The pre-Ashes war of words is well underway with talk of actual war, the not so surprising claim that England will struggle to win down under without Ben Stokes, and the even less surprising fact that Australian bowlers are going to bowl a barrage of bouncers. Here are nine quick-fire predictions for this year’s Ashes series.
Quick-Fire Ashes Predictions
9) Demerit Points:
As always, there will be enough sledging to keep even the most skilled lip reader busy this winter. Therefore, as we found out during the recent English summer, demerit points will follow. England’s biggest worry during last summer was that Ben Stokes was only one demerit point away from a one Test ban, little did they know. . .
And in the yellow corner, one could bet that if the ICC continue with their strict policy then David Warner could rack up the same amount of demerit points as he does centuries. We will find out if umpires are more lenient during the Ashes given its general feisty nature.
8) Five Results:
This may seem another obvious prediction but it is extremely unlikely that we will see a genuine drawn Test. Both teams have vulnerable batting line ups and despite the flatter nature of Australian wickets, we could be in for a repeat of the 2015 series where no Test reached the fifth day.
7) Craig Overton – find of the series:
The 2013/14 Ashes tour was an absolute calamity for the England team. Only two positives came out of the whole series; Stuart Broad’s efforts with the ball and the prospering Ben Stokes. With the latter unlikely to play any part in the series, Craig Overton has the chance to prosper in a similar fashion.
Despite Moeen Ali’s excellent year with the ball (30 wickets at 20.31), England cannot play just three seamers. They also cannot try and pick a like-for-like replacement for Stokes. If they had one he would already be in the team. Therefore, their best bet is to pick the best team without Stokes.
Overton will strengthen England’s already powerful middle-lower order, while providing much needed support for Anderson, Broad, and Woakes. The 23-year-old has an excellent first-class record with bat and ball (189 wickets @ 26.13/7 x 50’s, 1 x 100) and would be a positive selection following the disastrous situation of Stokes.
6) Leading wicket taker – Josh Hazlewood:
As always, the attention will be focused on the fastest or most aggressive bowler when predicting who will take the most wickets. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have the potential to burst through England’s line-up at any given moment. However, the real threat is Josh Hazlewood. The 26-year-old is made for Test cricket and will be the perfect exponent of England’s batting vulnerability.
Stoneman, Vince, and Malan will thrive off bad balls and despite their aggressive nature, Starc and Cummins will naturally bowl boundary balls. Hazlewood will give England’s newbies nothing and pick up more wickets from either side in the process.
5) Crane and Livingstone to play:
England are going to struggle this winter and their solution has always been changes in selection. A staggering 18 players were used in 2013/14 and this tour has the potential to rack up a similar amount.
The work rate for Anderson and Broad will be a concern throughout the series and Mason Crane will be given a chance as the second spinner given his efforts in Shield cricket last winter. One could predict the 20-year-old will play at Adelaide and Sydney.
A Lions tour on the eve of the Ashes gives Liam Livingstone the chance to throw his hat into the ring at the last moment. If, and when, England run out of options within the current squad to replace Ben Stokes, Livingstone could be called upon to fight fire with fire. The fast, bouncy nature of Australian wickets could play right in the 24-year-old’s hands, as could playing on the biggest stage of all.
4) Root to bat at three:
July 2013: Joe Root scores 180 at Lords opening the batting. Shane Warne argues, ‘yeah, well, he will get crucified in Australia.’
November 2013: Joe Root walks out at Brisbane at number six scoring only 192 runs in the first four Tests before being dropped at Sydney. . .fair point, Shane.
November 2017: Joe Root to lead out his England team occupying the most important batting position after four years of exceptional form in all formats around the world.
As it stands, Joe Root will continue to bat in his most preferred batting position of four. He is the captain and best batsman, so many would allow him to continue with what makes him happy. But with Ben Stokes missing, England are in a sticky situation no matter where Root bats. If he bats at four, Vince or Ballance are a little exposed to the new ball. At three, Vince/Ballance or Malan are potentially exposed together.
Nevertheless, England’s captain is likely to spend the majority of the series at number three.
3) Cummins to make Bairstow his bunny:
Could we have another McGrath vs Atherton? Probably not. Jonny Bairstow has been exceptional since coming back into the England team. But if he has shown one weakness it is when the ball is naturally coming into him. Naturally meaning not when a bowler is bowling inswing, but when his natural line is perhaps middle and leg with the aim to straighten off the seam.
The wicket-keeper batsman tends to get cut in half when this happens or even chop on. Pat Cummins has the perfect action to exploit this weakness and has the potential to have Bairstow in real trouble.
2) Five pacemen won’t reach 20 Tests between them:
Both bowling attacks could be at breaking point in the blink of an eye; or they all could miraculously stay fit. Anderson, Broad, Starc, Hazlewood, and Cummins will be conscious of missing the series given one bad delivery stride. James Pattinson has already been ruled out and Josh Hazlewood has suffered a minor setback already.
One would hope all remain fit but the truth is if there’s a maximum of 25 appearances to be shared between the five, they would be lucky to make 20.
1) Trevor Bayliss to lose his job:
An Ashes humiliation could be the final nail in the coffin for Trevor Bayliss. Questions began to circulate over the recent summer of Bayliss’ capability in the role, especially after the humiliation against South Africa at Trent Bridge.
Bayliss has often appeared bewildered in front of the press, not really providing sufficient answers to England’s failings. Paul Farbrace, on the other hand, appears much more assertive and confident. Bayliss has been excused from disastrous selections at times as he has not seen much of county cricket. Surely that can no longer be an excuse given he has been in the job for over two years now.
Part of the reason Bayliss got the job was because of England’s disastrous white-ball record and that has been amended in a remarkable fashion. But in the same time, England have stagnated in Test cricket.
Could Bayliss be allowed to solely focus on white-ball cricket with Paul Farbrace finally getting his chance as a head coach?
Embed from Getty Images