Aussies can’t wait to get stuck into Eng­land’s mot­ley Ashes crew

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RESULTS / ROUND-UP - GE­OFF LEMON

IT wouldn’t be the Ashes with­out hype in the lead-up. This time, we’re away early. Six weeks to go be­fore the series and we’re al­ready well into the con­ver­sa­tion af­ter Ben Stokes was ar­rested. The all-rounder will not be on the first plane to the south­ern side of the globe, though he hasn’t been en­tirely ruled out.

A hand­ful of my fel­low Aus­tralians may have in­dulged in a mo­ment of

schaden­freude af­ter this news came through. And a bit more when he was re­placed in the squad by Steven Finn, who cel­e­brated his last trip to Aus­tralia by for­get­ting how to bowl.

Mostly, though, the mood is dis­ap­point­ment. While true par­ti­sans might be re­lieved at Eng­land miss­ing a key player, the av­er­age en­thu­si­ast wants the world’s best play­ers in the big­gest con­tests. It’s far more ap­peal­ing than a turn­stile of de­mor­alised county chancers. Which, hubris or no, is what Eng­land’s tour­ing party makes us an­tic­i­pate. In a beau­ti­ful balanc­ing of na­tional views, BBC’s Jonathan Agnew called it “one of the weak­est squads I’ve seen” and ABC’s Jim Max­well said it was “one of the poor­est English bat­ting line-ups I have ever seen to come to Aus­tralia”.

Build­ing a Test or­der out of James Vince, Dawid Malan, Mark Stone­man and Gary Bal­lance is like try­ing to make din­ner out of the tins at the back of the pantry. If Aus­tralia’s fast bowlers stay fit, Eng­land’s task on bouncy pitches will be im­mense. That’s said with some trep­i­da­tion, given that a warm breeze has of­ten been enough to twang a pace­man’s ham­string. James Pat­tin­son’s ver­te­brae have al­ready ru­ined the fantasy of the Four Horse­men of the York­er­lypse, but Mitchell Starc, Pat Cum­mins and Josh Ha­zle­wood are cur­rently in­tact. The un­der­rated Jack­son Bird is in the wings and Peter Sid­dle is on the come­back trail.

Much has been made of Moeen Ali’s bowl­ing form, and his ag­gres­sive op­po­nents may give him a chance. But he will have to defy the his­tory that makes Aus­tralia a grave­yard for vis­it­ing off-spin­ners. For the home side, Nathan Lyon’s spin record in these con­di­tions is at elite level.

In con­trast to Eng­land, Aus­tralia’s bat­ting is mostly set. David Warner has made 14 of his 20 Test cen­turies on Aus­tralian decks. Steve Smith makes them any­where but av­er­ages 75 at home. Us­man Khawaja has plun­dered runs at first drop in the past two south­ern sea­sons.

Like twin halves of a Bri­tish ref­er­en­dum, Matt Ren­shaw has a will­ing­ness to leave and to re­main; he is calm be­yond his years, and starts the series at his na­tive Gabba. And Peter Hand­scomb has proved a ready made player.

Un­cer­tainty be­low is of less con­cern. Wick­et­keeper Matthew Wade has strug­gled with the bat and may be re­placed. Hil­ton Cartwright is a chance for No 6, even if Glenn Max­well de­serves that spot, but merit doesn’t count for much against Greg Chappell’s hunches. Or a few first-class games be­fore Bris­bane could throw up an­other can­di­date.

The mood is qui­etly con­fi­dent. Far more so than in 2013 when Eng­land had just sealed its own home Ashes 3-0, and looked an even bal­ance of in­gre­di­ents against a salad of green­horns and has-beens. Graeme Swann still had a right arm, Alas­tair Cook still had the cap­taincy, Jonathan Trott still had a ca­reer, and Kevin Pi­etersen still had the tol­er­ance of his team-mates. And look what hap­pened.

Eng­land all-rounder Ben Stokes ar­riv­ing at the church yes­ter­day for his wed­ding to fi­ancee Clare Rat­cliffe. Stokes will not be trav­el­ling to Aus­tralia with the rest of the Eng­land squad.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.