But All We Realise The Show Ain’t Nothing – Dmitri on the 2019 Ashes

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Lest we forget – Steve Smith brings up his double ton at Lord’s in 2015

The title is another Public Enemy lyric, from one of their first songs. As they said in the same song,

“Didn’t holler at the dollar we willin’ to spend, But you took one look and wouldn’t let our ass in”

Which sort of sums up the aftermath of the World Cup, the look at the potential support out there, the entitlement of some subscription players who think sharing what they see with their own eyes is something just for those with money, and not for those that can’t or won’t pay. As if access to sport is dependent on whether you earn enough, rather than broaden horizons. So this year those people paying have the premium pricing of England at a global tournament, and the £100 per day bonanza of Ashes cricket.

We are now a matter of three days away from the latest incarnation of the most storied series in cricket. The Ashes. Running for over a century and a quarter, a bellwether for the state of the game in each nation, a proxy for the wellbeing of the sport and the nation. an anchor point on the cricket calendar, the Ashes have always been the series that the people want to see. That’s in terms of demand for tickets, value of TV contracts, public recognition and where heroes are defined. Ian Botham’s record against Australia, certainly in the early 80s is more important to many than his performances against the mightiest of foes in that era, the West Indies.

This, however, feels really really different. Whether this is because the series is now in the position of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” of the World Cup Final just a couple of weeks ago, I really don’t know, but if the players feel anything like me as a cricket supporter, England are in dead trouble. I don’t know how you top the mountain in that way, and then have to go back and raise yourselves for your marquee series straight after. It was once said that we gave ourselves no chance in the World Cup because it followed the Ashes (while this never stopped Australia), but to me it feels the other way around. I can’t remember an Ashes series I’ve given less of a stuff about, and I can’t remember an Ashes series where I am looking at it and thinking…. am I ready for this?

I’ve felt like that about blogging since the final, too. If you don’t have the energy or the things to say, it’s going through the motions, and I’m not doing that. I couldn’t give a stuff about the event masquerading as a “test match” last week, except to marvel how 85 all out against a county standard attack at best could actually happen, whether the team was exhausted or not. And when Ireland made 38, I have to say the despair turned to anger.

Then there was the last series, where the media managed to make a 4-0 smashing sound like something to be cheerful about as we didn’t get whitewashed, and everyone’s folk hero made a double hundred in a dead rubber to prevent it. We were, basically, told not to care about it. We had not got Stokes, our opening position was shot, the bowling looked old and weak, the batting weak and devoid of hope. We even made 450 in one test, with two great centuries and it still felt we were going to get beat, and yet we were done by a 180 from Mitchell Marsh. This was all to be expected. The series was on BT Sport, so no-one really mattered, and certainly the ECB didn’t give a toss. They cared so much they flogged the team off to New Zealand, and Auckland happened. If we aren’t to care about 4-0 losses, why should we care at all. Nothing to see here. Move along.

This five test series commences on 1 August. It finishes a week before the autumnal equinox. Don’t worry, though, because the next Ashes in England will be in 2022*. Straight after the 2021/22 playing of the series in Australia. Hey, that back-to-back in 2013-14 went down so well, was so popular, so revered, we’re gonna do it again. Who seriously believed these imbeciles have the best interests of the game at heart? At least Qatar have moved the 2022 World Cup to the winter for us.

[*Note – Nonoxcol has pointed out in the comments that the Ashes appear to be in 2023. Some of the articles do state that, and that would be much better. Instead we play 10 tests on the bounce against India.]

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The Ashes Panel

OK, enough of that. The Bogfather has asked me to constitute an Ashes Panel. What is that, some may ask. Well it is this..

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/category/ashes-panel/

We ran these during previous series and they seemed to work well. As usual we will need some willing volunteers. It will entail answering a number of questions and putting your views on the series to us. I won’t be able to get one  up in time for the first test, but will be looking to do one after this test concludes. It takes a half hour of your time, and we do the rest.

Given we won’t be able to organise a panel in advance, in the interests of interactivity, and because it will stop me doing all the work (along with the team), here are five questions you can answer in the comments – and in there, you can also volunteer to be one of our panelists. Come on. It’s fun.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much are you looking forward to this Ashes series, and why?
  2. England’s chronic weakness appears to be the top order. Come September, who do you think will be England’s 1-2-3?
  3. Australia come into this series, in my view, underestimated. They look massive favourites to me even though they haven’t won a series in England since 2001. Am I right to think that way?
  4. What do you think the final score will be, and who will be man of the series?
  5. How many centuries do you think England will make in the entire Ashes?

So much to discuss since the World Cup Final, and yet so little time to really breathe. The Ashes should be the pinnacle of the game, but to me they feel like a hastily arranged tribute act to the main event. It never looked right having the Ashes follow a home World Cup and it still doesn’t. That this is followed by three test series in rapid succession this winter, as well as an increase in T20 internationals to prepare for the next incarnation of that World Cup.

What I Think…

This series kicks off at Edgbaston on Thursday with an interesting weather forecast, and a lot of hope pinned on this being England’s venue of choice. England’s batting is going to be the key point of focus the whole series, because it looks exceptionally fragile. The potential line-up looks like Roy, Burns, Denly, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, Woakes, Anderson and Broad. Archer looks a long shot, unless Denly is not the number three and Root is, and there are copious mentions of that in the media. Others on social media are mentioning Stokes up to three as well. It’s an utter mess, and of our own devices. The biggest surprise is that Vince hasn’t been mentioned.

The openers look like an accident waiting to happen. We’ve waited until Burns is out of form to blood him, and now we’ll likely do the same with Dominic Sibley. I don’t care what others think, but Jason Roy is not an opener, and this selection falls into magic beans territory. Joe Denly is not test class, and appears to be an accidental international cricketer. Joe Root should bat three, but won’t. I mentioned this to my brother yesterday, but imagine KP insisting on batting at his favourite position rather than that which could serve the team better, and see how understanding the press and pundits would be. Then we have four number sixes rounding at 5,6,7 and 8, and a number 7 at number 9. The team looks confused. A confused team has excuses. A team with excuses, usually loses.

Meanwhile Australia have their own conundrum, but seem to be figuring it out. The three that “shamed a nation” will be reinstated, so Warner and Bancroft are likely to open, Khawaja at three if he recovers from injury, Smith at four, maybe Travis Head at five, Wade/Marsh or Labuschagne at six, with Paine at seven, then Cummins, Pattinson, Starc, Hazlewood (3 out of 4, and with Siddle, 3 out of 5) and Nathan Lyon. There are options in many slots. The batting has strong players with a fragile underbelly, and the bowling looks strong and will be effective in England. That Burns and Patterson were not included having scored centuries in their last test innings, speaks volumes.

We will probably do some more stuff in the next few days, but that’s enough to be getting on with. Please do answer the questions, please do volunteer for the panel – have a look at the last series to see what it entails – and no doubt, by Thursday, we’ll be up for it and looking at another frenetic home Ashes series.

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We’ve had better days, and better decisions at the toss…

By the way – my answers:

  1. 3 – An Ashes summer was that. A summer that had the Ashes and no real rival. Now it’s crammed in to a short space at the arse end of the summer, after the World Cup. There is only so much emotional energy to give.
  2. Sibley (having played no real first class cricket regularly since beginning of July) and Roy. Burns to have been jettisoned. At three? Pick someone out of the hat. Malan?
  3. Of course I am. They have two of the best three batsman in the contest, their bowling looks to have depth, and pace, and the only weakness appears to be the middle order. In a composite test side at the outset, how many England players would you pick? Root? Stokes? Bairstow? Anderson if fit?
  4. I think Australia avoid losing at Edgbaston and it is goodnight. I am tempted to say 4-1, but I think I am over-estimating Australia’s batting in England, and under-estimating England’s bowling. Let’s say 3-1 to Australia and a rain-affected draw. No way will any of these matches be drawn unless weather wipes out large swathes of play.
  5. Two. Joe Root might play into one, and Stokes could do so too. But if they could collapse in heaps against Ireland, I fear for them against Australia.

Much more to come, so stick with us during the series. We don’t let you down!

Oh, I almost forgot. This is part of the World Test Championship. You didn’t know? I didn’t.