England retained the Ashes with a 3-1 series victory in 2010-11. Source: Gareth Copley/AAP
After ending a 24 year drought in Australia by winning the most recent Ashes series in the summer of 2010/11 3-1, England established itself as one of the best Test sides in the world and will be bidding to reaffirm that status in the sport’s greatest rivalry throughout July and August. Alistair’s Cook’s men go into the series as overwhelming favourites, having lost just two of their past 16 series in whites. Ominously for the tourists, world number on South Africa is the only visiting team to win a Test series in the ‘old dart’ since 2007.
The skipper himself has taken his batting to a new level since being elevated to the role of captain following the retirement of Andrew Strauss twelve months ago. He averaged 54.25 against New Zealand in May and caused all sorts of problems for the Aussie attack in the 2010/11, accumulating 766 runs in five matches at the Bradman-esque average of 127.66. His new opening partner Joe Root will be determined to build on the impressive record that he has put together on the world stage. He scored more runs than any of his teammates against the Black Caps earlier this year. Wicketkeeper batsman Matt Prior has been England’s top runscorer in two of their past four Test series and will look to score runs quickly in the middle and lower order.
There has been a lot of talk about James Anderson and Graeme Swann leading the hosts bowling attack but Stuart Broad is the man that has collected more wickets than anyone else for the Three Lions in recent times. He has been the leading wicket-taker in four of England five most recent Test series.
Australian skipper Michael Clarke not only has to carry the burden of being his side’s captain, but also the responsibility of scoring runs. The 32 year-old has scored more runs for his team than anyone else in six of the seven most recent series. With many of Australia’s top order batsman lacking experience against the red ball in English conditions, Chris Rogers will be another key man with the bat given his tremendous record in county cricket.
Young paceman James Pattinson will spearhead the tourists attack and is the man most likely to cause problems with the Duke ball. Despite being plagued by injury since making his debut against New Zealand at the Gabba in 2011, the Victorian quick has collected 40 wickets in just 10 Test matches. Jackson Bird should be suited to English conditions but may not get a chance with Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle the incumbents.
England has a tremendously impressive record in five day cricket at home of late, while the tourists more recent efforts in Test cricket were below par at best, with the side going down to India 4-0 in March. With doubts over their batting and an inexperienced bowling attack, it could be a long English summer for the tourists and England can retain the Ashes with a 3-0 series victory.
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