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Australia awaits as England expects

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Tom Fordyce | 04:06 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Brisbane, Queensland

There's been talk of little else - a team of English stars, exposed to the toughest challenges Australia can throw at them, battling enormous pressure and a huge weight of expectation back home in Blighty.

Still, enough of I'm A Celebrity. After months of bellicose build-up and fluctuating form, the Ashes are finally upon us. And for England fans both at home and here in Brisbane, there's an unfamiliar sense of optimism in the humid Queensland air.

It's not normally this way. At this stage of an Ashes ding-dong Down Under, England are usually being ripped apart by a caustic local media and mercilessly taunted by cocksure Aussie fans. It shouldn't even make sense. The hosts haven't lost a Test at the Gabba in over 20 years; England haven't won a series here for almost a quarter of a century. They've only won three of the last 24 Tests on Australian soil.

But this time around, the established order appears to have been turned on its head. Australia are the ones coming in with injury problems and ropey form, England are the team with wins under the belt and a settled side. So far the media scorn has been aimed squarely at the Australian selectors. The mood among home fans is positively downbeat.

For England supporters reared on a diet of Aussie domination, it's all rather unsettling, almost too good to be true. Even the Brisbane weather and Gabba pitch appear to be on the side of the tourists - grey and sweaty overhead, greenish and a little juicy underfoot.

Whether the track stays that way is another matter. While the forecast for Thursday morning is for clouds and warmth, the pitch may just be a late developer. Queensland might have been skittled for 75 and 96 here by New South Wales earlier this month, but Aussie captain Ricky Ponting thinks groundsman Kevin Mitchell has prepared a classic Gabba wicket - spicy enough to keep the pace bowlers interested, but one which will offer something for the spinners later on and bring full reward for disciplined batsmen.

"I think it looks particularly good," a chirpy Punter said at the stadium on Wednesday. "It looks exactly like wickets look here the day before a match."

Ponting won't be drawn on whether he'll opt to bat if he wins the toss. Nor will Andrew Strauss ("I've got pretty firm ideas of what I want to do, but you've got to be prepared to do both.")

After England's chastening experiences on the first day here in 2002 and 2006, it should be a no-brainer for the tourists: call correctly, get the pads on.

Except it's not quite so straightforward. England's bowling attack requires seam-friendly conditions. If there's early swing in the air (goes the argument you increasingly hear in local bars and cafes) might it be better to shove recent history to one side and go hard for the jugular?

The stats aren't quite as one-sided as we might imagine. In Ashes Tests at this ground, the team winning the toss has batted first 13 times, and gone on to win on six occasions. In the five matches where a skipper has opted to stick the opposition in, they've won two.

In all Tests at the Gabba, 64% of games have been won by the side batting first, 36% by the team batting second. Yet since the end of the 1970s, Australia have opted to bowl on nine of the 15 times they've won the toss.

What isn't in doubt is how spicy the atmosphere will be inside this gold and green concrete bowl come the first ball. The most telling moment of Ponting's ebullient pre-match news conference came when he spoke about forcing his side to watch England celebrate after they had regained the urn last summer.

"I made sure it hurt them as much as possible when the Ashes were handed over to Andrew Strauss at The Oval," he said. "There is no doubt that that's been driving us - that empty feeling after walking off the pitch after two unsuccessful Ashes series."

Ponting, combative as always, intends to lead from the front. He has begun the last two Ashes series with a century in the very first innings; while he averages an impressive 66 in Tests at the Gabba, that rises to 100 against the oldest enemy.

If he has concerns about Michael Clarke's dicky back, he's keeping them well hidden; if he's worried about giving the unheralded 28-year-old Xavier Doherty (84 first-class wickets in his entire career) his Test debut in the cauldron of an Ashes opener, he wasn't about to admit it to a home media scenting blood.

His England counterpart Strauss has had none of those last-gasp selectoral headaches. He's known his first-choice XI since last summer. After wins in two of the three warm-up games this month, he will also feel his side are coming into form at the ideal time.

"We're all very keen to get amongst it," he says. "I think we have got a good opportunity. We're in a good place as a side.

"At the same time we understand the size of challenge ahead - not many teams come here and win. But we couldn't be better placed mentally to take on that challenge. I'm fully confident that we've got the players to do that - we thrive on the idea that we could pull off something pretty special."

The mood in the camp has been upbeat and confident from the moment they arrived in Brisbane. Others might worry about Alastair Cook's supposed technical deficiencies, or Kevin Pietersen's Test drought, or the inexperience of the attack in Australian conditions, yet Strauss knows that England will never have a better chance of breaking their dismal run Down Under.

Australia have won an intimidating 75% of Tests they've played at home over the past 20 years. But the luminaries who sparked those performances are gone, replaced in most part with players big on honest toil but low on star quality.

"The prospect of turning that record around excites us," says Strauss. He knows that for all Marcus North's application he is no Steve Waugh; for all Peter Siddle's snarling aggression, he would rather open against him than Glenn McGrath or Brett Lee.

What England need to do is start well. Graham Gooch, who played in four Ashes series in Australia and is now his country's batting coach, has been telling anyone who'll listen out here how critical the first session of each day will be.

Even if a repeat of the Harmison horrors of four years is unlikely, the first skirmishes could establish the lines for the battle to follow. "There's no doubt that the first hour here set up the whole campaign for us last time," admitted Ponting. "We were able to capitalise on some very nervous England players."

Seventy-seven percent of Tests at the Gabba end in a result. Win here, and England will know the mutterings among locals about Australia's flaws and Ponting's perceived inadequacies as skipper will become a clamour.

Already there are signs that the hosts' love affair with cricket might not be as passionate as we always assume. Television viewing figures for the sport are down 24% over the last decade, and while there has been a strong growth in participation among children under the age of 12, there has been a bigger drop-off in the 13-18 age group. Australia needs these Ashes as much as England.

Tourists too are down on last time out. The recession back home, allied to a strong Aussie dollar that makes travelling here much more expensive for Brits, means there are fewer England fans visible in the pubs and clubs. The Barmy Army is in position, but its ranks are denuded.

For the sport as a whole, the series could not have come at a better moment. At a time when corruption scandals are dominating the headlines, this is one clash you can really believe in.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I genuinely think its to close to call. England are a settled, confident side with a sprinkling of match-winners in both the batting and bowling department. There is no doubt the Aussies are bereft of some of the stars of the past but anyone who thinks it'll be easy is deluded - home advantage and still a pretty decent side - and if there not up for the Ashes on home soil I'll eat my kookaburra!

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm not usually over optimistic, but I honestly believe that this England side is better than the Aussies in every department. Our batting looks strong & deep, they rely on Ponting. Our bowling has balance & variation, when was the last time that we had the better spinner? I'm also predicting that this series will see Stuart Broad emerge as a genuine test class all-rounder. He has all the attributes.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think there's some paranoia coming into play for the Aussies, as you point out the basic stats should have them bubbling over with confidence but there's pessimisim there. If England did manage to get a win in the First Test then the pressure is on them big-time.

    If England win the toss, though, I'd say get the bowlers in. Everyone remembers the horrible Harmison wide that set the tone, but on the other hand going in then getting skittled for a hundred or something would be even worse early blow. Or that might be paranoia again ;)

    If this was in the UK, I'd definitely be backing England based on current form. But it's too close to call in Australia. It's going to be all about fine edges and key moments. Pressure is the big word.

  • Comment number 4.

    After following Test Cricket, and Ashes Series in particular, for approx 55 years and only having returned to England 5 years ago following 20 years happilly resident there, I am certain this is no easy task for England. The Aussies are wounded, pride (especially among the senior players) is severely dented and the hurt will drive Ponting and his men to be even more formidable than they have been of late. It is a very foolish man who bets against the Aussies in Australia - you have to know Australians very well to truly understand the way they think and the depths they will plunge into to prepare for and play in this Series. Also, I do not share most of the English optimism, some close to arrogant conceit and boasting, all of which will drive Australia even harder to win. I was a member of the Q'land Cricketers Club for over 15 years and have watched cricket at this souless, save on Test Days, venue. Then it is gladitorial - I don't think England will win here and if the Aussies do, they will be enormously difficult to pull back. We went to Australia holding the Ashes last time - look what happened. They have lost some key players but do you think those now in the baggy green will not play out of their skins? For if you don't, deja vu beckons - not 5-0 but defeat nonetheless. England have flattered but to deceive for far too long - the most recent Ashes win here was not that convincing and we have lost top players too. I would back Aussie fight and grit over England any day when the chips are truly down and when the fight commences - this is no "England will win the Ashes" - pompous statements made by many who should know better - this is a battle for supremacy and I back home advantage, the toughness, grit and class, the ability of key players, the experience of Ponting and the sheer bloody minded refusal to allow England to win again on Aussie soil to see Australia home - and if as I truly believe they win, or don't lose this First Test, England will be looking squarely at defeat and once again all the hype, hyperbole and conceit will come back and as usual there will be no answers for their defeat - just the usual trotted out lame excuses. No, not England - they will perish on their own swords for, unlike the Aussies, they do not live by their swords.

  • Comment number 5.

    Form leading up to an Ashes series is irrelevant. Quality is, however, relevant.

    I have no doubt that both sides will come out blazing. Australia have home advantage which, again, is of course an important factor. However good or bad Siddle and Johnson are considered to be, they will take wickets and Ponting will score runs. If I were Australian, I would be most concerned about where the other runs are going to come from, consistently throughout the series.

    Pound for pound, I feel that England have a slight advantage in the batting department. They have more "quality".

    Again, I'm not concerned about KP's form; I have no doubt that he will score runs. He is a big match player and will thrive in the moment. I am concerned about Cook because, as with a lot of left handers, he struggles with that just short of a length ball that's moving away from him. However, I expect him to score at least one century.

    I've said before that I would play Morgan instead of Collingwood and I have been lambasted. I stand by my statement. I do not care about Morgan's record in tests. He has everything required to be an excellent test batsmen and I would be putting him in there. Morgan is a match winner whereas Collingwood is a match saver, "in my opinion"!

    As regards the Aussies targeting Strauss, that just won't work. Strauss' composure and temperament are first rate and I consider him to be underrated on the World stage. Strauss will score big in this series.

    To bat or to bowl first?! I think I'd prefer to lose that toss, to be honest.

    Overall, it's too tight to call. 2 a piece and a retention, maybe?! If we were in England, I'd say 3-1 England but the fact that we're in Australia will have a major say. Certainly, I think that we will find out just how good England are; this will be the acid test and a fair guauge by which to judge our boys.

    England are the best in the World for me (the current ranking system is flawed) and I think they'll nab this by 2 test victories to 1. They just have a bit more quality throughout the squad.

  • Comment number 6.

    Genuinely think this series is too close to call (won't stop me having a go though).

    There is a huge amount of optimism amongst England's support, and it isn't hard to see why. The difficulty with such optimism is that it means you can often forget all about the opposition.

    I have seen no evidence to suggest that the Australia batting line up is any worse than that of England. People seem to forget very qickly that England - bar the odd outstanding individual performance (Trott, Broad) - were largely poor with the bat last Summer. The tail can indeed wag, but that certainly isn't something that you would want to depend on. Yes, they have lost a few tests of late, but a tour to India is pretty much the toughest warm-up for the ashes that you could imagine.

    We have a clear advantage in the spin department, which is obviously nice, but beyond that are we not being a little presumptious to talk up a seam attack who have minmal test experience in Oz except for Anderson who would probably wish he was coming here as a rookie after his pasting four years ago? Johnson is wayward, yes. But he will bowl killer balls. It is performance in Lords that burns in our memory, but on home soil he has far greater achievements to draw on. Siddle showed his danger in England and will likely be the most consistent seamer throughout the series in terms of keeping batsmen honest and simply taking wickets through attrition.

    And lets also not forget that there is only one truly great player in this series. If Ponting comes good then it will be bad news for England and the lift to his side will be immeasurable.

    I'd love to feel optimistic but I can't. A 3-2 scoreline to either side wouldn't surprise me. 4-1 England would be a big surprise, whereas 4-1 Australia would simply confirm a few home truths that many of us have managed to shut away in the build up to the series. Either way it should be an absolute cracker.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ponting isn't revealing what he'll do when he wins the toss? He'll bat. Always does, even when it's wrong.

  • Comment number 8.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 9.

    I honsetly can't wait for this to start tonight now. So much talking and build up and finally we're nearly there. Personally I would give England a slight edge in the quality stakes but not much. And obviously Australia have the advantage of being at home and bowling and batting in conditions they're used to so they have the slight edge there. I'm going to be optimistic and say I think England will nick the series or at least retain the little urn with a draw but it's going to be a close one.

    The big questions for me are will KP be able to find some dominant form again and what Mitchell Johnson is going to turn up? Johnson showed in the last Ashes that he's a good strike bowler, yes he was spraying the ball around all over the place at times but he still managed to take quite a few wickets as every now and then he'd suddenly throw down an unplayable one. So I think the England batsmen have to be mindful that even when scoring runs freely off him he's still capable of clean bowling you. And as for KP, everyone knows about his form but they've all been saying he's a big game player and rises to the occasion. Well this is the occasion and it's time for him to shine once again. I think he'll be fine and will end up in the top 3 batsmen of the series, fingers crossed anyway!

  • Comment number 10.

    For England, a draw is almost as good as a win. But the Aussies will be desparate for a win. Any win will do, but a solid win will boost their confidence no end.

    So, if England can keep their heads, play well, and show the Aussies they're no push over, then the series is theirs to win.

    And this is coming from an Aussie!

  • Comment number 11.

    Nice summing up Tom, but you don't make a prediction? What do you think the score will be.

    For me, the fact that England are being considered to have a real chance shows how the fortunes of the two sides have changed over the last few years. What's hard to predict is how the English batters will fare against the Aussie bowling. On home turf with the Kookaburra I can see Johnson and Siddle skittling England for 200-250 on a couple of occasions. I think the Aussie batsmen will not suffer the problems they has 18 months ago in England where it was effectively a coupel of poor 1st innings that lost them the series so my head says 2-1 Australia. My heart says a couple of really outstanding spells from Swann and Broad allow us to get 2-2 and regain the Ashes.

    The only way I can see us us winning heavily (Aggers 3-1 prediction is very optimistic, in my view) is if we get a good win at the Gabba by bowling them out cheaply in one of their innings and the Aussies are panicked into making changes. THEN I'll start to get more excited as I don't think the Aussies have the quality to turn the momentum of te series around if things start to go against them.

    Oh, and if Strauss win the toss, he HAS to bat first and bat big - the Aussie bowlers are not big swingers of the ball so conditions in that 1st hour should be survive-able and once the sun comes out..... A 1st inning of 400+ puts them under all kinds of pressure in the 4th innings vs Swann......

  • Comment number 12.

    7. At 09:06am on 24 Nov 2010, debatable wrote:
    Ponting isn't revealing what he'll do when he wins the toss? He'll bat. Always does, even when it's wrong.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This is because of Edgbaston 2005. Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I don't believe Ponting has EVER bowled first when winning the toss in a test match since that day. He is the best batsman on either side by a country mile and will finish top scorer....BUT I feel England can exploit his weaknesses as a captain.

    The Aussies topped almost every performance stat in 2009 but it's about the key moments and if we can win those again I fancy us to win by one test. If the Aussies win the key moments and top the stats again as I expect them to......we could be looking at 4-1 or even the dreaded whitewash.

  • Comment number 13.

    Last time we toured I went into the serious with EXACTLY the same sense of optimism. Can you remember how you felt? That series was so painful, so crushing, simply for the all the hype created before it even started.

    People, we have a terrible batting line up. Cook? The Sherminator? Collywobbles? All our batsmen have had average summers (apart from Trott)and Pietersen has had a terrible one. Our bowlers are ordinary, with the exception of Swann, who lets be honest, has been over-performing for about a year now. He is due for a stall. Our entire team are totally unproven in those conditions, THEIR conditions, and then look at their team.

    Where is the most challenging place for a team to tour? India, if your Australian. THATS where they have been, whereas we have been bullying half-dead test sides for wins all Summer. And they talk about the prefect preperation.

    The truth is, until the first day is over, we have no idea if this is hype or not. I'm going to wait until then before getting excited and making silly predictions.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm a bit depressed about the prospect of breaking a promise I made to myself a few decades ago. That was a promise to travel down under to see England win an Ashes series away from home.

    The promise also involved cracking tubes on the hill at the SCG whilst taking in the local scenery. Unfortunately I won't be there, and I've just learned the hill is now a stand. Looks like I might have wait a few more years yet.

    Still, I think they can do it. Captain Strauss will be the difference.
    I still find it difficult to believe what happened last time. The selectors deposed a captain who's batting confidence appeared unharmed by the pressures of captaincy. He was exactly a failure as a captain either. Then they appointed an injury-prone "celebrity" quick bowler as captain in his place. That was not good for the team, for Strauss, or for Flintoff.

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 16.

    'England are the best in the World for me (the current ranking system is flawed) and I think they'll nab this by 2 test victories to 1. They just have a bit more quality throughout the squad.'

    -------

    What a joke! England victories have come only at home - they haven't won against a major team away yet.

  • Comment number 17.

    Aussie in Brisbane here. All week there has been a very different feel around town than for recent Ashes build-ups. None of the usual confidence and a genuine feeling that this summer might belong to England.

    Personally, I think the series is to close to call, with much depending on the outcome of tomorrow's opening day. My prediction, whoever bats tomorrow in the humidity and under (most probably) grey and showery skies will be doing it tough by days end.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm a bit worried about the falling viewing figures for the Australians. The West Indies dominated the game for a huge amount of time, but crowds had become used to them winning, and once that stopped, they turned to other sports. I'm a bit worried that the same thing might be happening now that the Aussie era of domination has come to a close. Not good for the game overall if even the Aussie public are losing interest. Might also be worth remembering that cricket rarely made the back pages of the dailies in England last summer, whereas a few years ago, OUR NATIONAL SUMMER SPORT was a fixture there.

  • Comment number 19.

    "Already there are signs that the hosts' love affair with cricket might not be as passionate as we always assume. Television viewing figures for the sport are down 24% over the last decade,"

    I bet in the UK it's an even bigger drop since tests have only been televised on satellite tv.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm with Aggers on this one. 3-1 to England is the score I've been predicting since the India Australia series. The Aussies are in disarray with a poor captain, mediocre attack and a strong batting line-up that can collapse in the way England used to. England, by contrast, have a settled side, an effective if over-cautious captain, fairly effective top 7 and a bowling quartet that will trigger at least three of those collapses over the series. Once England are 2-0 up after three tests with one draw Australia will win at Melbourne and England will seal the win at Sydney! My hat is, of course, ready for the purposes of eating!!

  • Comment number 21.

    @Gravybeard - there was a football World Cup on, and we were dire. That is cannon fodder for the press, they lap it up.

    England should retain the Ashes, although I think it might end up 2-2. Ricky Ponting will fight tooth & nail, and I think he could end up top scorer, with Strauss not far behind.

    Depends how England's bowlers cope when (on occasion) it's not seaming or swinging. They need to be able to keep it tight, hit line & length etc, something they can lapse with on occasion. Mind, the Aussies don't have Mcgrath anymore either.

    2-2, I reckon.

  • Comment number 22.


    A serious question:

    If "England" win the series, do the Ashes return to South Africa?

  • Comment number 23.

    England will win the Ashes but the series will end 2-2. That is my prediction. Whilst England have a better all round team lets not forget how could Australia are in Australia and the in-experiance of some of the players in this kind of atmosphere may play against them. Also with all this hype I can see certain players getting complacent, and the Aussies getting angry. With videos, however lighthearted, of English players already practising dance routines for when they take wickets I hope all this posturing doesn't come back to bite us in the...

  • Comment number 24.

    When is England going to stop expecting to win? Remember the Football World Cup? You guys always think you are better than you are. The England team has found form yes, but they arent good enough to warrant any claim of a convincing victory. The Aussies are however and they have done it for too long. The Aussies have a great team and have greater capability than England. Dont believe what you read! If you dont 'expect' as much maybe it might be easier to handle defeat... something else England fans struggle with! We'll talk about that after the ashes.

  • Comment number 25.

    Tom,

    Just to confirm you are on an all expenses paid trip to Australia all paid by the taxpayer funded BBC to write a blog on their website read by a few thousand people? I'm sure its like the world cup all over where I counted around 13 "BBC bloggers" who were actually there in South Africa.

    What do I have to do to get a job with the BBC where I can write a couple of hundred words once a week and get flown half way round the world to watch 5 weeks of cricket.

  • Comment number 26.

    LOL. As a resident Aussie in the UK I see the familiar attitude rising in the local press that I've seen many times before. On paper, this will be one of the closest Ashes tests in the last 30 years and to believe the UK press, you'd be forgiven for thinking England are going over for a 5 nill drubbing of Australia... Australia may be going through a recent out of form er.. form but they're still Australia playing in Australia. England have a good chance of winning though... Either way, I'm looking forward to a great Ashes series (that clearly Australia will win).

  • Comment number 27.

    Ok, Poms, wipe the drool of your lips, this series is far from a foregone conclusion.Write off the aussie team at your own peril and just remember that none of the team would be in the side if they weren't as good as any other international player.Ashes cricket like many other famous sporting contests is not governed by current form or rankings.Just like a derby,both teams step up a gear come crunchtime.The only certainty about this summer, is because of our strong aussie dollar,i won't have to sit and watch the barmy army banging on about how they can afford to drink two beers to my one.

  • Comment number 28.

    I don't think any of the England fans on here are being over-optimistic or talking as if we're going to be winning 5-0. Looking at the comments I think most people are saying it's going to be very tight but we have reason to feel confident given that we've been playing some good cricket this last year. Add in the fact that most of the current team have won an Ashes against Australia, even if it was at home not away and you have to say why shouldn't we think we can win it? The only ones being overly optimistic and being over the top with the banter is the media as usual, but then they're the same in most countries.

    Fact is both sides are very evenly matched so it could go either way, however as I'm from England I'll go with my heart and say we have the edge, just. And I'm sure all the Aussies will be saying the same thing, it's tight but they think the Aussies will have the edge. Come this time tomorrow though we'll all know a little bit more about how this series may go.

  • Comment number 29.


    I've just been reading the headlines from the ol Dart and the English press are hilarious...

    Carrying on like England's already won it...and by the looks of the players' victory dance rehearsals, so are the players.

    England's batting line up is virtually identical to the one that failed spectacularly last time round. Except newcomer Trott is a better batsman than Fred. And the bowlers, whilst heroically bowling out superpowers Bangladesh and Pakistan at home, are not class spearheads with genuine pace.

    A word of warning:

    This is Australia. In every way a completely different prospect to the cushy surrounds of home. Enjoy the hyperbole while it lasts.

  • Comment number 30.

    Cant wait to see Jimmy Anderson bowl a wide first thing tonight

  • Comment number 31.


    Look lets be honest here, We have not won in OZ for donkey's years, we got battered last time around and you could pick holes in most of the starting 11.... BUT!

    I am English, I am proud of the fact that we hold the Ashes, I believe that we have a chance to win in OZ. Not just a tree lions roar based on passion and heart, but a real sense that we can "DO SOMETHING SPECIAL".

    This feeling does not come along that often, So I say break out the flags, cheer on the barmy army and enjoy the fact that for once the mighty green and gold seem to be on the back foot........

    England has a good chance, win at the Gabba and Pointing will know it too!

  • Comment number 32.

    What is fascinating to about this series is that to the partisan fan trying to be objective (me) or the genuine neutral you really wouldn't want to call it. HOWEVER I believe which way it goes will depend on how only one or two questions are answered.

    Key for me above all the other variables is can the England bowling attack really turn it on in Australia? Can we repeatedly bowl the Aussies out twice a match in their own backyard?

    In this variable itself, it is the form of Jimmy Anderson which will have the greatest influence on England's chances and I get nervous just thinking about it!

  • Comment number 33.

    I think this series will be one of the best. The reasons for this are the Australians need to win back the Ashes to restore pride and the English have never talked themselves up more. As Ponting said, we have done the talking and the practice now we need to play. Despite England having an almost identical batting line-up as they did on their last visit, I think their game has improved in all areas. Australia is a mixture of establishment and new comers. Despite some scathing remarks from the press and English fans I think this only fires them up even more. As a die-hard Australian supporter, I understand the under dog tag and this will only produce a better performance on the field...something I'm sure England wouldn't want. I think both sides are lead by genuine leaders. Andrew Strauss is a true gentlemen and he is probably one of the few players who is reluctant to under estimate the Australians. Ricky Ponting on the other hand is a fighter. He has been known to make bold decisions in the past and look how many of those have gone in his favour. He is a champion and I hope he will steer us to victory. I am going to the Sydney test on January 3rd and I can't wait. I think England should be proud of this team and in my opinion I think it will be a mental game rather than a physical contest.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good luck England, but away from home, on Aussie pitches, with a (non swinging) Kookaburra ball, I'm afraid its Australia for me.

    Anderson and Finn out for Shahzad and Tremlett....(watch me on Youtube eating my hat tomorrow...)

    What does need to change is when we win the Ashes, we get to keep them for more than 18 months!!

  • Comment number 35.

    #29 - "England's batting line up is virtually identical to the one that failed spectacularly last time round."
    Hmmm - perhaps, but it isn't facing the same Australian bowling attack as last time round (or hadn't you noticed?), which is precisely one of the reasons why England are more hopeful this time!
    As we all know though, if you can't take 20 wickets you can't win a test match. I hope England win, but in Australia I'm not convinced that the 4 man attack is the right way to go (unless of course you have Warne and McGrath...), especially since Finn and Broad have no experience in Australia, and Anderson hardly set the world on fire in 06/07.
    I note a number of the comments which I am guessing have come from Oz supporters seem to back Ponting's captaincy. Interesting...Whilst he is without debt the best batsman in either side (truly world class), his captaincy is woeful, and in fact is so bad it is another reason for England to be cautiously optimistic about this series. Under pressure he is devoid of ideas - Cardiff 2009 anyone??
    If England can win the first test, he'll need not just to provide some proper captaincy this time - his whole career may be on the line...Now that is pressure!

  • Comment number 36.

    I don't have much to say at this late stage, having posted on several of the 606 build-up threads. Apart from one last abortive complaint that there's to be no 606, I hope our men whop theirs starting tonight - and that our women whop theirs once they arrive there in the new year.

    Good luck to Andrew Strauss and the team.
    Good luck to Charlotte Edwards and the team.

  • Comment number 37.

    I reckon England shuld bowl first, assuming the toss is won.
    the weather's supposed to be overcast most of thursday, whereas it should be clear on Friday (but then agan, when do these weather minions get it right?!).
    batting first up might pose some problems assuming the Aussie attack is right on the button. alternatively, a great bowling performance from our rested and acclimatized quicks could really blow the first test wide open and sneer in the face of the stats.

    Punterblunter might want to bat first because he is just not fully sure which of his bowlers will turn up. he can trust his batting unit to put up at least reasonable scores and with Johnson making the tail wag hard, he's got little to lose from deciding to bat first whatever the conditions. a good first innings score will raise his bowlers' confidence.
    a good England bowling performance first up could be just the thing needed to destroy the Aussie bowling confidence and hopefully the pressure they put on themselves will enable an implosion of sorts.

  • Comment number 38.

    Too close to call seems to be the sensible view. Even that is an improvement on usual!
    Does anyone know if I can get any Austalian Radio coverage on the computer seeing as how Long Wave does'nt reach the more desolate parts of Eastern Burgundy & the BBC has given up the fight to cover cricket for all of the British people, where-ever they may live?
    PS I know it's too early but MERRY XMAS to all

  • Comment number 39.

    I have not read the rest of the post so apologies if this is being repeated but...lets be honest, this is the worst Aussie team in a long time, lacking in quality and confidence and this is the best England side in a while, with depth in the squad, but how many times have we been let down? whatever happens lets raise a glass to the 29 in NZ and their families and enjoy some good old fashioned quality cricket. My prediction 4 - 0 to England, if the players minds are right.

  • Comment number 40.

    Looking forward to this...Aussies have def lost the edge they once had....
    But on a serious note....why is Grame Swann playing??? I think it shows how unfair the Justice system is anyone who has been caught drink driving should be banned. He maybe a good cricketer but isnt it just as your famous you can get away with anything...

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm confident that England couldn't be any better prepared, but also wary that Australia have their backs against the wall in their own backyard and will come out clawing, spitting and fighting like caged pitbulls.

    Personally I think we'll edge it - Australia have got in to the habit of ending up on the wrong side of tight games, and in the last 18 months to 2 years England have started doing the opposite.

    I think has an important role to play, but it won't necessarily involve taking a hatful of wickets - there will be times when it'll be just as important for him to tie up an end and let the seamers rotate at the other end.

    There's been a lot of hype surrounding this series, and I expect it to be tight - Australia seem to be a team on the way down, and England one on the way up - so it could be a fascinating contest.

    Australia's hopes rest on the shoulders of Ponting and Johnson, and England's on Strauss and Broad - whichever pair has the better series will win it.

    I reckon it'll be 3-1 England, but that's largely based on England winning a series of tight games rather than handing out a lesson.

    http://batsballsandbanter.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 42.

    England, regardless of our own home grown doom merchants, are a pretty decent outfit now and i think some of our recent results and performances reflect that. Its never going to be easy beating Australia in their own back yard, but it is possible.

    The last ashes tour was frankly embarrasing, we had been punch drunk for a year or so coming off the back of our win at home and australia were chomping at the bit to wipe that smile of our face, and together with some inane performances they succeded in doing just that! However the current england team doesnt seem complacent and almost scarily has an air of proffesional determenation and dare i say arrogance which is usaully the trait of our pacific cousins.

    er....2-1 england

  • Comment number 43.

    #40 Looking forward to this...Aussies have def lost the edge they once had....
    But on a serious note....why is Grame Swann playing??? I think it shows how unfair the Justice system is anyone who has been caught drink driving should be banned. He maybe a good cricketer but isnt it just as your famous you can get away with anything...

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Are you for real? I wouldn't be sacked if I was caught drink driving, would you? So why should Swann. Want a hand down from the moral high ground?

  • Comment number 44.

    #40 Looking forward to this...Aussies have def lost the edge they once had....
    But on a serious note....why is Grame Swann playing??? I think it shows how unfair the Justice system is anyone who has been caught drink driving should be banned. He maybe a good cricketer but isnt it just as your famous you can get away with anything...

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Are you for real? I wouldn't be sacked if I was caught drink driving, would you? So why should Swann. Want a hand down from the moral high ground?


    Swann? Drinking driving? He hasn't been convicted yet!

  • Comment number 45.

    I signed in purely so that I too could comment on #40.

    There's not enough detail in your message to fully understand you, but I assume that by "should be banned" you mean:
    1- should be banned from driving; or
    2- should be banned from playing cricket in some capacity.

    For (1) I can find no evidence that he's been convicted of this offence. If and when he is, he'll be banned. For (2), let me see if I have this straight: if you're an ordinary person, you'll be punished by the courts; if you're famous, you'll be punished by the courts AND by your employer.

    Why?

    Either you're on here to wind people up, or you're an idiot. Can you let us know which?

  • Comment number 46.

    #40 - your username is scarily relevant...

  • Comment number 47.

    45. Thats a great point.
    Has anyone read the full story? I found it a most interesting read, I think its a case that Twitter might back up Swanns story that he was rescuing his cat.

  • Comment number 48.

    Andymckbbc - I'd say #40 is an idiot. He probably won't know it though, being an idiot and all.

    What English fans and the media shouldm't do is get too down if we lose in Brisbane - there's a reason the Aussies start series there after all! Adelaide, Sydney & Melbourne will offer better conditions for us generally, and we only need a drawn series... I'd say Aus win in Brisbane; Eng win in Adelaide; Aus win in Perth; rain affected draw in Melb; Eng win in Sydney... Ashes retained!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Gabba Predictions? Yes England are shaping up nicely but I don't think we should be surprised if Ponting smashes another ton and the aussies rack up some runs between them... But I still reckon we'll have a bat first and our bowling will edge us to victory in Brisbane. Expecting to see fireworks and lots of Sprinkler dancing.

  • Comment number 50.

    Bring it on! (just wish we had some TV highlights on the BEEB as I refuse to pay for Sky!)
    I think it will be very very close, but I am backing England for a 2-1 series win, key players for England Swann and Finn, and on the batting Johann, Trott and Bell.
    For sure the Aussies will come out fighting but I just don't think they have the depth to win the series - batting is pretty evenly matched, both sides have several players who can score big 100's, but are struggling for form so for this reason I think the key lays in the bowling department. No doubt the Aussies will be trying to roll balls under a certain Mr G Swann during the warm up, as I can't see Xavier Doherty scaring England too much although you can be pretty sure KP will invent a new way to get out to him!
    I think Finn will also be very important and I think this will be his break through series, Broad is also getting better and better, and Anderson who most commentators expect to struggle because of a lack of swing has also improved his control when acting in a containment role.
    All in all I think this is going to be a great series, come on England!

  • Comment number 51.

    i think 40 is trying to say that if you are being prosecuted for drink driving you shuold not be allowed near an airplane in case you pass on the habit to the pilot or something?!
    i am not exactly sure what on earth the person is actually on about...

    or perhaps they are just an Aussie looking to gain an advantage any which way they can.

  • Comment number 52.

    Looking forwards to a close one and as I've lashed out on sky, sorry Auntie, it had better be.
    But England to edge it.

  • Comment number 53.

    "The Barmy Army is in position, but its ranks are denuded."

    Thanks, Tom, that's an unpleasant mental image I could have lived without.

    And yet again the board is clogged with Aussies accusing the deluded English of "gloating", in the face of all the evidence.

    The truth is, if not for the history, England would be strong favourites for this series. The fact that most English fans and press give England no better than 50/50 speaks to the great dollop of caution that we are serving up with our optimism. I've seen far more 5-0 "predictions" from Aussies than I've seen confident English predictions of victory. Remind me who is deluded?

  • Comment number 54.

    You guys are all setting yourself up for a fall. i've been an Aussie living in england since 2002 and whilst I haven't seen us do the business in England (although we've come close twice, think about 2 more runs at Edbaston (2005) and one more wicket at Cardiff (2009) - I see no reason why we won't do the business in Australia as we have done on so many occasions.

    Sure there are form issues, and our spin bowling choice is a joke, Nathan hauritz Has averaged about 30 with a strike rate of better than 60 over the last year (if you ignore the tour to India which you should as Shane warne averaged about 50 over there) so he should've got the nod, but the other players in the team are quality. Couple that with the fact that you've done nothing away from home makes me confident this trip won't be any different to the others in my lifetime.

    Cast your mind back to Nov 2006 - talk was similar. the Aussies were all past it and you were fresh from an Ashes win and apparently the best team in the world.

    Sorry lads, it's just not going to happen. The best you can hope for is 1-1 and a lot of rain. if the weathers good, expect a comfortable 3-1 victory to the Green and Gold.

  • Comment number 55.

    I obviously want England to win, but right at this moment, I dont care for the result of this series because at this moment in time, it's irrelevant. Only the two teams can dictate what the result will be, and me speculating on what that will be is just a waste of mine and everyone else's time. What I will say is that at this moment in time, the journey is more important than the destination. Which is to say, all I'm thinking about at the moment is the prospect of enjoying some Ashes cricket. The guys on the field will dictate the result, I dont have to worry about that.

    Bring it on.

  • Comment number 56.

    I think that the English are right to be optimistic about the upcoming series. This is our weakest team in a long time and England has been playing well over the last couple of years.

    A couple of things though. It seems alot of people have forgotten how close the Ashes in England actually were, and this series is being played in Aussie conditions. If 1 or 2 sessions had gone Australia's way in England last time out and the result would have been different.

    England I believe def have an advantage in Captaincy. Ponting does not instill faith with his decision making were as I think Strauss is obviously a natural leader.

    To be Honest I think that Australia has a better batting lineup, especially in Oz conditions, but England I think has the edge in the bowling dept. Swann is way ahead of any spinner in Oz at the moment.

    I truely believe that England will struggle to win any of the first 3 tests. Oz have not been beaten at the GABBA in 20yrs, We have only ever lost once to England in Perth and that was in 78, and the fact that it has rained for about 7 days in the last 8 years in Adelaide I will back the Aussies.

    Sydney and Melbourne are Englands best chances although there is a bigger chance of rain.

    Perdiction: Australia 3-1 (wins in Bris, Perth and Adelaide, Draw in Melbourne, England win in Sydney) or Draw 2-2 (Draw in Bris, Australia win in Perth and Adelaide, England win in Melb and Sydney)

  • Comment number 57.

    Not long left now, only under 5 hrs left till it starts
    The toss will probably be important
    Series will be tight and I predict score 3-2 for Australia
    Australia got an excellent home record and especially against England

  • Comment number 58.

    Good chat gang. Sun just coming up here - woke up at 4am on mix of jetlag and raw excitement. Floodlights at the Gabba just visible above skyline in distance.

    Predictions: England to take series 2-1; Bell top run-scorer for England, Punter for Australia. Leading wicket-takers: hmmmm. Siddle for Aus, Broad for England.

    Anyone else?

  • Comment number 59.

    A polite request. Apologies for the use of caps, but just recognising that subtlety has never really been a great preserve of our Australian friends:

    PLEASE CAN ALL AUSSIES STOP SAYING THAT THE ENGLISH FANS/PRESS ARE ACTING LIKE THE ASHES ARE A FOREGONE CONCLUSION. HAVE YOU ACTUALLY READ THE PRESS AND LISTENED TO THE FANS? THE VAST MAJORIITY OF US THINK THAT IT IS GOING TO BE VERY TIGHT. VERY FEW OF US ARE SAYING DEFINITE ENGLAND WIN. And the ones that are are almost certainly relatively new to England cricket and simply haven't yet earned the natural order of things.

    Incidentally, it is the Australian press that is predicting an England series win far more consistently.

  • Comment number 60.

    Top run scorers:

    Eng: Strauss
    Aus: Punter

    Most wickets:

    Eng: Swann
    Aus: Johnson

  • Comment number 61.

    I signed in purely so that I too could comment on #40.

    There's not enough detail in your message to fully understand you, but I assume that by "should be banned" you mean:
    1- should be banned from driving; or
    2- should be banned from playing cricket in some capacity.

    For (1) I can find no evidence that he's been convicted of this offence. If and when he is, he'll be banned. For (2), let me see if I have this straight: if you're an ordinary person, you'll be punished by the courts; if you're famous, you'll be punished by the courts AND by your employer.

    Why?

    Either you're on here to wind people up, or you're an idiot. Can you let us know which?

    ----

    I am neither an idiot or winding anyone up...I meant banned from driving and some sort of statement from the ECB about it...from someone who has lost a family member to a drunk driver I think I have a fair point to make. And further more its more than just any employer, representing England shouldnt a just any old job! Also your a role model for millions of kids around the globe...!
    Wonder if we would take Chris Lewis as a bowling coach?

    No offence to anyone was just an opinion and when has it been English tobe ridiculed to voice your opinion I thought it was only the Aussies that did that...

    Ps me being an idiot and a wind up im sure I could have come up with a better excuse than my cats stuck under the floorboards...must of def been over the limit to come up with that! ^_^

  • Comment number 62.


    #59 PLEASE CAN ALL AUSSIES STOP SAYING THAT THE ENGLISH FANS/PRESS ARE ACTING LIKE THE ASHES ARE A FOREGONE CONCLUSION. HAVE YOU ACTUALLY READ THE PRESS AND LISTENED TO THE FANS? THE VAST MAJORIITY OF US THINK THAT IT IS GOING TO BE VERY TIGHT. VERY FEW OF US ARE SAYING DEFINITE ENGLAND WIN. And the ones that are are almost certainly relatively new to England cricket and simply haven't yet earned the natural order of things.
    -----------------------

    'All Aussies are saying that' because it what all Aussies are observing (and btw, it's brilliant and predictably English).

    First, (and without naming it) one English paper led with the headline "You're once, twice, three times a loser"(referring to Ponting).
    Meanwhile the players have spoken about and been photographed practicing their celebrations for wickets. Every fan I've spoken to has cockily (not cautiously) predicted a strong victory.

    England England England...when will you learn?

  • Comment number 63.

    It is only a matter of hours now! Good luck, lads!

  • Comment number 64.

    Agree, England 3-1 to win. Bell leading run scorer, Swan leading wicket taker. In every department England edge the aussies, batting, bowling and by far the best slip cordon.

  • Comment number 65.

    Bell leading run scorer? You having a bubble? If anything it is going to be one of the saffas who top scores for england as they were brought up batting on similar pitches.

    If Bell gets more than 250 runs in the 5 tests I will more than happily come back here and admit I was wrong!

  • Comment number 66.

    Someone wisely pointed out that the Aussies have better batting stats. And, let's face it, our lot generally produce 30s and 40s and tons are rare. Also, we have no genuine all-rounder, so we are going with a four-man attack, folly in hot conditions. Swann is an attacking bowler and is miscast as a containing bowler. And Finn is a rookie. He seems to have some backbone to him, so maybe it will turn out well for him. I'm saying Tremlett and Panesar may see some action. Having said all this, what about the Aussie attack? Ordinary, I'd say. And we have a good captain.

  • Comment number 67.

    Bell top run scorer for England. Ho, ho, ho! The Boy Wonder comes good? Well, he's had a few tours down under to grow a backbone, so stranger things have happened. No, wait, they most certainly have not.

  • Comment number 68.

    I actually think home advantage will more than account for England's slight superiority in terms of talent and proven performers. Having said that, a lot will depend on the outcome of the first test. If England can pull off a win then any thought of "adjusting to conditions" will be overcome by self-confidence and there's a real chance Australia could self-destruct under the pressure of disillusioned their disillusioned fans and media.

    On the other hand if Australia pull off a convincing win, us English will be wondering if we've been deluding ourselves over the past couple of years.

  • Comment number 69.

    Well I can't predict one way or the other. Key players Warne and McGrath. Oh they've retired and aren't playing? Well Asutralia have to rely on their great captain. Oh Alan Border's retired as well. Still will be very tight with the determination and ultra competitiveness of Ponting trying to drag Australia to victory. Get him out early and England could be on the March...

  • Comment number 70.

    62. At 8:13pm on 24 Nov 2010, myislandhome wrote:

    #59 PLEASE CAN ALL AUSSIES STOP SAYING THAT THE ENGLISH FANS/PRESS ARE ACTING LIKE THE ASHES ARE A FOREGONE CONCLUSION. HAVE YOU ACTUALLY READ THE PRESS AND LISTENED TO THE FANS? THE VAST MAJORIITY OF US THINK THAT IT IS GOING TO BE VERY TIGHT. VERY FEW OF US ARE SAYING DEFINITE ENGLAND WIN. And the ones that are are almost certainly relatively new to England cricket and simply haven't yet earned the natural order of things.
    -----------------------

    'All Aussies are saying that' because it what all Aussies are observing (and btw, it's brilliant and predictably English).

    First, (and without naming it) one English paper led with the headline "You're once, twice, three times a loser"(referring to Ponting).
    Meanwhile the players have spoken about and been photographed practicing their celebrations for wickets. Every fan I've spoken to has cockily (not cautiously) predicted a strong victory.

    England England England...when will you learn?
    ------------------------------------------------


    I am sure MCGrath predicted 5-0 the first time and then turned his ankle and the series was wide open thanks to the horror decision by Ponting to field in the same test

    Even Steve Waugh said it was not a great idea to get carried away too soon

    Ponting if he wins the toss he would not want to field..that decision has always haunted him !

  • Comment number 71.

    I think England will retain the ashes but it'll be very close, maybe a 2-1 win or a drawn series.

    However, on a cautionary note think back to the 1986-87 series in Australia, when following some poor performances in the warm up games the England team was labelled with the "Can't bat, can't bowl and can't field" tag by sections of the media. We all know what happened next.

    I'm not saying the current Australian side is that under prepared or in such bad nick even taking injuries, loss of form and media pressure into account. They are on home soil though and to borrow a cliche a wounded animal is always a dangerous animal.

  • Comment number 72.

    "The mood among home fans is positively downbeat."
    ha ha. yet again another English journo trying to big-up themselves.i do like your optimistic attitude though. but downbeat? perhaps, because we don't have the top quality players we once had but downbeat because England may win? your havin' a laugh mate. we are playing England after all - the team who has not won here for a quarter of a century, a team who has won 3 of their past 24 tests here (all dead rubbers), a team who, every 4 years strut around like little bantam roosters proclaiming they are going to beat us.
    however, this team sent from England may have a chance. the Sth Africans often put up a good fight here and as we are playing the Sth African 2nd XI we may, for the first time in a quarter of a century have at least a slightly challenging series

  • Comment number 73.

    I had a long kip this afternoon & now I'm rwady for an all nighter on the TV. Good start with Man Utd & Spurs qualifying in Europe so come on England & take the ashes back home again to Blighty!!!

  • Comment number 74.

    For the record - Hussey top scorer in the series (guessing 550). Prior very important and will average over 50.

    Broad main threat in the bowling department for the visitros, but hilfenhaus to top 25 scalps. Although i like him, Swann to flop!

  • Comment number 75.

    To me talk of a 3-1 series win is widely optimistic, as looking at the two sides I feel they are pretty evenly matched, with the only exception being in the spin department.

    I don't think this England team is by any means the finished article, and coupled with the Aussies impressive home record, it is going to be a very tight series. Consequently I think a draw would be a good result.

  • Comment number 76.

    Day 1 has been a good day for Australia
    Eng 260 all out and Aus now 25-0
    Its important Eng bowl out Australia for roughly same amount or better
    Otherwise Aus can get a big lead by Eng of Day 2 and Aus will be holding the initiative

 

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