Hot on the heels of the World Cup in England and Wales is the Ashes. England will be looking to make amends for another poor series down under in 2017/2018 when the team returned home winless and licking their wounds having lost 4-0.
A year and a half later, some things have changed for both teams. But there’s a crux of well-established stars on both sides with points to prove in the biggest test series on the international calendar.
Which Batters Will Stand Up and Be Counted?
Both teams will look at their bowling attacks as their strength. So which batters are going to stand up and be counted? If matches are going to be won and lost by the collective performances of each team’s bowling units, then those victories are going to come off the back of one or two stand outs with the bat.
For England, attention will be on captain Joe Root. Australia will target him, hoping to exploit the few weaknesses he has. Previous captains like Michael Clarke felt their best chance to get him out was to go back of a length just outside off-stump hoping to find the edge. Fast bowlers – those exceeding 145kph – will also target his pads early in an innings. But give Root half a chance and he’ll anchor the team, enabling England’s powerful middle order to score quickly.
Australia will look to former captain Steve Smith to impose himself on an innings. His return after the ball-tampering scandal (which you can read about on bbc.co.uk) alongside fearless opener David Warner boosts Australia’s batting order after it struggled without them on the recent trip to Sri Lanka. Who joins them in the order is anyone’s guess. But Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch’s runs in the World Cup will likely put them in with a good chance of turning out in Game 1.
Matches Decided by the Pace and Swing
The bowlers are each team’s strength. Australia will particularly hope Mitchell Starc can find the right length and a bit of swing to lead their pace attack. If the Aussies are to turn the odds in their favour, they’ll need the likes of Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins to offer sustained support. If England can get on top of them early, the home team’s favourites tag (they’re currently 1.77 odds on to win the series at Unibet – unibet.com.au) will only get stronger.
Attention will be on England’s James Anderson, one of the national team’s greatest ever seamers and still looking potent at 36 years of age. John Etheridge, writing for The Sun newspaper (thesun.co.uk) went as far to say he should be considered alongside the great Glenn McGrath.
On English soil, Anderson is amongst the most dangerous seamers. Those gambling on the highest wicket taker during Ashes 2019 will find it hard to bet against Anderson. He has an ability to exploit atmospheric conditions to swing the ball around corners. The Australian batsmen, seasoned on hard, fast pitches with little-to-no swing, will have to learn quickly how to combat that movement to prevent England’s trump card taking the series away from them.
England are rightly favourites to win the urn back in 2019. But a lot will depend on how the home team bat in familiar conditions to allow that seam attack to take advantage. It’ll be James Anderson’s final Ashes series and he’ll hope to end his career on a high. But these series are always closely fought in England, and the Australians will be hoping – and believing – they can spoil the party.