Today the 2010-11 Ashes Series gets underway in Brisbane. To many, the result of the series seems like a foregone conclusion. England find Australia in a state of disarray, with Australia coming off a 2-0 series defeat in India.
However at home, Australia are a completely different prospect. England are well aware of this. The last time Australia lost the Ashes at home was in 1986-87, an admirable record. Australia hasn’t lost at the Gabba since 1988, which is why I’m not prepared to write them off so quickly. Even though Australian cricket is at a low point, they still have talent in their side that other nations could only dream of.
With Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke in their top order, there are runs there. If Mitchell Johnson can fire this series, England’s batsmen may be in for a torrid time. And in debutant Xavier Doherty they have a spinner who is hungry to prove himself and establish himself in the test side. He can have no greater occasion to do so.
It is not as though England are invincible either. There are still question marks over the ability of their batsmen. For example, Alastair Cook has a healthy average of 42.78 in tests, but against Australia it is just 26.21. Having said that, if he wants to improve that average, he will have no better chance than this series.
England have their best chance to break their Australian hoodoo. A lot will hinge on the first test in Brisbane, which will set the tone for the series. Whoever can take the initiative on the first day may well win the series. It should prove to be a fascinating match up, with England wanting their first series win in Australia since 1987, and Australia desperately looking to restore their reputation.
It should be a lot closer than people think. I can’t wait.