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The Ashes: ‘Australia are formidable but England can beat them’

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From an English perspective, it is fervently hoped that Pat Cummins’ trophy lift at The Oval in the upcoming summer remains an isolated incident.

Australia proved themselves deserving winners of the World Test Championship final, thoroughly outplaying an Indian team whose resurgence arrived too late.

Australia showcased their awe-inspiring prowess, particularly during the first two days, demonstrating just how formidable they can be at their peak. Steve Smith and Travis Head feasted on below-par bowling, while the Australian pace bowlers dismantled a shell-shocked Indian top order. The off-spin mastery of Nathan Lyon shone late in the game, and the Australians showcased their slip-catching prowess.

However, anyone assuming that Australia’s dominant display at The Oval makes them more threatening in The Ashes has overlooked crucial details. Australia already posed the most significant threat to England during the Ben Stokes era. The red alert has long been sounded, with warning lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Australia convincingly outclassed England on their home soil 18 months ago. Despite a Test Championship schedule that included subcontinental tours of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India, Australia reached the final and emerged victorious. They should have claimed victory on their previous tour of England four years ago.

The Australian team boasts Marnus Labuschagne, the world’s top-ranked Test batter, and Smith, a player who may ultimately surpass Don Bradman as the most prolific Ashes run-scorer. Since the start of the previous Ashes, both Head and opener Usman Khawaja have higher batting averages than Labuschagne and Smith.

Captain Cummins leads a potent pace attack, which has uncovered Scott Boland, a bowler seemingly tailor-made for English conditions. Lyon, with nearly 500 Test wickets to his name, remains one of the world’s most underrated bowlers.

Additionally, all-rounder Cameron Green, with his imposing physique and youthful appearance, resembles a cricketing prototype crafted through scientific experiments. His playing style matches this perception.

England coach Brendon McCullum accurately described Australia as “formidable.” They represent the ultimate end-of-level bosses in Test cricket, the kind that consumes hours and days of effort to overcome, sometimes resulting in hurling the video game controller out of frustration.

Yet, despite their dominance, they bear the weight of history on their shoulders. No Australian team has triumphed in an Ashes series on English soil in 22 years, for a valid reason—winning a Test series as a visiting team against England is an immensely arduous task.

Smith, Warner, Lyon, and Mitchell Starc are embarking on their fourth Ashes tour and have yet to experience victory. Realistically, this may be the last opportunity for most of them, with the exception of Smith.

Legendary Australian cricketers such as Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, and Shane Watson endured entire careers without tasting Ashes victory in England. This drought would have been unimaginable in the 1990s when Australia could have fielded 11 surfers from Bondi Beach and still trounced the English team.

Although the 2023 Australian squad is the strongest to arrive on English shores since 2005 (when they suffered defeat), there are weaknesses that England can exploit.

Both Warner and Khawaja have underwhelming recent records in the UK. In 2019, Warner averaged a mere 9.50 as Stuart Broad had him trapped, rendering him ineffective. Khawaja has an average of less than 18 in the seven Tests he has played in England.

Australia has not fielded two openers aged above 36 in a Test since 1926. Their potential replacements, Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw, possess Test averages below 30.

Head has been prolific since the last Ashes and his remarkable 163 earned him the player of the match award in the Test Championship final. However, he exhibited discomfort against short-pitched bowling, akin to a participant in a pantomime horse. England is known for employing leg theory tactics and Head should anticipate a barrage of short deliveries.

Left-arm pacer Starc has claimed over 300 Test wickets, but he often leaks runs like a broken tap. He conceded more than five runs per over in both innings of the final, indicating vulnerability that England can exploit if he is selected for The Ashes.

In reality, Starc is probably behind Josh Hazlewood in the pecking order, although the latter has played only three first-class matches since the first Test against England in December 2021.

Furthermore, there are lingering doubts about how Australia will respond collectively when faced with certain situations. They crumbled in the face of Stokes’ legendary innings at Headingley in 2019 and again when India pulled off an epic run chase at the Gabba in 2021, although Tim Paine was still captain at the time.

During the world final, India’s Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur counterattacked at a rate of five runs an over, a pedestrian pace by England’s standards. Australia appeared unsettled and resorted to defensive field placements.

Three catches were dropped, Cummins wasted a review, and Thakur was dismissed lbw off a no-ball (Cummins overstepped frequently at The Oval). Cummins even kicked the ball away at the end of the session.

How will the Australians fare if Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow get into their stride during the first Test at Edgbaston? The crowd at Edgbaston will seize upon any sign of vulnerability from the Australian team.

The following day, Australia found themselves under pressure while batting. Although their lead exceeded 300 runs, there was an opportunity for India to dismantle the lower order and restrict their chase to a manageable total. Batting conditions were challenging.

In a similar scenario, England would have attacked, aiming to extend their lead rapidly and nullify any potential threat posed by the conditions. Australia did the opposite, adopting a defensive approach and bringing the game to a halt.

Ultimately, their strategy worked, but it deviated from England’s “run towards the danger” mantra. If, later in the summer, a Test match hangs in the balance with high stakes and increased pressure, which team will blink first?

Whether England has identified these potential Australian vulnerabilities is debatable. The world final was scheduled during prime golfing hours, which likely kept Stokes and McCullum away from closely observing the game.

Moreover, even if England had watched the final, it is unlikely to alter their playing style. They will continue to play aggressively. If it proves successful, they will intensify their approach. And if it doesn’t, they will still press on with even greater determination.

Before their Ashes tune-up against Ireland, Stokes stated that his team’s devil-may-care attitude has been questioned repeatedly, irrespective of the opponents they face. Nonetheless, it has proven effective.

Smith, on the other hand, eagerly reminded England that they have not encountered this Australian team yet. The much-anticipated clash between the two powerhouses is imminent.

Australia has undoubtedly improved since their previous Ashes tour, but England has also made significant progress. The question remains: Have they improved enough?

Only five more days until the answer is revealed.

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CricketFan88 June 11, 2023 - 10:07 pm

Wow, this article really captures the intensity and excitement of The Ashes! England better watch out for Australia’s formidable team. They have some seriously talented players, but England has improved too. Can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

BattingLegend27 June 11, 2023 - 10:07 pm

Eng vs Aus, the ultimate cricketing battle! Australia’s domination in the World Test Championship final was undeniable. They’re a force to be reckoned with, but England won’t back down. Let’s hope the weaknesses highlighted here give England an edge. Game on!

SportsEnthusiast55 June 11, 2023 - 10:07 pm

The Ashes series never fails to deliver thrilling cricket. Australia’s past record against England in their home turf is a challenge, but this new England team seems ready for the fight. Both teams have strengths and vulnerabilities, and it’s all about who blinks first. Let the games begin!

CricketStats101 June 11, 2023 - 10:07 pm

The stats don’t lie. Australia has a formidable lineup, with top-ranked batters and a lethal pace attack. But history shows that winning in England is no easy task. England has its own tricks up its sleeve, and the pressure is on both teams. Can’t wait to see how the drama unfolds on the pitch!

LoyalFanatic23 June 11, 2023 - 10:07 pm

As an England supporter, I’m both nervous and excited about The Ashes. Australia’s dominance in recent years is hard to ignore, but England has been working hard to improve. I hope our players have studied the weaknesses in the Aussie lineup and come up with a winning strategy. Let’s go, England!


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