As part of this blog’s build up to the Ashes, I got in touch with perennial doubter of all things English, a pox on our establishment, the itch we cannot scratch, but once I’d finished talking to myself (again) I wrote to Dennis of Dennis Does Cricket (in)fame(y) to exchange some questions in the run-up to the Ashes. In Part 1, I have Dennis’s views on 10 questions I posed, with an open-ended bit at the end.
So, here goes chaps. Dennis speaks. Feel free to comment.
1. Last time we met, it was 5-0. Ask a lot of England fans a few months ago and we’d have predicted the same (with some caveats for the weather). What do Aussies think the score will be?
Before I answer this, let’s address your caveat. Don’t you find it amazing that the English created a sport that is reliant on the weather?
In Australia, we think Hobart is a cold and wet place. The next land you hit going south is Antarctica. 16% of Australia’s rain fall sin Tasmania.
But as it turns out, the UK is closer to the North Pole than Tasmania is to the South Pole.
Anyhow, I digress.
I would suggest that Australians are still rather optimistic about the Ashes result. England couldn’t beat the West Indies. Hell, you even lost a Test to them. How does that happen? You couldn’t win the Test series against New Zealand at home. Last year you lost to Sri Lanka at home. You did beat India, but who doesn’t when they are on the road? I almost forgot that you let Ishant Sharma bounce you out with an old ball at Lord’s.
So, given that and given you have a horrible captain and given your Test side hasn’t had the positive change like the ODI side and given the fact that Australia hasn’t lost a Test for two years and given man for man, England probably don’t win even one spot, Australia will win the Ashes easily.
4-0. Nah, stuff it. 5-0.
2. Are you persuaded by the new vibe coming from England of “positive” cricket? Lots of us were surprised in the New Zealand test series by a change in attitude. You buying it?
In the ODI space, yes.
But let’s look at the Test space. In both the West Indies and New Zealand series, England were 1-0 up. Then this so called ‘positive’ cricket vibe suddenly drained away and they lost the final Test.
That’s two chokes in a row. The South African culture is strong in the ECB.
So no, in the Test space, I don’t buy it. Cook is not a leader who creates positive vibes. Bell is out of form. Ballance has been found out. Broad is struggling. Moeen may not last until the third Test before being dropped.
There is no positive vibe when half the team is scared of losing their place in the side. I know this because I watched Australia pre-Boof.
3. I read that you didn’t think Ryan Harris should make the team? England fans palpitate at the very mention of his name. Is he really not going to play?
My detailed thoughts are documented in this article: http://dennisdoescricket.com/ryan-harris-isnt-in-australias-best-xi/
If you remove the emotive element, I can’t see how Harris plays in the First Test. The other three amigos just bowled Australia to a World Cup win and tore up the West Indies.
You don’t split up a winning formula. Harris hasn’t bowled competitively since the New Year’s Day Test in Sydney.
However, every time I watch this video, I second guess this stance:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrdNjB9urZE (Available, it seems, only to Australian viewers)
4. In 2013 we were hearing big things about James Pattinson. Now we are hearing big things about Josh Hazlewood. Should we take them seriously?
James was coming along swimmingly until he got injured. Don’t judge him on his brother’s efforts for England.
Unfortunately for James, the list of available fast bowlers in Australia is longer than the English tail.
Johnson, Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins, Pattinson, Harris, Bird, Siddle……and so on.
Hazlewood is the real deal. He is like Peter Siddle from the last series, but just 10 kph faster, gets more bounce and with Glenn McGrath’s lines.
Hazlewood is the reason why I don’t see an easy way for Harris to walk straight back in to the team.
5. Is Steve Smith lucky or great?
You don’t get to the number one ranked Test batsmen in the world by being simply lucky. In fact, his ranking points exceed anything Brian Lara achieved.
However, that doesn’t make him great, but he is well on the way. So is Joe Root and Kane Williamson.
In 2013, I wrote that if Smith gave up the leg spin and focused on his batting, he could become the next Steve Waugh. That won’t happen now as Smith is Australia’s number 3, rather than hiding at 4 or 5 like Waugh did and Root does now.
This Ashes should see Smith as the leading run maker. His form is that good. His technique ensures it is hard to bog him down. He plays spin brilliantly. He has cross bat shots. He can skamper quick singles.
His get out shot at the moment is either the pull shot bottom edged on to middle stump or the run out. England should set plans for both of these possible eventualities.
6. Who is commentating on this series for the Australian viewers. Will James Brayshaw be anywhere near it?
I’m not sure, except to say that Channel Nine are bringing over their own crew, rather than relying on Sky.
I think this is a poor outcome for Australian cricket fans.
The positive is that we get to see every match live on Free To Air television. No need for a Sky subscription in this part of the world. Remember that argument that there is no market for Test cricket on terrestial TV? The ECB are selling you a lemon.
7. Our older core of Broad, Anderson and Cook get a ton of stick from you. Which one of them do you fear might do you the most damage in this series?
None of them.
Anderson will take his 4 wickets a match. 2 or 3 of them will be lower order batsmen. This is not a prediction based on guesswork. It is based on historical fact and statistics. That makes him no better than Peter Siddle. Do England [rate] the banana eater?
Broad has the ability to take a quick 2 or 3 wickets with the new ball because he attacks, but his control is gone. Watching him bowl against New Zealand and the West Indies, he was way too short.
Cook will make a century somewhere, but I’d be surprised if he averages over 35 this series. The bowling attack is just too strong and Australia love to attack the opposing skipper. We will be given no free space to settle.
8. We’re all a bit keen on Joe Root at the moment who is in brilliant form. What’s your view on what you’ve seen?
I love him. Australia love him. He shows grit and attacks the game. He is mouthy in the field. He shows no fear.
The Root v Smith battle will be amazing.
9. Two of your older players are question marks. Shane Watson seems nailed on, am I right? And is Brad Haddin’s lack of form terminal or will he get it back playing against us again?
Both should be under strong scrutiny.
Watson looks much better at number 6 rather than at 1,2 or 3. However, even at number 6, he doesn’t produce like he should. This is especially evident when the contenders for his spot are Mitch Marsh (lost his place due to injury), James Faulkner (the last decent all rounder to play an Ashes Test for Australia in the UK but lost his place due to injury), Moises Henriques (not available due to injury) and Glenn Maxwell (will get another chance at some stage).
The other option is that Australia back their three quicks and Lyon, and then play a proper number 6 batsman. That would mean that Shaun Marsh and Voges both play. Perhaps a batting order or Warner, Rogers, Smith, Marsh, Clarke, Voges, Haddin.
Haddin was the saviour the last time we visited your Britain of Greatness. How pompous is that name?
In the last 12 Test matches, Nathan Lyon has averaged more with the bat than Haddin. That said, Haddin’s keeping is as good as anyone in the world at the moment. That is worth a wicket or two an innings, possibly off-setting any potential batting losses.
The understudy keeper is a guy named Neville. No, that’s his surname. His First Class batting average is 44. He is also much better with the gloves than say Buttler, Bairstow or Billings.
10. Give us a name that might surprise us from the Aussie party – I think I know who it might be – and one you think might give you some grief from England.
Nathan Lyon is the guy. This unassuming ex-Adelaide Oval groundsman will play the role that Graeme Swann played for you last time we met in the Northern Hemisphere.
He has slowed down his pace, allowing for more flight and drift. He creates more chances than even the quicks. He gets bounce. He gets great turn. His arm ball is brilliant. He is the best number 11 in the world.
Lyon will spin Australia to at least two wins on Day 4 or 5.
The person Australia would fear most is probably Rashid, but he won’t play until the ECB drop Moeen Ali. That won’t happen until after the series is lost.
Ben Stokes is probably good for a quick 80 somewhere and a 4 fer
11. Finally – Open House. What’s on your mind DDC with this series?
To be honest, I’m mostly looking forward to re-aquainting myself with the English cricket fans via social media and my site. Most are very knowledgeable about the game and I have made many friends due to being active during the previous few Ashes.
In a cricketing sense, seeing how Mitch Johnson goes this time around will be interesting. Does he still scare the bejesus out of you guys? He should.
I fear Australia’s batting depth may not be as strong as some imagine. I sense Warner is in for a shocker and Clarke is on his last legs. Add Haddin and Watson to that mix, and we have a potential problem. However, I could be completely wrong. Remember what Warner did on his last tour to South Africa? Yes, he got his girlfriend pregnant, but he also stood up when under the most immense pressure.
C’mon Aussie C’mon!!!!
My huge thanks to Dennis for participating in this exercise. We cooked it up on Saturday morning, and we threw ourselves into it. He’ll be re-linking this on his site, and my answers to his questions will be going up soon – http://dennisdoescricket.com/ , and no doubt we’ll be discussing the series during the next few weeks. Catch him on Twitter too @DennisCricket_ or his podcast, Can’t Bowl, Can’t Throw – the latest edition of which has Mr Roland Butcher’s Hook himself, Mr David Oram, to listen to.
I’ll just steer him on the Great Britain thing….
The classical writer, Ptolemy, referred to the larger island as great Britain (megale Britannia) and to Ireland as little Britain (mikra Brettania) in his work, Almagest (147–148 AD). In his later work, Geography (c. 150 AD), he gave these islands the names Alwion[sic], Iwernia, and Mona (the Isle of Man), suggesting these may have been native names of the individual islands not known to him at the time of writing Almagest. The name Albion appears to have fallen out of use sometime after the Roman conquest of Great Britain, after which Britain became the more commonplace name for the island called Great Britain.