Because I’m married to an Australian the battle for the Ashes becomes quite a big issue in the Emburey household, more so than it might do for other families, and this up-coming series will be no exception.
My wife Susie and I will be over there on holiday for much of the series, meeting up with family and our Aussie friends to chew over the cricketing cud with them. I’m hopeful that England will do better than they have done in recent times over there because we’ve a good, settled side these days.
They’re playing well together and, even when things aren’t going right, this England side are fighting very hard and proving a tough team to beat. And that’s something we haven’t done for a long time.
I think one of the key players and a man I think will have a good Ashes series is Stuart Broad. He’s matured one heck of a lot and has plenty of variety and confidence which, coupled with good pace and aggression, make him a dangerous opponent.
Allied to which, his aggression is more controlled these days. Broad looks to have channelled that in the right way now, so I’d be looking to him to lead our pace attack.
Steve Finn can fall back and do the more defensive role at first change and, with the Kookaburra ball swinging for the first 15 overs or so, I’d like to think James Anderson with all his experience will pick up early wickets. He’ll look to be a force at Brisbane, but generally it does less through the air in Perth and Adelaide.
Then it will be Graeme Swann’s turn to take centre stage and we all know the qualities he possesses. He has matured wonderfully well, growing into the role of senior spin bowler and is now quite vital to the make-up of our side.
I wasn’t surprised that England opted for Monty Panesar as the back-up spinner because he’s been bowling well for Sussex. The majority of the time I feel we’ll only play one spinner, and I wouldn’t envisage Monty playing unless Swann gets injured.
If Swann were to get injured you want your next best slow bowler to play and for me that is Panesar. If it were to be James Tredwell or Adil Rashid, then I don’t think they quite have the same level of control and you need that during a tight series in Australia.
I don’t think its England’s intention in the near future to play two spinners, purely because the blend of three seamers and a spinner has worked so well for them and gives them more depth to their batting.
With Broad and Swann at eight and nine, you have two bowlers who are both capable of scoring useful runs and that makes us a much tougher side to beat.
There will be pressure on Kevin Pietersen, of course, because there’s always so much expectancy surrounding him. In his terms he’s had a difficult year, but I would expect this Ashes series to stir him and I think you’ll see Pietersen to the fore again.
What Kevin must do is take what he does in practice out into the middle with him and maybe try to be just that little bit more patient, rather than looking to dominate from ball one. He needs maybe to go back to basics and give himself more of a chance.
He has questioned himself in one or two articles recently, but he is still a very good player. I doubt England will even consider leaving him out purely on form, mainly because the selectors know that one innings from KP could turn the series around for him and the team.
But make no bones about it, even if England only draw the series in Australia they will have done really well. Retaining the Ashes is the main thing, the No1 goal, and how we do it is an irrelevance to me.