As England head for Australia, we ask our our panel for their Ashes predictions. Read on below, with a quick warning, it doesn’t look that good for Andy Flower’s men.
Editor of The Wisden Cricketer
There hasn’t been a drawn Ashes in Australia since 1965-66 so either a draw is highly unlikely or we’re due. The bookies have 2-2 and Australia 3-1 has joint favourites and the margins between the two could be tiny. I think England will have to come from behind but they’re capable of doing it because they’re mentally stronger than Australia now. England’s bowling attack will get a severe examination and I worry about two things specifically: that Graeme Swann will be worn down by the burden of a five-Test series in a four-man attack and that Steven Finn, as a rookie, will be the weak link. I spoke to one experienced county cricketer recently who thought that Finn would actually bowl himself out of the side before the first Test.
Australia to win 2-0
England caught cold as usual at Brisbane, lose at Melbourne and the rest are draws because neither side has the bowling to take 20 wickets on flatter decks. Swann will be the pick of England’s bowlers, Hilfenhaus the pick of Australia’s with Chris Tremlett (if fit) having a surprising Dean-Headley style impact. KP will score one big hundred but not much else. We’ll be talking about Cook’s place at the top of the order quicker than we’d like and Katich will be the wicket England most want to take.
Australia will dominate most Tests but England’s ability to hold on for draws when all looks lost, plus the very happy knack they have of stringing a couple of match-winning sessions together from nowhere, means they’ll do enough to conquer any mental doubts they will inevitably have about competing Down Under.
Australia’s two wins will simply come from home advantage; if this series had been played in England this summer it could have got very embarrassing for Ricky Ponting.
Australia to win 3-2
Victory to come through their sheer weight of runs – despite their recent batting wobbles and doubts over entrenched members. Big, pressure-heaping scores will compensate for their bowling shortcomings. I can still see Watson, Katich, Ponting, Clarke and Hussey pounding England bowlers (Swann aside) under the merciless Aussie sun (maybe I’m blinkered by recurring Ashes nightmares). England may score a lot of runs (this will be Bell’s time), but not as many as Australia. Watson is key – he always attacks and getting his wicket early would, crucially, stifle the Aussie run-rate. Don’t let Watto win them back the Ashes, please.
Editor of wisdencricketer.com
Australia to win 3-1
I get the feeling it’s going to be a tough winter for England, despite traditional optimism now. Australia have the bowling to be the ultimate flat-track bullies, I can see Mitchell Johnson and co. brutalising our top-order with their pace and aggression.
Consequently, the fates of the respective underperforming top-orders will decide this series. Consistency will be vital – and for me, at home, Australia’s still has more about it. When four of England’s top five – Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen and to an extent Andrew Strauss – are all under pressure to justify their places you know that things aren’t great. Touring somewhere as tough as Australia, cracks become crevasses pretty quickly, so England need them to find form quickly. Especially as – Swann apart – the bowling remains a work in progress. Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have done a good job, but they can’t expect to win in Australia with so many batsmen out of form.
A controversial hunch is that Kevin Pietersen won’t finish the series. I fancy Ian Bell to have a good tour, and Chris Tremlett to start ahead of Steven Finn and show people that he should never have been dropped after the 2007 India series. But Australia tends to produce result Tests, so I’m going for 3-1 Australia, with a closer series than the scoreline suggests.