NOTTINGHAM: The Ashes begin today in Nottingham with England going in as overwhelming favourites as they bid for a third straight Test series win over-arch rivals Australia.
The lesson of history is that touring Australia parties billed as ‘the weakest to travel for an Ashes’ are rarely that.
The last time that line was used was in 1989 when Australia regained the Ashes by a 4-0 margin.
Australia were thrashed 4-0 in India, where England won late last year, in March and come into this series with huge question marks over their batting which, with the exception of captain Michael Clarke, battling a longstanding back problem, lacks proven world-class performers.
However, an attack set to be led by Peter Siddle – fifth in the world rankings – and likely to feature promising paceman James Pattinson could cause England problems.
“We’re not going into this game viewing the Australians as anything other than a very difficult team to beat – despite recent results in India ... we’re not viewing them as a pushover at all,” said England off-spinner Graeme Swann, set to play on his Trent Bridge home ground today.
“(Favourites) tags like that are quite dangerous if you start believing them — start believing your own hype.
“It can bite you on the backside fairly quickly, this game.”
And Australia vice-captain Brad Haddin said the injection of enthusiasm provided by several potential Ashes debutants could be just what the team, regrouping under coach Darren Lehmann after South African Mickey Arthur was sacked last month, needs.
“One thing we have in our favour is you just don’t know what some of these guys are capable of on the international stage,” said Haddin. “We’ve got a lot of talent. It’s going to be exciting to see them unleashed in the biggest series of all.”
Pietersen vital: Swann
England’s batting in their recent home series win against New Zealand was not as dominant as some had predicted although, significantly, they were then without the injured Kevin Pietersen, now fit following a knee injury.
Pietersen’s average against Australia – 52.71 – is higher than his impressive career-mark of 49.01 and so long as he remains enthused by the challenge of Test cricket he remains a dangerous opponent.
“He was exceptional in India — not only on the field, but also he changed his demeanour off it as well and really became a positive part of the side,” said Swann.
“We have absolutely no issues with Kev. He doesn’t seem to have any issues with the team, and that bodes well for the next seven weeks.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2013.
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