I tried to write something earlier today but it never really worked. Then, for some reason or other, it never saved. Maybe my tablet was operating on quality control.
Genuinely I’d like to thank you for all the kind words on the Lord’s memory piece. It may be nearly 10 years since that day 1, but the thought and the caring of my mates genuinely got me through some pretty dark times. We’ve probably all lost someone really close to them, and people say I “vocalise” it well, but it’s like the blog. I do try to be true to myself. This sport helped me when times were bad. That team not only lifted me, it lifted my even more heartbroken, even more devastated dad. I will never forget this frail old man, just six months from death, stricken, unbeknown to him, with an appalling illness called progressive supra-nuclear palsy, of which he was showing early signs, went up to see the Ashes parade. You know what that meant to me? To see my Dad show some joy because of what, in part, KP did that day before? That’s why, when anyone says to me “you’re not a true England cricket fan” I do get angry. I’m too much of a fan, that’s my damn problem.
The key to this is that the sheer depth of my respect for this 2005 team makes me even forgive the stupidity of Michael Vaughan and his flip-flopping, and yes, to a degree, Andrew Strauss and his trust issues. It makes me forgive Andrew Flintoff’s descent into reality TV hell. I will never forget what that team gave me and my dad. It’s personal. That’s what sport is.
So to this series, and how I think it will go. TLG has done a brilliant piece, and please, if you’ve not read “The Gathering Storm” (I do think we do great titles, in the main) then do so. I’ve tried to think on logical grounds, and whereas six months ago I’d have said this was a beating waiting to happen, now I’m not so sure. Why? Well, I’m not as convinced by Australia as I was six months ago, and that may sound strange given the World Cup and the beating they gave the West Indies that we couldn’t. It’s not even the over-hyped nonsense about a new positive attitude coming out of the ODI series. It’s not even logical, but stick with me people:
- I don’t like this Australian team’s age if I were an Aussie. I’ve been there too many times before where a team gambles on people coming back from injury or for one last hurrah. So in the Aussie team they’ve lost Harris, they have Rogers coming back from a concussion and already announcing his retirement; they have Brad Haddin who looks out of his depth in the test batting arena recently and, of course, we have Michael Clarke’s rickety back.
- They haven’t won here for 14 years. That counts for something.
- We both beat India at home by two test matches, but India looked stronger the more the series went on, and Australia’s much vaunted bowling attack had fits with an Indian batting team that we were rolling over at the end of last Summer.
- The linchpin is Steve Smith. If that falls apart, their batting could be a mess. The fact is he’s due to be a weaker link. Actually, that’s not a fact, that’s a hope!
- Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle have never done it consistently over here. Nathan Lyon is a good bowler, but he’s got scars.
Yeah, wishful thinking, and then I get to the point when I have to think about our team:
- We need Cook to have a good series. He’s had four below-par series and one amazing one. The bowling attack in that 2010-11 will go into history. There are no Doug Bollingers, Michael Beers, Xavier Dohertys bowling here.
- As metatone said, Adam Lyth is a really important player. Root and Carberry did not pull up any trees (bar one 180) as Cook’s opening partner, and Cook couldn’t carry the weight. It’s vital he does.
- Gary Ballance worries the heck out of me at 3. Even when he was scoring runs there last year and this spring, I had doubts. I do hope he plays well, I really do. I just don’t believe he will. Please, please prove me wrong GB.
- Ian Bell. The enigma. Which Ian Bell is going to turn up?
- Joe Root – there is that gnawing thought that he’s had struggles in both his Ashes series, and that he’s feathered a nice record against some of the more friendly attacks. It’s there, at the back of my mind. I’m hoping it stays there.
- Ben Stokes – a goat last year, top dog this year. He’ll have a series in between that. It took Freddie a while to get consistent, and Flintoff was a much better bowler.
- Jos Buttler – I have no fear for this guy, but still he needs to do it in the Ashes and again in South Africa. A century would be lovely.
- Moeen Ali – No need to go over this again.
- Mark Wood, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad – Hope over expectation!
I still think we will probably lose, but I’m not as sure about it as I thought I was.
Now, tomorrow, I won’t be around much. There will be alcohol. There will be a reasonably late night. I think TLG is also incredibly busy at the moment. We’ll do our best to put an Ashes preview, but if one of you would like to do it for us to kick off the 1st Test thread, we’d be delighted to have it. Drop me an e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org……