Back to back Ashes series in England and Australia and an astounding 10 tests between the two archrivals will dominate international cricket proceedings in 2013 and based on the extraordinary reaction to Shane Warne’s latest column in The Telegraph it is clear that cricket supporters of both countries do not intend to pull any punches.
Warne sees no significant daylight between the batting abilities of the two sides and believes the young quicks of Australia will not only even the odds but give his former team the edge. He might be right and the express pace of Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc could hurt the English. Add to that the tenacious grit and power of Peter Siddle and the possibility of Mitchell Johnson at his best and England could be under siege.
The English are adamant that most of the Ausie youngsters are injury prone but Warne, who are closer to the Baggy Green’s engine room, believes Pattinson and Cummins will be ready to join Starc and Siddle in the Ashes. If they do they could cause havoc once they cut loose at Cook and his men.
With the exception of KP Pietersen none of the English batters have a reputation of being too comfortable against real pace and most of the Ausie youngsters are capable of 150km+.
Not too long ago quick bowling almost cost Cook his place in the England team and Trott could not make his mark in South Africa for the same reason.
The English relies heavily on the superior spinning abilities of Graeme Swann but with his permanent arm injury he will probably not go the distance. If he breaks down and Monty Panesar replaces him England will probably be reminded why the latter was a forgotten spinner in the Queendom before the tour to India.
On the other hand James Anderson and Steven Finn will be a handful but the Proteas and even India showed that there is not a lot to back them up. Stuart Broad is erratic and Tim Bresnan and the others lack penetration.
The English makes a lot about the inexperienced Ausie batters but against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and even India their own batting weaknesses manifested. The truth is that England depends heavily on Alistair Cook, Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen to score the bulk of their runs.
Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade will neutralise them whilst the rest of the Ausie batters are not worse than Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott and whoever else.
In 2012 England played a lot of cricket and only Cook with 48 and KP with 43.87 averaged above 40. Prior averaged 38.85; Trott 38.65; Compton 34; Bairstow 32.66; Ian Bell 33.6; Samit Patel 15.57; and Eoin Morgan 13.66. Joe Root and James Taylor have lots of talent but with 1 and 2 tests respectively they are untested.
In the other corner Michael Clark is in the form of his life with an average of 106.33. Dave Warner averages 43.77; Phil Hughes 37.33; Wade 36; Ed Cowan 33.66 and Watson 31.
England is riding the wave after their series win in India but in the process they overestimate that achievement and underestimate the Ausies.
If England forgets their 2012 experience they will do the Ausies a huge favour because they lost 7, won 5 and drew 3 of the 15 test matches they played. More still; they abdicated their number one position to South Africa.
Australia played 12 tests of which they won 8, lost only 1 to South Africa and drew 3.
The truth is that England and Australia faces similar batting challenges and this probably prompted Warne to conclude that the series decider might not be the batters but indeed the bowlers.
One development that may swing the pendulum towards England is the retirement of MEK Hussey. The reasons for his decision cannot be questioned but if he opted to take the momentum he developed with bat in hand last year into 2013 and the tours to India and the Ashes the Ausies would have looked just so much more composed.
Test fixtures for the Ashes series in England:
Wed 10-14 July: Trent Bridge
Thu 18-22 July: Lord’s
Thu 1-5 Aug: Old Trafford
Fri 9-13 Aug: Emirates Durham ICG
Wed 21-25 Aug: The Kia Oval
Test fixtures for the Ashes series in Australia:
Thurs 21-25 Nov: Brisbane
Thurs 5-9 December: Adelaiade
Fri 13-17 Dec: Perth
Thurs 26-30 Dec: Melbourne
Fri 3-7 Jan: Sydney