Despite the best efforts of administrators around the world and their relentless hungering for a larger slice of the T20 pie, the Ashes remains the most important thing to ever happen in cricket,
at least until the day that Elysee Perry’s phone gets hacked. While this site was formed on the back of the gin-related euphoria of England’s remarkable win Down Under in 2010/11, things have never been anywhere near as exciting since. Since then we’ve had to endure the double Ashes overload of 2013/14, followed by the distinctly unspectacular 2015 series, in which us giving away a hat was probably the highlight.
They say that if you’re tired of Ashes cricket then you’re tired of life. Or if they don’t, they probably should. And we are so, so tired. And yet, we somehow managed to cobble together those members of the 51allout writing team who actually still give a shit to answer a few questions and make a few predictions before the 2017 vintage shakes its stuff, the old band getting back together to play their greatest hits once more to an increasingly disinterested middle-class crowd drunk on nostalgia and over-priced sparkling white wine.
Nichael Bluth: Even though the opening couple of paragraphs might suggest otherwise, I am looking forward to this series. Although some of that is down to the fact that I’m on holiday in a non-cricketing country for the first two matches and will, therefore, miss England’s opening pair of embarrassing defeats. After that it’s off to the WACA for one final time, where I plan to kick the shit out of the slushy machine, a beating even more justified than that dished out by vigilante hero Ben Stokes. And then I can concentrate on watching the Big Bash.
Aussie Matt: As with every Ashes, I am most looking forward to the hand-wringing over “Ugly Aussies”. We’ve already had a taster when Warner promised to unleash a pogrom against the English camp, or words to that effect, but that was hopefully just the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to the media frenzy reaching such a crescendo that by the end of the series it will be unanimously declared that sledging Aussies are a bigger danger to the welfare of our children than handguns, polio, global warming and Rolf Harris. Combined.
That and another summer of “Nice Garry”.
English Matt: Not really, no. Ever since the squad was announced, I have had a feeling of over-familiarity. The structure of an Ashes, particularly the build-up always seems the same. However, I then realised that there are a new bunch of Aussies to dislike, young English bowlers to be frustrated with and the attraction of a day/night Test that will at least be a departure from the usual pattern of matches.
NB: I think they’re mainly going to be relying on Australia’s quicks to all collapse in a heap, something which is far from impossible, especially given they’re at least three down before we’ve even started. It’s that and hoping that the Australian tendency to fall apart with the bat reappears at the most convenient time, perhaps driven by middle order powerhouses Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine. Basically, it just needs a couple of those match-turning spells that Stuart Broad occasionally delivers, plus some sort of gumption with the bat from the likes of James Vince, Dawad Malan and Gary Ballance. Which, now I think about it, is asking quite a lot.
Realistically, the day/night Test in Adelaide is almost certainly going to see England get blown away by Mitchell Starc but it still might represent the best shot of winning any of the first three matches; conditions at the Gabba and the WACA are both massively in the home side’s favour. So if they can at least get through those three matches only 2-1 down, then there could still be a chance going into the Boxing Day Test.
EM: The stars need to align really: Alastair Cook to be immovable, Joe Root to continue (or improve) his run of form, Moeen Ali to continue to be a game-changing player and Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson to get wickets cheaply. In other news, the pope remains Catholic.
AM: I think the pitches could play into their hands if the groundsmen are overly cute in their preparation. Traditional fast bouncy pitches will see England fall apart quicker than Kevin Spacey’s career, but last year both the Gabba and the WACA were roads, whilst the Day/Night Test is a coin toss.
So there is a chance they could be in the mix heading into Boxing Day, but they will need absolutely everything to go their way. Not just the toss, but injuries and the conditions all need to perfectly align for them to have a hope.
The Australian selectors turning into dribbling idiots is certainly a good start.
NB: I don’t know about the eastern states, but in Western Australia, our roads don’t generally contain cracks large enough to swallow James Taylor whole.
NB: Is it fair to say that Devereux’s actually gone a bit off the boil in the past few months? His average has dropped below 60, for a start. Having said that, even Don Khawaja scores stacks of runs in Australia and he is genuinely garbage, so Devereux should be fine.
AM: He is like Elysee Perry. Only prettier.
I also don’t think he’s gone off the boil. He was the best performing batsman in India (by far), and the pitches in Bangladesh were, well, shit. He is killing it once again in domestic cricket, so the glorious light of Devereux shines ever bright in my eyes.
EM: Devereux is so passe.
NB: I like to think that we’re about to begin the second great Devereux empire. I’m not entirely sure what I mean by that, but it definitely sounds cool.
EM: Seeing as last time I suggested that an England 4th XI would beat the Australians, I had better choose my words carefully. Australia 3-2, which will include at least one complete shellacking each.
NB: Australia are obviously going to win this series fairly comfortably. I was going to say 4-1, but that was before the Aussie selectors went nuts. So now, I’ll adjust that back to 3-1, with one draw.
The annoying thing about this series is that it’s like Anna Kendrick, in that you wouldn’t say it was completely out of reach if you met it at the bar of a nightclub one night. At least until the gin kicks in, you say something really stupid and the chance is gone forever.
AM: I’ll predict that England will win in Adelaide, with the series being 3-1 to Australia. Rain will ruin at least one Test. Unlike the Barmy Army, who will ruin every Test.
NB: Anything that at least tries to drown out the Channel Nine commentary team is okay with me.