I’ll hold my hands up. I certainly wasn’t expecting England to have had the Ashes sewn up before the fifth Test.
But from what I’ve seen I think this series marks the start of a new era for Test cricket in this country, one that can see us return to the very top of the game once again.
We’ve had a new head coach come in who I think has done fantastically well. We’ve got a group of players who are not that old, and can stick together for the next three or four years. Yes, you might lose James Anderson a little bit further down the line, but the nucleus of the side can stay together for a long time.
That being said, I think for England to challenge for that number one in the world spot, England need to find a world class spinner.
That’s no disrespect to Moeen Ali but it’s all about finding a good balance in attack.
You look at the seamers and you’ve got the different approaches, you’ve got the swing bowling from James Anderson, you’ve got the height of Finn, you’ve got Broad who when he hits his straps we’ve seen how dangerous he is.
And then you’ve got the likes of Wood and Stokes. Stokes was amazing in the second innings at Trent Bridge, that will give him a lot of confidence going forward.
They’ve got the seamers covered, they just need to find a little bit more in the spin department.
In Alastair Cook we have a man that can continue the good times as skipper. The way you build team spirit is by winning. So if he can lead his side to a 4-1 series victory here and then go to the UAE for the series against Pakistan and do well there, the only way is up.
Now that he has won the Ashes, Cook himself could see this as the perfect opportunity to say “I’ve shown you what I can do, I’ll finish on a high”, but I don’t think that is going to happen.
He wants to carry on and unless Peter Bayliss comes out and says “we don’t want you as captain anymore”, and I don’t think that is the case, I think Alastair Cook can continue a captain as long as he wants.
Stoke(s) up the fire for some punting value
Going into the fifth and final Ashes Test, Cook can probably rely on the man set to replace him to lead the way with the runs.
In truth it is very difficult to look any further than Joe Root in Ladbrokes’ Top England Batsman market, but with my tips going well so far, I’m seeking out a bit of value.
Ben Stokes is a man who is certainly due some runs in this series.
On a flat pitch, the left hander could be a big price to out-score his team-mates at 9/1. I feel Nathan Lyon will be key to the Australian attack, and with Stokes a fine player of spin bowlers, he could rack up a decent score.
He, and Root, could be set for a big part to play if England are to win four Tests in an Ashes series for the first time, and make sure Michael Clarke doesnt bow out of Test cricket with a victory.
Aussies haven’t coped with English conditions
I’ve been surprised at how well we have played but the bigger shock has been how poorly the Australian batsmen have coped with the swinging and moving ball, that being summed up when they were bowled out for 70 in the first innings at Trent Bridge.
Australia won’t want to roll over and die though. In Michael Clarke’s last Test they will want to bid their skipper farewell with a victory.
They’ve still got the firepower to take 20 wickets, but they just need to show that they can get a run or two. If they can start scoring better then they will be very dangerous.
It’s been clear to all that the things the Baggy Greens are lacking are runs.
You can analyse the heck out of a game, and look for where they went wrong and where they lost it and everything else, but they’ve lost it because they haven’t scored enough runs.
They haven’t had the batsmen to construct an innings. We’ve seen some big shots played and we’ve seen some very poor shots, but apart from Chris Rogers we haven’t seen anybody hanging around and say “right, we’re going to guts it out”.
When you talk about playing in English conditions and its swinging about and seaming then the bowlers are allowed to be on top.
It’s then up to you as a batsman to play within yourself and say “right, I’m going to put the bad balls away but I’m going to keep out the good ones” and not try too hard to make something happen.
Then when the bowler gets tired and the ball stops swinging then it gets easier and it gets softer, that’s the time to go on and try to score some runs. And apart from Buck Rogers, we haven’t seen the Australian batsmen do that.
For me their biggest problem with the bat is their inability to cope with the conditions.
With the ball swinging around, and England putting them under pressure, they simply haven’t delivered.
They’ve even talked about using Dukes balls in shield cricket to prepare the Australian batsmen for the next Ashes series.
But I think it’s more about having the personnel to deliver. When you look back at the glory days for Australia, when players like Stuart Law and Darren Lehmann couldn’t even get into the side with all the great batsman they had, it shows that times and situations can change very quickly.
Sometimes you might have a gluttony of good bowlers and no batsmen, and then you could have a gluttony of batsmen and no bowler, occasionally you get both. At the moment it seems to be the case that they to have the bowlers but not the batters.
Matthew Hoggard was hired from the Champions After Dinner Speakers Agency.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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