lyon hindering the touring attack and Finn’s shorter-length bowling tendency typically unsuccessful against Australian batsmen, don’t be surprised if a fair few players have innings between 40-70, leading to totals of around 360-400 in most 1st innings and upwards of 250 in many 2nd digs.
Regardless, the safest conclusion we can make is that with another Ashes series just months away, more rests on these 5 Tests than people are realising. Australia’s recent attitude revival under Lehmann could be prematurely shattered if the English gain the ascendency early. On the other hand, should Michael Clarke’s men fight (excuse the pun Joe Root) as many are expecting, watch out England when the ‘Battle for the Urn’ goes Down Under later this year.