Despite coming so soon on the back of the last series in England, it appears that – for the time being at least – the Aussie and British appetite for the Ashes is showing no sign of slowing down…. at least, if the build up over the last few days has been anything to go by.
The Aussies seem confident, there seems to be a new feeling of self belief coming out of the their camp, a sense that they have bottomed out, and that their worst days are now well behind them.
For England, they are saying all the right things, as they always do. Andy Flower always seems to have them singing from the same hymn sheet, and making sure that his players are sending out the right message, en mass.
I expect Kevin Pietersen to be the star man for England this series. He is set to win his 100th cap in Brisbane, and I think he seems really up for this series, more than he usually is.
Pietersen seems a very content man these days. All the nonsense is behind him now, and he seems to be an integral part of the team, and buying into the team ethic 100%.
Despite Michael Carberry looking set to come into the team, and Joe Root dropping down the order, the English batting looks fairly settled to me.
Compare that to the Aussie batting, with Watson at No.3, and Steven Smith at No.5 – I would take the England batting ahead of Australia’s any day. I could end up with egg on my face here, but I just don’t see Watson as a top three batsman.
As well as not seeing Watson as a batsman good enough to bat in the top 3, I also don’t see Steven Smith as a No.5, for me his is a 6 or 7 at best. Will these batting weaknesses cost Australia?
The Aussie bowling also looks a bit fragile. Can Ryan Harris last 5 Tests? And is Mitchell Johnson really back to his best? If the answers to both these questions is yes, then Australia will certainly be in this series.
The England side is pretty settled and predictable. Did England take their foot off the gas after Lord’s in the last series in England? Or are Australia better than we gave them credit for, and competed on an equal footing at the back end of the series, making England look average?
Although I think England are the slightly stronger side, I see home advantage helping Australia, and with the Aussie public seemingly up for this too – believing their boys have a chance – I think that the contest could be fairly even.
I know it sounds obvious, but I simply believe the team who plays the best cricket in the pressure moments will win.
To elaborate a bit more on that, I think the two teams are reasonably evenly matched, so it will be whoever steps up to the plate at the key moments that wins the series.
Australia played some good cricket at times in England last summer, but when it came to the crunch, they didn’t play too well under pressure…. key moments such as at Durham.
It remains to be seen if the Australians have overcome this habit of losing, and can win the pressure battles – I do believe that if they can handle the pressure, they can possibly win the series.
Do I believe they will handle the pressure and win the series? I’m not convinced.
If push comes to shove, I would go for England, but I think it will be a closer result – so my selection is 2-1 England.