The Ashes series 2019 begins at Edgbaston on Thursday, with England and Australia looking to gain authority over the summer. Australia hold the Ashes at the moment after a convincing 4-0 series win at home back in 2017-18. But given that the Ashes series is in England, the Aussies may find it difficult as they seek a first series win in 19 years on English soil.
Having said that, England won’t have it easy in order to reclaim the Ashes. They won the series at home in 2015 by a 3-2 margin. It was a series that had fascinating scores – many high ones. But this time the scorecard might be altogether a different prospect. With the conditions expected to favour bowlers, batting could well be difficult.
Both teams do not have the best of batting units. This is a minus point. So the onus for the big guns will be to come out and lead the way. One is predicting that the series will belong top bowlers in particular, but whichever side has 1-2 batsmen coming in and scoring consistently, could walk away with the Ashes series.
England are on a high after winning the ICC World Cup 2019 for the first time earlier in July 2019. But the transition to red-ball cricket is something different. They huffed and puffed against Ireland last week in a one-off Test match. Although, England did win, but there were many questions. Their batting in particular looks a worry.
Australia too looked troubled in their pre-Ashes practice Test. They lost wickets in a heap. So batting is going to look nervy for most parts of the Ashes 2019.
Moreover, given that the ICC World Test Championship 2019-21 starts with the Ashes, the intensity will be even more.
Here we decode how the series could be decided and what’s on offer.
Nothing much to separate the two sides
One can say that both Australia and England are evenly matched. Both teams feature strong bowling attacks on offer and have fragile batting line-ups. Going by the look of things and how these two teams have played Test cricket over a period of one year, it looks like 40 wickets could be a norm in a single Test match.
It could therefore come down to the number of days. We might witness matches getting over with 3-4 days rather than the usual five. Both teams have 1-2 class batsmen who will be counted upon. The rest will be rallying around them. Also, both sides have world class bowling options especially in pace and that could determine the journey of the series.
It’s safe to say, we might not witness any draws in the five Tests. The dry surfaces, Dukes ball and conditions could make things real tight. So how can one determine a favourite? Well this is highly difficult. Things could go either way here. England will want the ball to move. This is something Aussies don’t like. The premier Aussie pacers have more pace and will count on bounce.
Combinations and team selections will be key
Australia have already bargained by deciding not to play Mitchell Starc at Edgbaston. A strange decision by the management has seen the Aussies not to go with all three leading stars at once. Pat Cummins will keep his place, but the others are not yet decided upon. Now team selection and combinations are something that can haunt teams.
Yes, you want certain risks to pay off, but not taking Starc could perhaps backfire. He was excellent in the 2019 World Cup. England has gone in with experience and left out Jofra Archer from the first Test starting XI. England are more settled here in terms of selection and knowledge. But James Anderson’s inclusion is a risk as he recovers from injury.
Aussies are still unsure about their starting XI. Whoever wins the first Test, will gain a lot of confidence. That could perhaps shape the rest of the Ashes. Expect plenty of changes throughout the five-match series. We would want to see more clarity in terms of decision-making.
Batsmen need to put their hands up
As mentioned earlier, both teams have strength in the bowling, so whichever batsmen can put their hands up and score big runs, will help their respective sides to win the Ashes. For Australia, the onus lies on talisman Steve Smith. For England, a lot will depend upon captain Joe Root.
The extra 30-40 runs in the first innings could be huge in building up a Test match. Also, England have more batsmen that can bat down the order. Aussies will depend on grit and determination. England have a rocky top order. But it’s the middle order that has certain amount of pedigree. The likes of Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler have commendable experience.
Whereas, Australia look short of experience in the middle. Although, they have the David Warner and Usman Khawaja factor atop. This could see them have an advantage. Things are really tight here.
Do England have slight advantage?
Many former cricketers and pundits have picked England to get a close 3-2 victory, We too feel this could be the order of the day. England’s home record in Ashes Tests could work well. Also, the overall bowling attack has depth. Given the experience, one can hope England to find a way to win in English conditions.
Yes, England will struggle at the top, but from there on there is enough character in the team to work in their favour.