Now that the dust has settled following the controversial ending to the recent Ashes series, it may be time to reflect on the team selection and potential outcomes for the forthcoming series starting in November between Australia and England. When the umpires declared that the light was sufficiently poor to prevent the last four overs being bowled in the fifth test, England were denied a likely 4-0 series win, but winning three test matches in Australia will be much more demanding and just retaining the Ashes may be an achievement.
It could be true to say that England were flattered by their 3-0 victory this summer with the first test being decided by only 14 runs and a third test being badly affected by rain with the Australians in command. The Aussies will rue their performances in the second test and in the final innings of the fourth test at Durham, but they can emerge with some positives.
Shane Watson and Steve Smith were two of the better performers with the bat alongside captain Michael Clarke while Ryan Harris bowling was another plus, although his fitness is subject to doubt. But, there was some inconsistency among the other bowlers who appeared raw and inexperienced at times.
The Australians need a bowler who can strike fear into the English batsman much like when Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Brett Lee and Dennis Lillee amongst others terrorised the opposition. Yet several of their bowlers are still young and will have benefited from the playing time this summer. Additionally, if Mitch Johnson can improve his strike rate, he could be a real threat to England should he be selected.
For England, there was the real bonus of three centuries from the much maligned Ian Bell in his contribution of 562 runs. However, there appears to be still some uncertainty as to who should play alongside Alistair Cook as opening batsman.
Joe Root was asked to play as no 2 throughout the series but may be a more accomplished batsman further down the order and should replace the under-performing and his Yorkshire team-mate Johnny Bairstow who has yet to really produce the goods at test level.
Nick Compton did not impress when he was selected prior to the Ashes but there may be a case for Warwickshire’s Varun Chopra being chosen. At 25 years old he opens the batting at county level and has been a regular run scorer throughout the summer.
In the bowling department, England need back-up for seam bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad but Tim Bresnan has surely earned his tour place with a decent test performance this summer, with Graham Onions having been unfortunate not to be selected for the first eleven.
With a small amount of tinkering to a settled squad, England will fly to Australia in optimistic mood, but they will find the Australian team that much more experienced and playing in front a passionate home crowd.
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