In 2006-7, the only real question was, “Do the old men of Australia have another series in them?” The Trumpet can’t recall the detail, but he understands that the answer was “Yes.”
Two and a half years later, there are many more questions as the new look Australian squad take on a new look (or, at least, newish look) England squad at the new venue – Cardiff. The answers will emerge over a concentrated period of just seven weeks, which is like serving a banquet at Burger King.
Now the squad has been named, The Trumpet stares into his crystal ball and essays a few answers below.
Openers (Strauss and Cook) – With 19 stands of fifty or more between them, and with both showing a bit of form after personal slumps, England will expect at least one stand that sees off the new ball. With Flintoff’s batting fragile, England need the openers to deliver.
Middle order (Ravi, KP, Colly, Bell) – Ravi is in the form of his life and, with confidence at the other end of the scale from the man he displaced, Ian Bell (in the squad in case a batsman treads on a ball in the warm-up), he will walk to the crease like he owns the stage. KP and Colly both like the big match atmosphere, one all unorthodox class, the other all ugly accumulation. England will look to these three men to be at the crease while over four hundred runs are scored in the match. A tall order.
Late middle order (Prior, Flintoff, Swanny, Broad) – Despite all the coaching and the junior tours and matches, Prior is batsman who happens to field behind the stumps. He needs to play as a proper batsman and, after an overly-aggressive, falsely confident first spell as an England player, a little humility has seen him improve. Batting a notch above his opposite number, he’ll need to. Flintoff at 7 will be briefed to play with freedom the way 7s do in the post-Gilchrist world. When he has tried to play like a proper batsman in recent years, he has failed, so all England fans will hope that he banishes his oft-stated belief that he is a batsman who bowls and becomes a bowler who bats with freedom to play. Swanny and Broad will look to hit boundaries and get to thirty quickly before setting out their stalls for fifties.
Pace attack (Jimmy, Broad, Onions, Flintoff) – Jimmy and Broad may be a couple of clicks down on pace compared to MJ and Lee, but both are quicker than they have been in the past. Jimmy will (probably) swing it too, while Broad will look to bounce the Aussies with the hard ball. Onions will get in close to the stumps and look to bowl fullish moving the ball just enough to slide it from the middle to the edge of the bat. Flintoff will charge in until he is injured – whether at Cardiff or later.
Spinners (Swanny and Monty) – Swanny will bristle with aggression and bubble with imagination, a spinning Siddle, who will use his personality to take wickets with straight deliveries as well as with his surprisingly hard spun off-breaks. Monty will probably carry the drinks, but will be boosted by being named in the squad in expectation of being needed at The Oval for the fifth Test.
With probably only two genuine greats on show (Ponting and KP), what the series lacks in glamour will be more than compensated in intrigue – The Trumpet expects that intrigue to continue from first ball at Cardiff to last ball at The Oval.
Our photo shows that Ashes fever has spread beyond the confines of cricket with football T-shirt specialists Philosophy Football emblazoning a shirt with this fine quote from CB Fry, “To some people cricket is a circus show upon which they may or may not find it worthwhile to spend sixpence; to others a physical art full of plot, interest and enlivened by difficulties; to others, in some sort, it is a cult and a philosophy.”