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The Ashes 2013: The Australians are in for a hard time this summer

Michael Clarke’s men will start as clear underdogs

Were they able to, the Australians would probably have delayed the start of what will be back-to-back Ashes contests until a more opportune time.

With all the troubles swirling around them, the men from Down Under are simply not in the best position to mount a serious challenge to an England team near the top of their Test game — especially in home conditions. In recent years only the mighty South Africans, with one of the best bowling units in years, have managed to lord it over them on their own battlefield.

Beset by problems on all sides, it is unlikely that Michael Clarke and his men will be fit, focused and sharp when they turn up at Nottingham on July 10th. “Homeworkgate,” the firing of coach Mickey Arthur, an unbecoming twitter rant and a bar brawl involving David Warner, the troublesome back of captain Michael Clarke and a myriad of selection problems, means they will begin on the back foot for such a monumental challenge.

Even if they were at their best, the task would have been difficult. As things now stand, Australia’s mission can be likened to a band of stragglers setting out to capture a well-guarded palace surrounded by a crocodile infested mote.

How Australia’s batting contends with the highly skilled England bowling attack should be the main determining factor of this much awaited encounter. The visitors’ batting line-up has lacked the steely resolve following the departure of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.

Michael Clarke is the lone batting great among them and has been carrying much of the load. He will need the rest of the batting to make contributions in a way that they didn’t in the recent series against India: in eight tries, only once did they go past 400 and fell below 250 five times with Clarke being the heaviest scorer despite missing the last Test.

Having said that, it is unlikely the Australian batting will be as easily cast aside as they were in their last Test outing. But if they hope to press the hosts, they will need to consistently put up high scores against a side containing quite a number of voracious batsmen.

The tourists will arrive at Trent Bridge with a freshly minted opening pair. New coach Darren Lehman has already indicated that David Warner, though available for selection after his bar-fight suspension, and Ed Cowans, having failed to make the opening positions their own, will forfeit them to Shane Watson and Chris Rogers.

Scorer of 60 first class hundreds and averaging over 50 in a career stretching back to 1998, the 35-year-old left-hander might have been unlucky to have only a single Test to his name. His experience in English conditions, playing for a number of counties, would have counted in his favour, yet the fact they have turned to him at this stage indicates concern for the frailty of the batting in general and the Cowans/Warner union in particular.

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