Matthew Hoggard: Forget Pietersen, this is a new era for England
The Ashes are nearly here, and I can’t wait, but one thing cricket fans need to remember is this is a new era for English cricket, the start of a positive summer of action at the crease, and that Kevin Pietersen is old news.
The media coverage surrounding my former team-mate reached tedium, and only now is it beginning to set in that our national side has moved on, and that can only be a good thing.
We started talking about him before the One Day series, but after we played the way we did, I’ve not heard his name mentioned once.
Trevor Bayliss has come in and set about delivering a few personnel changes and instilled a new ethos on the field that can only inspire the boys to go out there and play good, solid cricket.
The way that they performed on the pitch was lovely to see and if they can continue that, they have a real chance.
He keeps reiterating the words we heard from Paul Farbrace: “Go out and entertain the crowd. Go out and play your way”, and empowering the players to go out and deliver a positive brand of cricket.
Bayliss has previously spent time as coach of Big Bash outfit the Sydney Sixers, a side that contains the likes of Brad Haddin, Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc, but while there might be some advantage of ‘inside knowledge’, it won’t play a massive part on the field.
Yes, it is nice to be able to know what your opposition will be about but each Test match will have its different situations within.
Cricket is a very simple game that is made complicated by the people that play it. It doesn’t matter who you are playing against, play the situation, play the ball and you will come out somewhere near where you want to be, there is no need to over complicate and over analyse things.
Ladbrokes currently have England 7/2 shots with the Aussies long odds-on, and I think that lack of expectation could play into our hands somewhat.
It’s nice to be coming in as underdogs with no pressure. We’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. We are going to go out there with a smile on our face and entertain the crowds. In a two horse race, if you have a good day, you can take anyone on.
The opening fixture in Wales will tell us an awful lot and could set us up for a surprise fourth straight Ashes success on our own patch, but building solid foundations from the outset is vital.
The fact that only one side has lost the opener and gone on to win the Ashes in the last nine series says it all.
To use a boxing analogy, it’s the opening round. You’re jabbing, pulling the first punches and you’re seeing what the opposition has to offer.
England want to start positively and get everyone on side and say “look, we might have been patchy over the last couple of years, but we are now a force to be reckoned with and can go toe-to-toe with Australia.”
The way we start our innings will be key. Obviously Adam Lyth has only got a couple of Test matches under his belt, Alastair Cook has been a little bit hit-and-miss over the last few years and Ian Bell and Gary Ballance are under a lot of pressure as well, so I think the way that we start with the top four in our innings against a very good pace attack from Australia will be important.
Some outlets have been describing how the batting line-up of the Australians is on the downgrade and are ripe for an England assault on.
I don’t think the age of the batsmen is relevant. I think the form of batsmen and how many runs they are scoring is a lot more relevant.
Australia do have the armoury to score big. We’ve seen Chris Rogers score lots of runs in the past. Adam Voges is an old seasoned campaigner in England. Michael Clarke is one of the best batsmen around, as is Steve Smith, who is arguably the most in-form batsman in the world at the moment.
In fact I think Michael Clarke is a great bet to deliver in Cardiff for the Australians, because he’s the sort of character that’s going to want to lead from the front and score runs.
I think the pitch they will encounter is not going to produce a lot of seam movement and I can’t see our spin bowlers taking much effect.
Another topic that has been covered to death in the press in the build up is a discussion on the merits of sledging.
There is a place for it, and the Ashes is exactly the sort of stage that it can hold sway.
Obviously you want to play with a lot of passion. You want to find out any little edge that you can, and you want your sport to be played at the edge of the boundaries.
It’s the elite against the elite and any little thing that you can do to gain an advantage I like to see as long as it doesn’t cross the line.
England have a lot of characters on the pitch and I am sure they will come out as the series develops, in what could be an exciting summer for English cricket.
Matthew Hoggard was hired from the Champions After Dinner Speakers Agency.
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