Monday, October 2, 2017

2017-18 Ashes: Aussies to watch

The Ashes, arguably international cricket’s most vicious rivalry, rolls around once more in November. Although England emerged victorious (3-1) in the Australian series of 2010-11, the series of 2013-14 saw Australia enact vengeance in the most emphatic way possible – a 5-0 whitewash. Given the squad’s home ashes record, Australia would always be favourites against England. However, the home side have never been so widely backed to score a second consecutive home whitewash over England.

5-0 whitewash universally expected

To say that the two sides approach the series in contrasting mindsets would be an understatement, and this is reflected in current Ashes odds, which can be viewed by anyone who opts to click here. After losing 2-1 to South Africa last autumn, Australia have bounced back in very real terms, with perfect home test form prevalent after that disappointing showing against the Springboks. By contrast, England will travel to Australia in unusually low spirits, with Ben Stokes’ recent exclusion (on disciplinary grounds) from the visiting squad only serving to divide and disrupt.

England’s away form can only give the Australian squad even more encouragement, with the squad losing 4-1 to India in its last away test series. Some experts would assert that England’s only true hope is Joe Root, with most of the other expected first XI performing erratically of late. To the more ardent England fan, Alastair Cook is considered something of a talisman, but many believe that age is now catching up with him. Even at home, England have been susceptible to the occasional batting collapse, with the fourth test in the recent home series against the West Indies being a very damning case in hand.

Smith can be ‘captain fantastic’

As one of the chosen few to be an Ashes captain, Steve Smith will naturally be in the spotlight more than any other home player. Though his captaincy has seen mixed fortunes for Australia, if all forms of international cricket are taken into account, his personal statistics spell danger for England. As of June 2017, Smith had scored twelve centuries and averaged 73.27 per inning. Overcoming a humiliation at the hands of South Africa in 2016 was also a real test of character for Smith, with his captaincy then very much in the balance. 2017 has been a truer reflection of his abilities, and Smith also has a test win rate of exactly 50% as Australia’s captain.

NSW Trio to give England the ‘blues’

Much of the confidence in the home side stems from the range of efficient fast bowlers that Australia coach Darren Lehmann has at his disposal.

Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are the most prominent men in that respect. With the latter two being left-handed, Australia will have the luxury of a multi-dimensional approach to dismissing England’s top batsmen. The fact that the trio are teammates at the NSW Blues can only add further fuel to the arguments in favour of an Australian whitewash.

David Warner: 30 not out

Though now the wrong side of thirty, top order batsman David Warner has the experience and composure needed to fulfil the expectation of a whitewash. Though part of a side that completed a 4-1 ODI series defeat to India just days ago, it was Warner’s never-say-die attitude which yielded the century that enabled the touring Aussies to win and avoid a whitewash. As one of the most hard-hitting Australian batsmen in recent memory, those who simply crave entertainment will certainly be keeping one eye on Warner.

Looking ahead
Lehmann’s uncompromising Australia squad has the impetus, but stranger things have happened in international cricket. The 2017-18 Ashes series begins at The Gabba on 23 November.

Author bio
A BJTC-accredited graduate, Tamhas Woods is a sports writer who specialises in betting previews.

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