We are now only 2 sleeps away from day 1 of the first test of the 2013/14 Ashes series at the Gabba. The press is replete with hypothesis and supposition as to how this series between England and Australia is going to be played out. My lack of excitement (as reported yesterday) notwithstanding, I have spent much time thinking about this series. So much so I have looked in my metaphorical crystal ball and come up with five fearless predictions for this series as follows:
Stuart Broad v Australian crowds: there will only be one winner
Stuart Broad has installed himself, with some assistance from Boof Lehmann, as public enemy number one for Australian fans this summer. The barmy army did a good job getting under the fragile skin of Mitchell Johnson and it played a big part in Australia’s loss in previous series. The Australian crowds will need to do a similar job on Broad here. Anderson gets a lot of kudos from the press as the leader of the English attack but one senses that when Broad is on his game England are a much better bowling line up. For Broad, a victory in this battle will be simply measured in wickets and runs. For the Australian crowds a victory could well lead to Michael Clarke lifting the Urn.
Michael Clarke: will average less than 35
The captain comes into this series with an unsettled mind and unsound body it would seem. His publicly run “feud” with Ricky Ponting has dominated the cricket press in this country and regardless of which camp you are in (I confess to being strongly in the Ponting camp) you have to concede that having to deal with this sideline drama can not be good for his mental make up going into the series. His back is obviously restricting him and he has had limited time at the crease in the lead up to iron out any flaws in his form. Add to that an English team which will see him as the key wicket in all 10 innings and I expect this to be a series of struggle for Clarke.
The Australian XI for the Sydney test will be very different to the one for the first test
Cricket in Australia is in a state of flux. That is abundantly and heartwrenchingly obvious. This current position of the game here has begat a selection panel that is quick with the trigger finger when it comes to the removal of players who are not performing. I expect the bowling ranks, in particular, to be a revolving door of changes either brought about by injuries or the return of other players to net form. The names Pattinson, Starc and Bird will be appearing at some point on an Australian team sheet. Also likely is the name Hazlewood. If any of the batters don’t fire then Doolan, Khawaja and Hughes will all figure.
Kevin Pietersen will score a hundred and will offend everyone
It is undeniable that Pietersen is an outrageously talented batsman. He will score a hundred at some point in this series and it will be both aesthetically pleasing and important in the context of the game. As an Australian fan that bothers me but as a fan of cricket I look forward to watching Pietersen in his pomp. Given his start to the tour on social media he also seems to be going out of his way to antagonise the public. Bating Brisbanites about the qualities of our proud city has set the tone for how Pietersen will deal with Australian fans and journalists. I expect he will not stop there with his banter which could see him irritate everyone.
No matter what happens, the Three Stooges will survive
This prediction is the one that galls me the most: James Sutherland, John Inverarity and Pat Howard will still be in a job regardless of whether Australia loses the series. The security of Sutherland’s job has already been locked in by the board of Cricket Australia. Simply put: Cricket Australia is making too much money and is too focused on cash over results to sack him. If Sutherland is secure then I posit then that both of Howard and Inverarity are too: they are clearly Sutherland’s men and if the results of the team so far have not been enough to see them sacked then they will survive this series as well.
I know I said that there were five fearless predictions. It would not be a prediction blog though without giving a prediction for the result of the series. I have to give two such predictions because my heart says something decidedly different to my head. My heart says Australia will win 2-1 but my head says England will win 2-1. I think Brisbane and Adelaide will be draws, one because of the weather discontent and the other because I expect the pitch to be a road. Perth will go to the Australians whilst England will win in Sydney. That just leaves Melbourne: Australia’s biggest test match stage. Unfortunately my head says that England’s class will come through against an Australian team over-confident after a win in Perth.
Bring on the cricket!