England may have been beaten by New Zealand at home, and are due to play five Tests against India later this summer, but all the attention is on the Ashes. It’s inevitable because the closer the competition gets, the more intense the media scrutiny.
Everything from the ECB’s selection choices to the rotation policy showcases their intentions for the winter. However, whether Joe Root and Chris Silverwood are right to look past their next opponents is debatable. Winning an Ashes series is the pinnacle, but have England got what it takes?
Uncertainty for Both Teams
Everyone who follows Joe Root’s team knows that they are unpredictable. One minute they destroy Sri Lanka in their backyard and go one-nil up against India in India, and the next they lose that series and are beaten by New Zealand. Plus, the side’s record Down Under is dismal, with the last series ending in a whitewash.
It’s not shocking that the bookies had the home side as short as 1/4 at points, especially when the shaky England batting line-up proved it can be blown away by lesser bowling attacks. However, it isn’t plain sailing for the Aussies since their preparation for a home Ashes series is going to be marred by a lack of playing time mixed with a flurry of activity.
By the time the two teams meet in December, Australia will only have played a single Test against Afghanistan. That will be one of their first since losing to India last January. The good news for England fans is that this is reflected in the Cricket betting odds as Australia are still the favourites, but have gone out to 8/15. England, meanwhile, are going under the radar at 11/4.
Stronger Prep for England
Although England’s batting order doesn’t inspire confidence, it’s hard to deny that they will be short of match practice when the first ball is bowled in anger at the Gabba. Aside from a pretty heavy schedule towards the end of 2020, the ECB has arranged for an array of Tests from now until September.
New Zealand have been and gone, but India’s players still need to prove that they can manage English conditions after being beaten by the Kiwis in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship. Combine the series with the fact that England will have taken on the two best sides in world cricket, and Root will be confident that his men will be sharp.
The 2021/22 summer of cricket will be headlined by the men’s and women’s #Ashes series!— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) May 18, 2021
Fans can buy their tickets today through an early access window exclusively for our interstate travel program: https://t.co/IPV70lgiKu pic.twitter.com/hKCBZNrtfG
Throw in a rotation policy that aims to deal with a heavy ODI, T20, and Test workload for all-format squad members, and England should be fresh by the time they reach Brisbane. Of course, whether their skills can stand up to the pressure is another matter, which is why they are 11/4 second-favourites.
Can They Do It?
Typically, even the Barmy Army would be sceptical about England’s 2021/22 Ashes opportunities. Australia’s side deserves to be the overwhelming favourites for the win, but their lack of preparation coupled with the ECB’s savvy rotation programme and rest period between September and December may pay dividends.
One thing’s for sure – it will be a much more competitive series than previous editions. The draw, at 11/2, isn’t out of the question after the sides played to a stalemate in England in 2019.