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New-look Aussies out to take Ashes chance

Anna Thompson - BBC Sport journalist | 07:45 UK time, Tuesday, 23 June 2009

It's finally here. After England's early summer curtain-raiser Test series against West Indies and the entertaining two-week ICC World Twenty20 to whet the appetite of cricket lovers, there are only two words in town now - the Ashes.

On 8 July the battle between England and Australia begins in Cardiff, but will it be an epic contest like the 2005 series which felt like two heavyweight boxers slugging it out for 12 rounds?

Time will tell but what is not in doubt is both England and Australia have undergone major transformations since then.

For Australia, out have gone such legends as Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath and in have come Nathan Hauritz, Brad Haddin and former junior champion woodcutter Peter Siddle, hardly household names - yet.Australia training day at Sussex CCC

Australia have been in England for more than a month and after being unexpectedly dumped out of the ICC World Twenty20 at the group stage, they have had rather more lead-up time to the summer's main fare than they would have liked.

But it has given them the chance to do a bit of sightseeing "visiting castles, that kind of stuff" and going to the theatre, as well as a handful of the squad watching rock band the Kings of Leon in London, or sampling the delights of tennis at Queen's Club.

There have also been very competitive golf days at The Belfry and Forest of Arden, with Ricky Ponting, who plays off just a two handicap, proving a success with a club in his hand too.

The squad was certainly in good spirits during the media day held at Sussex CCC's ground at Hove.

National and international broadcasters and writers had time to chat with each member of the 16-man squad as well as coach Tim Nielsen.

And you could tell by which tables were crowded and which ones were empty as to who journalists believed were going to be the important players this summer and those who were simply making up the numbers.

Poor Graham Manou (who?). The uncapped 30-year-old back-up wicketkeeper, nicknamed Choc, spent almost all his set 30 minutes twiddling his thumbs while at the other end of the scale, it's a pretty strong bet that fast bowler-cum-all-rounder Mitchell Johnson could have a big say in deciding the series. His table was swamped by journalists wanting to know all about his new-found inswing to right-handers as well as his purple patch with the bat.

With his pierced-tongue and gelled hair, he certainly looked a cool customer but Johnson appeared genuinely surprised at all the attention he was getting, pleading: "I'm not that interesting!"

Another popular interviewee was Hauritz, who is Australia's only dedicated spin bowler in the squad.

He knows there is a lot of pressure on his shoulders to fill such big boots as Warne's and fully expects Kevin Pietersen to be "running down the pitch" to him.

But Hauritz, who has played in four Tests so far, says he is confident in his own ability and went as far as to predict he could play a "big part in the Ashes".

Four years ago he was playing club cricket for Nelson, near James Anderson's stomping ground Burnley, in the Lancashire leagues as the dramatic series was unfolding.

"After the first Test, I was very chirpy, but then it went downhill from there. Both teams were so evenly matched, it was an awesome series," he recalls.

Another who has finally been given the chance is wicketkeeper Haddin, who waited for years for Gilchrist to retire.

He was philosophical about being an understudy for so long saying: "If my time never arrived, I could've lived with that. But thankfully Adam retired when he did."
But he is under no illusion how big a deal this series is: "Growing up in Australia it's always been the Ashes for me. It's the ultimate icon series."

So Australia are confident and chomping at the bit and cannot wait for the two warm-up matches against Sussex and then England Lions to be over so they get on with the real job in hand - defending the Ashes urn.

And although they are a relatively inexperienced side, they managed to beat South Africa on their travels and certainly have their tails up.

This summer new legends will be born, but who they are and on which team they will hail from are the tantalising questions.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I cant wait, 2005 was the series that really got me interested in cricket and Mitchell Johnson is going to be a superstar after the summer!

  • Comment number 2.

    With both teams as unpredictable as they get, I am expecting a draw.

  • Comment number 3.

    Last time we had two teams at the peak of their powers (although we all naively thought that England would not rest on their laurels).

    This time we have a mix of experience and newcomers in both camps creating some uncertainty in the betting.

    If the Aussie star players come off (Ponting, Clarke & Lee - new boy Waner) England will almost certainly come second but neither team will have everything their own way.

    All we want is a good advert for TEST cricket and of course an England series win to bring back the Ashes!

  • Comment number 4.

    I think this could be a great series. There are so many 'don't knows' coming into the series that its tough to call. England can answer Warner and Johnson with Bopara and Broad, Brett Lee and Stephen Harmison seem at a similar stage. For Ponting, England have KP, for Stuart Clark, James Anderson. Mike Hussey has stopped his miracle run. England don't have to feel inferior, but do have to play up to their potential.

  • Comment number 5.

    Warner is not even in the Aussie test side so I cannot make head nor tail of some the comments above?

  • Comment number 6.

    Quite right Nick, Warner isn't in the touring squad and hasn't even played first class cricket. To me, from the Aussie perspective, it's more like how the senior pros will stand up rather than the more inexperienced players. Ponting, Clarke and Hussey didn't have great returns in Ashes '05 and will need to fare much better. Johnson is their most potent bowler now and his form, with Stuart Clark's, will be key. England definitely have the spin advantage - Swann getting better with each Test, Rashid looks promising. Katich and Clarke could be more threatening than the defensive Hauritz who doesn't get much turn.
    Should be a cracking series, can't wait.

  • Comment number 7.

    Oops - Hussey didn't play in 2005 of course.

  • Comment number 8.

    yeh i think big players will be the key. australia having lost to south africa in austrlia is a learning curve for these young aussies. also whoever can bat the longest with the most runs will win this ashes as both sides bolwers are incredible talents(they will have to leave bolwers outin both sides that could win matches) having watch both the austrialian summer and start of the english. I am predicting a english win in cardiff (the picth will be turning) as england have got more spinners in their squad than australia and can cope with spin better than the aussies looking at the aus vs india series and they havent got krezja to pull them back but that is looking at it in black and white anything can happen it is the ashes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  • Comment number 9.

    Just to say to a previous comment from 'hainba' (12.40pm) David Warner is not actually in the squad for Theresa, although he may be for the T20s...

  • Comment number 10.

    Sorry I meant David Warner hasn't been picked for the test series...

  • Comment number 11.

    No mention of Phillip Hughes yet from any posters.....? This guy is the most likely to make a BIG name for himself this summer and could prove to be the difference between two otherwise balanced sides.

    He's scored buckets of runs wherever he's played, including 570 odd runs (@ 144 ave.!) in his 3 first class matches for Middx!! This included playing at Lords, Oval & Edgbaston this summer, so for a youngster he's unlikely to be too intimidated by the setting now either. I'm a Middlesex fan, but why Middlesex, why?! Surely winning the Ashes is more important to cricket in the UK than letting the Aussies' star youngster aclimatise to our conditions for the sake of winning a couple of early season games. Shame on them!

  • Comment number 12.

    im not being funny, but this just shows how cricket is viewed in england

    only 10 posts after a day

    its a sad day when the home nation in a 20/20 match is outnumbered by indian fans

    how must that feel. england are kidding themsevles if they think they'l be a top cricketing nation

    firstly they do not encourage it at grass roots level. more emphasis is on football and rugby.

    that ashes win which everyone bangs on about is from 2005. do they know there was a series after that which australia battered england 5-0

    typical british media hype

    also that 2005 ashes win was down to luck. australia having had one or two of thier bowlers injured. either warne or mcgrath cant remember which one. thats why england were able to pick australia off. not because england outplayed australia.

    why do england football fans keep banging on about 1966 just like england cricket fans bang on about 2005. get over it. you got beat in the next series 5-0

    aussies to win 5-0 :D

  • Comment number 13.

    Compared to most recent Ashes, no-one seems to really know which way it's going to turn this time with so many unknown players.

    Even in 2005 and 06/07 Australia were massive favourites beforehand, but not this time.

    So much depends on how England's top order bat.

    England fear Brett Lee much more than Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus, but Lee has to find some rhythm before the first test to warrant selection.

    http://sportingchameleon.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 14.

    England must be favourites. While both sides have a well publicised mix of experience and youth, the England side is far more settled and mature and has played better and more consistently in the last 6 months. Australia has lost Test series away to India and at home to South Africa and of course exited the World T20 in disgrace. They did win away to South Africa, but didn't do particularly well in the ODIs and T20s there. And while I know T20 and test cricket is very different, I was amazed when I saw Australia play WI at the Oval recently how many of the (likely) Test team were playing. As eveyone else here notes, though, Australia remains dangerous, and if Ponting and HUssey get amongst the runs they have a top and middle order to back them up and make it count. Australia's weakest links? The bizarrely over-rated Watson (who the Australian selectors actually say is there for his batting and that his bowling is a 'bonus') and the ever disappointing, expensive, unsuccessful and over-rated Brett Lee.

  • Comment number 15.

    Cudnt agree more with Post No.11. Cant for the life of me think what Middlesex we're thinking giving a very promising aussie rookie time at the crease in english conditions and visits to most of the test venues. Hope they're very happy with themselves when he's sitting top of the averages at the end of the series!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    At 10:05am on 24 Jun 2009, Don't Argue With Me

    What a typically charming aussie. It is hard not to love them, isn't it?

  • Comment number 17.

    England seemed so much more assured last time, easing themselves up to it over time, West Indies, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Bangladesh, then the one day series, it all seemed to be leading up effortlessly to the Ashes, and we seemed to have a more settled side, Vaughan, Trescothick, Pietersen, Straussy, Preddy, Hoggy, Harmi, the Joneses, the England team just don't give off that sense of confidence or of being a settled side this time, it just seems so much more hectic and last minute, results haven't gone our way, plus we've had injuries, the captaincy saga and the fact that more and more cricket is being forced into the calender. it's a pity and rather frustrating.

  • Comment number 18.

    Don't Argue With Me
    It's funny you say England didn't outplay Australia in 2005.

    On the current trailers, running on Sky, Shane Warne is on them talking about how England outplayed Australia in 2005.

    Who are we to believe? Him or you?

  • Comment number 19.

    Timaku

    Your right the England side was much more settled last time around but just a couple of things.

    There were quite a few people questioning Simon Jones's place in the side at the time (but he came good)

    There was a large debate as to whether Pietersen should be included for the 1st test as he hadn't played Test cricket. Graham Thorpe retired after Pietersen wa given the place.

    But the side certainly didn't choose itself, just probably more so than this time around

  • Comment number 20.

    And how thoroughly refreshing to see atleast several posts before Mr Frederer comments on a 'typically charming Aussie'.

    Nothing at all to do with the article.

    I hope England give a good account of themselves. Such a wonderful nation.



  • Comment number 21.

    England's batting is a cause for concern for me. Their record over the last few years compared to that of the Aussies is poor. Bowling-wise, if he stays fit and gets picked, I think that Graham Onions could be the surprise package of the series, and I expect Swann to make some good all-round contributions. Don't know too much about some of the Aussies, but it's irritating to see that the tiresome baiting and bitching by some of their fans has started in this blog. Cut it out, please, lads. Not big, or clever. I

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi shiverschanders, well-put,couldn'tagree more.
    Understand that a few rogues don't represent the overwhelming majority of the Australian cricket community, But it works both ways,I doubt that pompous patronising comments aren't typical of English fans either.

    Huge congratulations to Sussex. Less than an inspirational start to the tour for the Australians. All a bit upin the air at the moment. Can't wait for Sophia Gardens, looks like some sleepless and nervous nights ahead!

  • Comment number 23.

    I can't wait untill end of this summer, because Australia will be hammered by England and will regain The Ashes, this time not after almost two decades but within a half decade.

  • Comment number 24.

    Calm down lads. It's not a war; it's cricket. We're all related anyway if you go back just a couple of generations. Let's all just look forward to a good Summer of cricket between two old rivals.

    England have more than a chance than usual because we have finally dropped some of the players that we used to pick even though their attitudes and form were poor (Bell, Panesar, Harmison). Some good young players in there now that really should have been given their chance earlier.

    Can't wait for it to start!

 

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