A lot has been talked about how Australia has high chances of completely outplaying the visitors England in the upcoming Ashes starting November 23. Most experts expect the trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins to be all over the mostly inexperienced English batting unit. Moreover, home advantage will play a crucial part for the Kangaroos in regaining the Ashes.
Australia's fast-bowling trio (from left) Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell
However, that doesn’t hide the problems of the Australian batting line up that have surfaced in recent times. In fact, the series will become a good contest if the English bowlers can exploit the chink in the Aussies’ batting armour by stepping up and bringing their A-game to the plate.
The visitors have made a good start to the tour winning one and drawing two of the three practice games. Batsmen like Mark Stoneman, David Malan and skipper Joe Root himself have shown good form and have raised the hopes of English fans. But England can’t really do much if the Australian bowlers go on to dismantle the English batting line up. Mitchell Starc is coming in fresh into the Ashes after back to back hat-tricks in the Sheffield Shield. Josh Hazlewood looks as good as usual and Pat Cummins is raring to show what he can do after being down with injuries in recent times.
Mark Stoneman hits England's first century of 2017/18 Ashes tour
Pat Cummins is yet to play his first Test at home despite having played five Tests so far. However, Hazlewood and Starc’s Test bowling averages of 25.35 and 29.98 respectively in Australian conditions also give an idea about the danger that awaits England.
But, the English bowlers can surely back their batting unit by exploiting the weakness lying in the Australian middle order and the low confidence of the top order. None of Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and Peter Handscomb are settled members of the Australian squad. Both of Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine are making an unexpected comeback into the Australian side while Handscomb is yet to cement his place in the XI despite promising performances. So, a sense of nervousness will always work there in their batting and the English bowlers need to exploit exactly that.
The same follows with Usman Khawaja who has constantly been in and out of the squad. Cameron Bancroft is another batsman who has been selected in the squad on the back of a superb Sheffield Shield season and who in all probability will open the innings for Australia alongside David Warner. So, going hard on the debutant is another potential option. And England need to get rid of David Warner and Steve Smith who in all probability are Australia’s best bets with the bat.
England have to chalk out plans for each of the weak links in the Australian batting line up. They need to set them up accordingly before going for the kill. Every Aussie batsman has some weaknesses that can be exploited. For instance, Warner has been done on numerous occasions by out swinging deliveries pitched on middle and off-stump.
Moreover, England can also take advantage of Steve Smith’s habit of shuffling around the stumps. A good in swinging delivery can trap him lbw. And they should also look to dismantle the middle order with spin, as they are quite vulnerable to it. Moeen Ali’s off spin can work wonders for England if used properly. He can be a very potent weapon towards the last couple of days of the match.
Numbers are not necessarily in the favor of the experienced English pace bowling duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Although, Anderson has an overall career bowling average of 27.39 in Tests, it takes a high jump to 38.44 when it comes to matches played in Australia. Similar is the case with Broad who has a bowling average of 32.13 in 7 matches played in Australia as compared to his career average of 28.81. Chris Woakes, whose all-round role will be pivotal in absence of Ben Stokes, will be playing his first ever Test match in Australia this Ashes. The same is with the likes of Jake Ball, Craig Overton and Tom Curran—all three of whom will be competing for a place in the playing XI.
Woakes will be playing his first ever Test match in Australia this Ashes
However, all of them need to forget everything and concentrate just on this series. Anderson and Broad need to shrug off the disappointment of their previous records while the likes of Woakes, Ball, Overton and Curran should look forward to this as an opportunity rather than a challenge. A disciplined bowling approach to go with the experience of Broad and Anderson can help them reap rich dividends.