Ashes to Ashes – The Ashes Panel – 1st Test, Part 1

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Just A Little Piece Of History Repeating?

In the build up to the Ashes I sought participants for the Ashes Panel. When we did this in 2015 we had a good number of respondents, keen to answer a set of questions on the upcoming series. 2015 is a lot different to 2017. The petrol of anger we felt on here isn’t there, so much. The temperature surrounding the series isn’t there, it just isn’t. You can see it in the posts, the responses, the build up. Pietersen is in the rear view mirror. We’ve got to accept the Cook we have because there is no-one better in England. We have the media we have. But what I love about the blog is that this has always been a participatory experience. We like to hear from you, but wonder if you’ve got the time and inclination.

I was pleasantly surprised after the post yesterday to receive answers from people who didn’t indicate they wanted to play a role. So now I have too many responses (I usually want 5). We have 6 from commenters and one from one of our writers. For that reason I am doing this in two parts. Questions 1,2 and 3 today and 4,5 and 6 tomorrow. I would also like to hear from those who didn’t comment Above The Line in the area reserved for you.

Chris, Danny, Sean and I will do our best to keep up with the events of the Ashes. This is the first time we’ve had the Ashes overseas on the blog and so we know how big an event it can be, and how it can involve us all. What we want to be is honest, direct and interesting. That’s what we’ll give to you – and I think you might well give it back.

So, without further ado, let’s get some of the questions up. Our respondents are:

  • Man in a Barrel (MiaB)
  • TheBogfather (with no spaces)
  • Ian
  • Danny – our scribe, co-editor and all round top contributor
  • Sri Grins – from a neutral perspective
  • Silk
  • Scrim – our Australian exiled in Scandinavia


Question 1 – Australia have thrown a surprise with dropping Renshaw, bringing in Paine and recalling Shaun Marsh. From an England perspective does that make you more hopeful / or if Australian make you more pessimistic?

Scrim – More pessimistic, definitely. It gives the feeling that whatever plans were in place have fallen apart. I do sympathise with the selectors. There is very little batting or wicketkeeping depth in Australian cricket at this moment.

The glass half full perspective is that SMarsh at 6 can’t do much worse than every other number 6 since Mike Hussey retired 5 years ago, and Paine is a good keeper who can’t contribute any less than Nevill or Wade with the bat. Australia has managed some pretty good results while getting next to nothing out of 6 & 7 for quite a while.

MiaB – Dropping Renshaw is an odd thing to do.  Wade was not doing so well either as keeper or batsman so if there is wicket-keeping expertise on the Aussie selection panel, then it seems fair enough to me to bring Paine in.  A bit of a risk but a reasonable one.  Bringing back Marsh is frankly deranged.  I cannot understand why they have dropped Maxwell.  However, given that Khawaja is potentially in the mix, with a great record against an English-style attack on home soil (no turf available down-under) the Aussie team is probably a little stronger as a result.

Ian – About the same to be honest, Renshaw averages 36 as does Marsh but over a longer period but Marsh has never nailed down a spot so not much difference here.  The keeping was a question mark for Australia whether they went for Wade, Paine or anyone else so again I don’t see much difference to the outcome here.

Silk – Far more hopeful.Marsh has never been good enough, and Paine isn’t even considered first choice keeper by his State side. Baffling.

Sri – No change. I think the selections are not too way off. Unlikely that other wicketkeepers would have one significantly better. Shaun Marsh is not too bad a call either. He tends to make runs in 1/2 tests before he starts failing.

Danny – Yes. More so with Marsh and Paine’s inclusion than Renshaw being dropped, although having an Australian opener born in Middlesborough would have been fun. I think at least once or twice in the series that England will manage to break through Australia’s top order, and I can’t see Marsh and Paine successfully fighting back the way England’s lower orders have done so often.

And…TheBogfather, in true form, in poems…

I suspect Paine may become a middle order pain
Marsh no more than bog-standard once again
Not sure by dropping Renshaw that they’ll ensure any gain
But still think the Ashes, Australia will regain.


Question Two – England’s batting line-up have done OK in their warm ups, but are you at all reassured / convinced that they have it in them to post the large scores?

Danny – Not really. The conditions in the warmup games were particularly conducive to batting, and the bowlers very inexperienced. Obviously it’s better that they played well, and there is an argument that Australian conditions with little seam or swing might help them, but I find it hard to believe in a batting line-up where three of the top five have sub-40 career first class averages.

Silk – They’ve done well enough to convince me that scores of around 300 are not beyond them. In a normal Ashes in Australia (think 2006/07) totals of that kind are nowhere near enough. But this Aussie line-up looks brittle as hell. I am not sure we will need many to win 3 tests.

Sri – Yes. I feel quite confident that they will post scores in excess of 350-400 (10 innings 7/8, 9 innings 6/7, 8 innings 6, 7 innings 5/6, 6 innings 4/5)

MiaB – To post big scores, Root has to be on top form, Cook and Bairstow have to recover some form and Ali has to knuckle down a bit.  They might do it once or twice but it is hard to see them doing it consistently.  Stoneman and Malan actually look as if they might be able to make it – Malan looked particularly encouraging.  Whether they can do it against the extra pace of the Aussie attack is another matter.  In other words, I don’t see this English team doing the steam-roller that Strauss’s team did.  They will be more akin to Nasser’s team in 2002-3.

Ian – I think we can get the large scores sometimes but think we might still be 40-3 far too often for my liking so as usual if England post a decent score it will be because of a late middle order effort rather than from a solid start at the top.

Scrim – I am somewhat convinced. I’m sure Stoneman, Vince and Malan have taken some confidence out of the games. Any batting line up with Root only needs one or two others to stick around a while to build a competitive score.

However apart from 10 or so overs from Nathan Coulter-Nile, they haven’t faced anyone genuinely fast, and they haven’t batted on a pitch as fast as the Gabba or the WACA will be. If the Australian fast bowlers are on song, it probably doesn’t matter what kind of confidence the English rookies have built up to now. 

Take it away TBog

I think we can be assured
We’ll be consistently 50-3 on the board
Our top order undernourished in class
A tall order for our mid-order to 500 pass
And if Root has a poor series (he’s due…)
Then 300 may be the best we can do
Then with scoreboard pressure, 2nd innings
I don’t see us in a position to be winning…


Question Three – How do you think the respective bowling units will go? Is this Anderson’s redemption tour? Can Starc lead the line? Who is the surprise package?

Sri – Starc will do well. Anderson will be average. Not too bad a tour but unlikely to have an excellent tour.

Moeen Ali [as the surprise package].

Silk – Completely impossible to tell. There’s simply not enough info. to go on, particularly given the recent injuries suffered by the Aussies, and the massive inexperience of half of the English attack.

If fit, the Aussies have as good as an attack as they’ve ever had (albeit with only 4 men – 4 being usually enough for them). But impossible to say how Hazelwood will go, and whether Starc and Cummins can last a series. And, indeed, what fresh idiocy Hohns and co have up their sleeves? Chadd Sayers in Adelaide?  Barking. Jhye Richardson would worry me. Not Sayers.

For England, I expect Broad to do well, Anderson to do not so well (but still average in the low-30s), Moeen to go very badly, Crane not to play (unless we’ve lost the series by Sydney) and then …. what?

Woakes, for me, is the crux of the entire series, bat and ball. His batting could well be the difference between 250 a/o and 370 a/o. He’s got scores in him, and can bat with Bairstow or Root to get us to big totals. But he’s never batted in Tests in Aus, so no idea whether he can translate form from other tournaments into the Ashes.

Bowling I rate him similarly the Massie and Alderman. Unplayable in England. Cannon-fodder elsewhere. But his pace is certainly up on what it was earlier in his career. If he bowls well, I think England will win the series. Perhaps comfortably. If he bowls as he’s done on previous tours … England are in trouble.

I don’t rate Ball. Coverton will go alright, if given the chance.

Scrim – Australians have been dreaming of this bowling lineup for a long time, and it’s great to see it finally coming together just in time for a home Ashes. Even if Starc can’t do a Johnson, Hazlewood is world class, and the glimpses of Cummins that we have got are so exciting, even on slow subcontinent pitches. Throw in Lyon coming off great tours of India & Bangladesh and you’ve got a well balanced attack. Even if there are injuries, I’d love to see Chadd Sayers play under lights in Adelaide, Jackson Bird always plays well, Jason Behrendorff is finally fit and is a test-ready player, and Peter Siddle at 8th or 9th choice is still bowling well and always brings out his best vs England. Woakes’ comment that Australia lacks bowling depth was either ignorant or daft.

From an England point of view, I feel like Woakes will be important. When he played that dead rubber test in 2013 he looked like a bits and pieces all-rounder. When I saw him again in the 2016 English summer he looked like a real bowler. He’s started his tour well and might surprise Australian fans. Broad’s form might be a bit concerning for England. Anderson will find conditions will suit him in Adelaide, but apart from that he is unlikely to get the assistance he needs to thrive.

Ian – Australia will take 20 wickets more often than England as they will get more opportunity to do so,  Starc will go well as there is weaknesses in the top order to exploit and I think he can gain plenty of cheap wickets against the tail.  Anderson will go ok in that I think he will do better than 06/07 and 13/14  but I don’t see him having a redemption tour.  I’m not sure about being a surprise but I think Moeen will go well as he will be attacked and away from the subcontinent thats probably the best thing for him.

MiaB – I strongly suspect that Broad will not last the full series.  Beyond Broad and Anderson, the English attack does not pose much of a threat in Aussie conditions.  If Ashwin did not manage to contain Australia in Australia then it is hard to see a less accurate bowler such as Moeen playing the containing role.  Which means that Anderson will have to do his full share of the overs as a stock bowler.  I imagine that Anderson will do well in the day/night match but gradually lose potency over the series. This is where Stokes will be missed – he has that element of threat that eludes Woakes.  If Starc stays fit and gets his line right against Cook, he could get 30 wickets.  I want to see Cummins in action.

Danny – I think England’s batsmen will make the Aussie bowlers look like superstars. As for England’s bowlers, I don’t think any of them will do particularly badly. I expect them to average 25-40, with maybe the 4th bowler (Ball/Overton/Whoever) to go for a bit more.
Anderson will do okay, I think, but I doubt he’ll be anywhere near as effective as he has been at home. He averaged 14.10 this summer but with a Kookaburra ball on Australian pitches I think he’ll be more of a containing bowler who relies on batsmen getting themselves out, particularly with an older ball. Starc I suspect is being overhyped, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh Hazlewood actually took more wickets. Which isn’t to say that Starc isn’t very good, just that I don’t think he’ll cut through England like a hot knife through butter. At least, I hope not.
As for the surprise package, I think there’s a chance Stokes might play in the last two or three games of the series. The press seem to think he might not be charged, in which case I reckon England will fly him over and after a token suspension  of 2-3 games (like Warner in 2013), he’ll be back in the side.

Boggy finishes off the first instalment of this Ashes Panel…

I expect bowling to hold the key
As much from a survival of the fittest view
If Starc and co remain in full flow
Then sufficient runs we’ll fail to accrue
England will have magic spells or bowling dry hell
Our samey seam strategy may gift a run spree
Our back-up bowlers may get cricked necks as well
As Smith’s eyes light up with glee…

Part Two will follow tomorrow. My thanks to the participants who put great effort into responding and producing some food for thought. We might even have a go at the questions ourselves, following Danny.

We’d be interested what you want to see from us during the series. We will endeavour to carry out the usual match reports, and also we’ll try our hand at a live blog on certain days / sessions. This will commence with the first day of the series (I have the day off for Thanksgiving the day after). There’s always something about the first day of the Ashes. Been there for two – Days 1 at Brisbane 2002 and Lord’s in 2005. Both memorable, both ending with England on the wrong end.

Enjoy, let us know your thoughts and suggestions. And we’ll do our best despite all our challenging schedules!