England and Australia both head into 2019’s Ashes series with a number of question marks hanging over them.
The Aussies—who haven’t won an Ashes in England since 2001—will feel like this is an outstanding opportunity claim some long-awaited glory on English soil, but despite their superb bowling attack, there are plenty of unknown quantities within their batting ranks.
As for England, they are still favorites to regain the Ashes, but the issue with their batting is that we do know what to expect: trash!
I have little doubt that this will be a series for the bowlers; the attacks are both strong, the conditions will suit them, and barring a few exceptions the batting all-round looks quite weak – prepare for a number of three and four day Test matches.
I think Australia will retain the Ashes. Due to their 2017/18 victory, Tim Paine’s men only need to draw the series to bring the urn back home, and this year there are too many variables that can go against England – making me head into proceedings as a staunch pessimist.
I’ll look into the batting and bowling in more depth later in the preview, but the Ireland Test at Lord’s last week brutally exposed where England’s true weaknesses lie. Getting bowled out for 85 by anyone is embarrassing, but succumbing to an Irish side so new to Test cricket, the week before an Ashes series, is a very poor look.
In a combined 83 innings in 2019 by English batsmen, only one century has been scored; only three batsmen (Jack Leach, Jason Roy and Ben Stokes) average over 30. And when bowler Sam Curran averages more than Rory Burns, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, you know there are serious issues.
Will Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and co. fear bowling at a top three of Burns, Roy and Joe Denly? I think you know the answer to that.
The return of David Warner and Steve Smith to the Aussies’ Test side is a massive boost, as will Usman Khawaja's inclusion if fit, but those vying for the remaining places, though inexperienced, look in better nick than the England batsmen. Kurtis Patterson and Travis Head both have Test centuries this year; Cameron Bancroft and Marnus Labuschagne have had strong summers on the English First-Class circuit, while the aggressive Matthew Wade, whose sheer weight of runs in recent months has earned him a richly-deserved recall, will be an ever-present danger.
England’s World Cup victory already seems a long time ago – if they don’t sort their batting out sharpish, they might be in for a home series humiliation.
3u - Australia @+135