Finally , the countdown is coming to an end for the big Ashes series of 2019 in England . Both teams are geared up for 1st test ,still in two minds with the composition of their bowling attack and have few concerns with batting. The weather forecast is for some rains in initial days in what promises to be a widely followed Ashes series with the additional incentive of the point system as a part of 2 year test championships. In this 5 test series ,the winner of a test will get 24 points and a draw will fetch 8 points. Should there be a tie ,the teams will get 12 points each. Let us get through the team wise composition:
The batting looks a bit jittery at the top three with all the incumbents relatively new to test cricket. Rory Burns is sadly out of touch,he struggled in Ireland test. Jason Roy had a decent debut vs Ireland but needs to prove himself in tests against a World class attack.Joe Denly has been patchy so far. The middleorder looks much stronger with Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler and Moeen. However Bairstow’s defence had look fragile ,even during World cup, with his tendency to inside edge frequently. Moeen has his issues with short ball which Cummins and Co would like to exploit. Root, Stokes and Buttler really needs to keep performing for England as batsmen with lots of responsibilities on the captain who was adamant that he will bat at four inspite of a weak top three but reports suggests that he may bat at 3. The Australian pace attack will definitely try to exploit the above weakness and put pressure on the english captain.
Bowlingwise England are however well served with lots of options to choose from . Anderson will be the 1st name to be locked in the bowling list. The tough choice was be between Broad , Woakes (both ideal for Engish conditions) and Archer. The last named has the x-factor of pace which England will surely want to exploit later in the series. Olly Stone with his impressive pace in Ireland test has made a solid case for himself as well. Mark Wood, the other 150 kph quick is on road to recovery. Hence England has a lot of bowling resources to choose from, not to speak of the impact of Ben Stokes the bowler and Moeen Ali the lone off spinner ( with good sprinkling of lefties in the Aussie batting lineup.). As of now England have chosen the bowlers for the conditions in their XI announced – Anderson, Broad and Woakes. Sam Curran will have to find himself out of the XI at the moment.
England XI : Burns, Roy, Denly, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Moeen, Woakes , Broad, Anderson.
Their well planned internal trial game may have helped them to sort out few issues specially in batting composition but there are still the odd guesses going around. Warner, Smith and Khawaja are certainties in their batting lineup. The debate rests on the other opening pair ,where Marcus Harris had a decent series against strong Indian bowling attack but Cameron Bancroft after his return from suspension has been scoring heavily everywhere including a solid 93 notout in the trial game in extremely stressful batting conditions ,hence he seems to have sealed his spot ahead of Harris ,who struggled in the trial game. It will be another a tough choice between Wade and Head at 5. The other big debate is on who the Aussies play between Labuschagne and Mitch Marsh as the allrounder. Both had very good outings in the trial match with Marsh scoring a couple of aggressive 20 odds and taking 6 wickets and Labuschagne scoring an impressive 41 in 1st innings batting at 3. Probably the visitors may go the safety 1st option and play the better batsman Labuschange in 1st test. Overall, the Australian batting looks comparatively in better shape than England’s, though they also have issues with moving ball.
The bowling is a surfeit of riches and it’s a tough ask to choose between such names like Cummins, Hazlewood, Starc, Pattinson, Siddle and Neser. Probably the visitors will consider the conditions and current form before choosing the bowling attack. It could be a horses for courses approach with 5 tests so condensed together. Starc from inside news, looks a bit out of favour now since he has been inconsistent . Pattinson has looked his old aggressive self after a long layoff and Siddle is very tough to ignore in English conditions, so it’s a tough choice for Aussie selectors.
Probable Australian XI for 1st test: Warner, Bancroft, Khawaja, Smith, Wade, Labuschagne, Paine, Cummins, Pattinson , Hazlewood and Lyon.
This is also the 1st test match for Warner, Smith and Bancroft since their infamous ball tampering saga in South africa ,hence they will cop a lot from the English crowd.
It promises to be an absolute gripping series with the tone may well be set in the 1st test at Egbaston.