England and Australia have displayed frailties in both disciplines of the game as they prepare for their Ashes showdown in the summer of 2019.
The Three Lions won their last two series against India and Sri Lanka, claiming a 4-1 win over Virat Kohli’s men on home soil before travelling away to notch a 3-0 whitewash. However, their vulnerabilities with the bat were on full display against the West Indies in their first match of 2019.
In Barbados England were bowled out for 77, succumbing to the pace of Kemar Roach. The part-time off-spin of Roston Chase then allowed the Windies to romp to a comfortable victory, as the all-rounder notched incredible figures of 8-60 in the second innings.
It has been a common theme for England over the last five or so years. Australia witnessed it first hand Down Under when they hammered the Three Lions 4-0 in the last meeting between the teams. Unless Joe Root and company resolve their issues, they could put themselves under pressure at home against a quality Baggy Greens’ attack that will look to take full advantage.
On the other hand, Australia have had issues of their own with their batting line-up. Steve Smith and David Warner will be available again after their one-year bans following the sandpaper incident against South Africa.
Both players will be needed as the team have been exposed with their quality. The Baggy Greens have suffered defeats to South Africa, Pakistan and India over the last year. They have shown signs of progress against Sri Lanka, although their bowlers have carried the fortunes of the team.
There are a lot of parallels between the two rivals heading into the Ashes. Even though England have their problems, they’re still considered the favourites by Bet365 to win the series at odds of 4/5 which could be an intriguing option with the use of a free bet with the bookmaker. We’ll now break down the strengths and weaknesses of both teams ahead of their meeting.
The Three Lions still have a lot going for them, despite their issues in their batting ranks. Root is one of the best batsmen in the world and will have a point to prove against Australia after his struggles Down Under. He had a series to forget as he appeared to have issues with the burden of captaincy. The 28-year-old has had further time to adjust to life with the responsibility and it would not be a surprise to see him in stellar form – similar to that of the 2015 series when he dominated the Baggy Greens.
England’s all-rounders also give them an edge, especially on home soil. They bat deep all the way down to number 10 where Stuart Broad has a Test century to his name. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Ben Foakes and Sam Curran are all quality cricketers. Their flexibility gives Root plenty to work with in all disciplines of the game. It sometimes can been a detriment not boasting specialist players, but more often than not the all-rounders have delivered, especially on the big stage.
Perhaps the biggest strength England boast going into the series is their master of swing – James Anderson. He will be 37 by the end of the series, which could be his final one against Australia. No bowler has been more devastating in English conditions than the Lancastrian. If it is to be his swansong expect him to go out on a high note. Broad loves playing against Australia at home as well. His figures of 8-15 in 2015 at Trent Bridge will send a shiver down the spine of the Aussies.
The Aussies won the 2017/18 series due to the performances potent pace attack. Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins all operated at the peak of their powers to put the England batsmen to the sword. Australia always seemed to find a crucial wicket at the right time to turn the contests in their favour.
Hazlewood was the consistent bowler, putting the ball on a tight line and length to frustrate the England batsmen. He is the man that would theoretically thrive in English conditions, although he did not fire on all cylinders in 2015. With further experience under his belt, Hazlewood could be the man to watch in the series.
Cummins was the wildcard that stunned England with his reverse swing. The 25-year-old has a Broad-like tendency to get on a roll, producing spells that can turn sessions on their head. He is slowly developing into one of the finest pace bowlers in the world. Cummins will be determined to prove a point outside of Australia.
Nathan Lyon has a solid record against England, but more importantly he has helped restrict scoring to keep the pressure on batsmen. In a tight series, the difference between Lyon and Ali could be an important factor in deciding the fate of the urn.
Finally Smith will be back and there will be no doubt that he will be on form. His suspension will have made him hungry for runs. With a point to prove, arguably the world’s best batsman will be more dangerous than ever.
The Three Lions have had huge issues at the top of their batting order, which could be further exacerbated by the retirement of Alastair Cook. Cook had 12 opening partners after Andrew Strauss retired in 2012 as the selectors failed to find an adequate replacement for the former captain.
Now that Cook has left the international arena as well, England are operating with uncertainty in both opening spots. Keaton Jennings appears to be on his last chance, while Rory Burns has not hit the ground running, despite a knock of 84 against the West Indies. Unfortunately for England there are not many players kicking down the door to cement their place at the top of the order.
The number three position has been just as bad. Jonny Bairstow has been thrust into the role, but he does not look entirely comfortable, despite notching a century against Sri Lanka last winter. Root looks to be the only established batsman in the team with the ability to play a longstanding innings. England have quality in their team, but it’s more suited for the one-day game than Test matches.
Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler and Ali have talent, but not the sort required for a grilling against the red ball on a cloudy day. Against a quality bowling attack it could be their downfall. Unless England are able to adjust their technique and find an opening partnership that provides a solid foundation for their strokemakers to play, it could well be another difficult series for Root and company.
Australia were notably over reliant on Smith and Warner before the duo were suspended for the sandpaper incident. Their Test matches since have proved just how important the two players have been to the Baggy Greens’ success. Smith was the glue to the order and his loss has been impossible to replace. Warner has been hit and miss during his career, but the lack of options behind him have displayed how much the Aussies need him back at the top of the order.
Warner may not return due to the fallout from his ban, which would be a huge blow. Australia have recycled openers just as much as England since Chris Rogers retired. Cameron Bancroft didn’t appear to be the answer before his suspension for his involvement in the sandpaper scandal. Nic Maddinson, Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Aaron Finch have all come and gone. Marcus Harris is the latest player to attempt to fill the void, although he has not blown the world away with his start.
The middle order has been just as problematic, especially without Smith. Usman Khawaja has performed well enough, nudging his average over the 40-run mark. However, Peter Handscomb and Travis Head have failed to live up to expectations. Marnus Labuschagne and Kurtis Patterson are the new hopes that could thrive alongside Smith.
Australia have struggled in England against the moving the ball even when they have had a settled line-up. Rogers, Adam Voges, Handscomb and Khawaja have all been exposed, while even Smith has had trouble when the pitch has not resembled a road. Australia’s line-up for the opening Test will be very interesting to see.