The third Ashes series in two years takes place in England in middle of this year. Millions around Australia will stay up into the wee hours of the morning and get to work, university or school a little more tired than usual. This series will be the 69th time the two teams will battle for the ‘little urn’ since Australia famously beat England in 1882. This encounter promises to be a more hard fought battle than the last series that resulted in a 5-0 win to Australia. England have played some good cricket over the past few months with young guns Joe Root, Jos Butler and Ben Stokes giving England fans hope that the future is bright for the national team.
After winning the World Cup in late March, Australia easily brushed aside the West Indies, 2-0, in their test series in the Caribbean. All is now set for the nest instalment in the oldest rivalry in cricket. In this article, I have made some bold predictions heading into this year’s series that may raise an eyebrow and also pose some questions that will certainly provoke some thought with the public.
Will this series define Alastair Cook’s captaincy?
It’s fair to say that the past two years haven’t been exactly smooth sailing in the career of Alistair Cook. Cook became just the third England captain to lose the Ashes in a 5-0 whitewash in the 2013/14 series in Australia. Cook also lost his place in the one-day line-up for the 2015 World Cup. But he was able to get back to some form in the recent series in the West Indies and at home against New Zealand, averaging 57 across both series. Questions still remain though over Cook’s tactical nous as a captain. He has been accused of being too conservative with his field placements, and there have been numerous calls from ex-players such as Michael Vaughn and Geoff Boycott to replace Cook as skipper. This series provides an excellent opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and win back the ‘little urn’ that England lost so convincingly last time.
Prediction: Cook will show much imagination and take more risks in this series and he will remain as captain.
Will Ben Stokes prove he is the best all-rounder in the world?
Now this may seem like a massive statement, but when you consider Stokes’ rise over the past two years, it’s hard not to get excited about England cricket’s new great white hope. Stokes made a maiden test century on a cracking WACA wicket against the pace attack of Johnson, Harris, and Siddle, in just his second test in 2013 and showed all the coverage required in order to make it at test level. After a quiet patch in 2014, Stokes scored the quickest test hundred at Lord’s against New Zealand in May that resulted in a man of the match award. Stokes’ medium pacers are more than handy to compliment his explosive batting. At just 24 and with his prime ahead of him, I’m predicting a big series from the New Zealand-born all-rounder.
Prediction: Stokes scores over 350 runs and takes 15 or more wickets.
Is Mitchell Johnson is Australia’s best starting eleven?
This question may cause a few to cough up their lunch, but such has been the rise of young stars Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood. Plus, with the likely inclusion of swing specialist Ryan Harris, it’s conceivable that the 2014 International cricketer of the year may not fit into the starting line-up for the first test in Cardiff.
Predictions: Although Starc and Hazelwood’s form has been impressive, the selectors will go with what has worked in the past and Johnson will play in the first test.
Will Adam Voges be the cricketing feel-good story of the year?
After years toiling away in Australia first class competition for well over a decade, Adam Voges, at the tender age of 35, made his debut for Australia. And what an impact he had – scoring a century on debut (the only one for the match) to help Australia’s victory in the first test against the West Indies. The English conditions will hold no fears for Voges and he will have a splendid series and continue to show that age is just a number.
Prediction: Voges will score 450 runs+.
Will Australia win?
It will not be the walk over it was two summers ago, but on the back of its fast bowling stocks, Australia should win the series and retain the Ashes back. If there is a weakness in the Australian side, the middle order is brittle at times and they perhaps too dependent on Steve Smith to score big in order to make a match wining score. England has certainly improved over the past few months and the sell-out crowds around the country will be doing their best to put the Aussies off their game.
Prediction: Australia wins 3-1.
Enjoy the cricket everyone!
Words by Matthew Hutchinson