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Simon Hughes: England might need a batting re-think if they are to combat Australia’s pace threat

01 Jul | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Simon Hughes: England might need a batting re-think if they are to combat Australia’s pace threat

The Analyst looks ahead to a 'feisty and abrasive' Ashes summer

None of the current Australian squad have ever won an Ashes series in England.

And for Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris among others, this will be their last chance. So they will be super motivated. That, and Australia’s impressive battery of fast bowlers, is likely to be the decisive influence when the heat is on.

Not since 2001 have Australia – with Warne, Ponting, Gilchrist and McGrath then to the fore – captured the Ashes urn in England. Clarke, who was part of the side that lost the famous 2005 series, is on a mission to avenge that, and two subsequent series defeats.

How will he do it? With aggressive batting and intimidatory bowling.

Batsmen like David Warner, Steve Smith, Clarke himself and Shane Watson will seek to impose themselves on the English bowling.

3/1 – David Warner to be top series batsman

They know some of it is fragile. They are aware that after Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, England will only have the talented rookie Mark Wood, the volatile Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali’s inexperienced off breaks to fall back on.

So the tactics will be to score heavily off the support bowlers to ensure that Anderson and Broad have to bowl as many overs as possible to salvage the situation, at some cost to their pace and penetration.

It is, as usual a tightly packed series, with the first three tests completed inside 24 days, and the fourth starting only four days later. That is particularly tough on the fast bowlers – especially if the weather is like this – and both teams will need to rotate their pacemen.

Australia – with the two Mitchells – Johnson and Starc – capable of bowling well over 90mph, supported by the impressive Josh Hazlewood, Ryan Harris and Mitchell Marsh – look better equipped to bear that workload.

5/1 – Nathan Lyon be top series wicket taker

England will attempt to prepare grassy pitches to help Anderson and Broad, but that will play into the hands of bowlers like Hazlewood and Harris, and will also place extra emphasis on slip catching which is not one of England’s strengths.

That does not mean that spin will be redundant. Infact the spinners – Nathan Lyon and Moeen Ali – will have a vital role to play, wheeling away from one end, allowing the pacemen to take it in turns from the other.

Lyon is good at this, bowling a lot from round the wicket to both right and left handers, creating unusual angles. Because he will have both left arm over and right arm over bowlers’ footmarks to aim at, and potentially seven English left handers to spin the ball away from, he could easily be the surprise leading wicket taker in the series.

To combat Australia’s pace threat, England might need a batting rethink.

Gary Ballance has looked vulnerable to the new ball recently, so I would move him down to five, promote Ian Bell to 3 and Joe Root to 4. Root is ready for the extra responsibility.

Because Alastair Cook has the extra burden of batting against the new ball which is bound to dismiss him at least a couple of times, Root is likely to be England’s leading run scorer. The question is will the others – especially the new opener Adam Lyth, the strangely submissive Bell, and Ballance – make enough to support him.

5/2 – Joe Root to be England’s Series Top Batsman

It will be a feisty, abrasive series. It will be won – as the Ashes always is – by the team that wants it more desperately. Barring injuries to key personel, I think, though I hate to admit this, that that team will be Australia.

4/1 – England to win the Ashes

4/11 – Australia to win the Ashes

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