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Ashes down under - 5 players in focus

ANALYST
Modified 22 Nov 2013, 09:25 IST
Top 5 / Top 10
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The Ashes finally resumes after the three month long break. It was England all the way when the teams faced each other in their home country. Now they are the visitors and Australia, though a weaker opponent on paper, will be looking to utilise their home advantage to the fullest to get a result in their favour.

There has been quite a lot of speculation about what the Ashes will have in store for us this time, ranging from team strategies and tactics to interesting player vs player duels to the names that will be in focus in this particular series. Here are 5 names that will most probably leave their mark on the series.

5. Mitchell Johnson

He is currently Australia’s best bowling option considering that James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc are not fully fit. He is one of the very few (perhaps the only one this series) who can bowl consistently over 90 mph, and is no novice with the bat, and does contribute useful runs often. Since he has home advantage, he can prove to be destructive for any batting line-up on his day. Same goes for the opposition England, who will definitely have chalked out a plan on how to face the spearhead of the Australian bowling attack.

The left-armer has played only two test matches this year, and has a total of just 3 wickets from them. But he did have an impressive ODI series in India where he picked 7 wickets in the 5 matches played, and was also instrumental in the victory of Mumbai Indians (24 wickets in 17 games) that won the IPL this year. Thus, a lot will be decided on how he performs since he is the face of the Australian bowling on this tour. He will share the new ball with Peter Siddle and both will have to figure out a way to dismantle the English batting as they play their first Test at Brisbane, a venue that Australia haven’t lost at for 25 years.

4. Michael Carberry

Michael Carberry celebrates his hundred

He will open the English batting along with skipper Alastair Cook. He will be playing his second international Test as England take on Australia at the Gabba. He has been impressive in the warm-up matches with close to 300 runs in the 4 innings that he played, which includes 2 fifties and a century (153). He has loads of first-class experience to speak of, with 149 matches and more than 10,000 runs under his belt, in which he has 78 scores of more than 50, 29 of which are more than hundred scores. He has a healthy average of 43.94.

He will be key to England’s batting as he will look to partner his skipper to give England a good start. He just has to handle the pressure well and play his natural game, and not worry about getting out, since England have an impressive middle order with big names like Pietersen, Trott, Bell and Root that will make sure an early upset, if any, does not affect their scoring.

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3. Michael Clarke

The Aussie skipper will be under the highest level of scrutiny and attention of all Australian players as he leads his team to try and salvage some pride as they take on the English. He is the key batsman that the Aussies have, and his role will be very crucial if they are to get some decent scores in this series. He will have to hold up one end and try and string together partnerships with the other batsmen in the line-up, without which it is going to be very difficult for them to get good totals to compete with England, who have a dangerous line-up to boast of this time around.

He was in decent form against England in the ODI series played in September. He got a big hundred (187) and around five scores of 20-plus in the Ashes that took place in England earlier. He will have to perform several notches better than that to create any chance for Australia who go in as underdogs this series. He has the best Test batting average (52.08) of all players in this series, but it is another story that 4 English batsmen follow him closely with averages in the late forties, while the next best Australian comes nowhere close. Thus, Clarke will have to be the pivot of the batting, to allow the others to play around him.

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As regards to his captaincy, that is a responsibility as huge as being the major batsman in the side. He will have to try and reverse the 3-0 loss that his team underwent in England earlier this year, and he has a side weaker than the opposition that is marred by injury concerns. He will have to marshal his troops and along with coach Lehmann, work on how the English can be humbled in this tour down under. He will have the home conditions and home crowd to help him.

2. James Anderson

It is very obvious that his name is here, with the kind of Ashes he had back home. The veteran right-arm swinger will look to repeat his performance here, but it is going to be tougher here than on the English pitches. Back home he had swinging pitches and familiar conditions that helped his cause, here down under he will have to face different conditions and at times, surfaces that will favour batting.

He is the only player in both teams who has more than 300 wickets to his name, and thus the most experienced in the bowling department. The Aussies will certainly be weary of him from the onset as his onslaught back home will certainly play on their minds. The English will use him to the fullest to utilise the psychological advantage, if nothing else. His 22 wickets in the series that was 5 matches long really set the tone for England’s emphatic 3-0 win over Australia. His performance at Nottingham was the killer, in which he had bowling figures of 5/85 and 5/73, a total of 10 wickets In the Test match. He also took 24 wickets last time the Ashes took place here.

He will partner with Stuart Broad and the others to open the bowling for England, and he will definitely look to upset the Australians with some early breakthroughs and also some late-reverse swing that he is so good at making the most of.

1. Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen speaks to the media

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He plays his 100th Test as the test series kicks off. He has the stage, he has the opportunity. No matter how his recent form has been, no matter what opposition it is, this player needs just that one knock to restore his confidence and get going for the next many matches to follow. He did get a hundred and 3 fifties in the Ashes concluded in August, but it is certain he will be hungry for much more. He loves playing in Australia as well as playing in Australia. He has the highest share of his runs against Australia – an impressive tally of 1864 runs in 23 games. He averages 56.66 in Test matches played in Australia, and has the most number of runs (850) here, of all overseas countries he has played in.

He will need no invitation to go after the bowling, as he will try to do it unless the team strategy is otherwise or the situation demands slow scoring. Once he gets his eye in, he can really make the opposition repent as he has the potential to turn the direction of the game single-handedly. He is one of those players who are capable enough of winning a game for their side all by themselves. He will have the assistance of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell who can do the role of holding one end up and giving him strike while he goes about doing the damage. Not that they are heavily dependent on him, but England will surely look for his heroics as they take on arch rivals at their home. We can expect something to remember from his side this series.

Published 22 Nov 2013, 09:25 IST
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