It’s been thirty long months since the last Ashes series finished, a series in which Australia were utterly humiliated at home, beaten by an innings three times. In many ways it was their own fault – they picked Xavier Doherty, Michael Beer and Doug Bollinger at various points, for fuck’s sake – yet they’ve done little to restore public confidence in the interim, lurching from some reasonable performances at home to the nadir that was the utter shambles in India (bar the bits with Devereux in, obviously). Only in the last two weeks has anything good happened, with Mickey Arthur getting the boot, Darren Lehmann coming in and suddenly Australia’s batsmen being really good and not the useless shitgibbons of the last few years. But is that enough to turn an inevitable Ashes defeat into something far more spectacular?
Answer: probably not.
Debates about the makeup of this England side have been dull for as long as we can remember. Of the starting XI, ten pick themselves, with the last spot down to a Bresnan/Finn/Onions shootout. Normally England would like to pick Steven Finn – he’s needed to keep the handsome quotient up in the absence of Nick Compton for a start – but with the weather forecast to actually be hot and dry in Nottingham it may come down to who has a better mastery of reverse swing, which is Bresnan.
Onions has got no chance. We’re not sure why the England management constantly tease him with the prospect of selection before cruelly snatching it away. Maybe he’s really good at carrying drinks. Or maybe it’s part of some elaborate scheme to try and get Lily Allen to come to the cricket again so that Aggers can have another pop at her. It’s an image that doesn’t bear thinking about. And yet we can’t stop thinking about it – Aggers trembling as he attempts to undo his belt buckle, Lily looking on from her seat in the TMS box, biting her lip, silently egging him on with her eyes. The rustle of corduroy heading across the airwaves as Aggers’ trousers slide to the floor, revealing a once-perfectly pressed pair of y-fronts, now bulging with [And I think we’ll stop there, thank you very much – Editor Steve]
We’ve never been very good at predictions, but trying to work out what Australia are going to do with their team selection is a task far beyond us. Chris Rogers and Watto will open, Michael Clarke will be in there somewhere and Brad Haddin will keep wicket. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess. Our latest information (i.e. what a bloke down the pub told us) is that Ed Cowan will be at three, which makes sense. With Watto there he’ll basically be opening half the time anyway.
Assuming Clarke can be arsed to bat at number four that leaves two spaces to be filled by Phil Hughes, Don Khawaja, David Warner and Steven Peter Devereux Smith. Or possibly even Brad Haddin, if the selectors have hit the gin particularly early on Wednesday morning. All have made runs in the warmup games bar Warner, who has spent his time instead on the naughty step, hopefully thinking about what he did.
Common sense would suggest that Warner would miss out. Unfortunately for Australia, common sense retired some time ago so expect the great man to be at number six and to ‘come out swinging’ (© every newspaper ever). That means it’s a straight race for the number five slot. We’d love to see Devereux in there but apparently Khawaja is likely to get the nod, possibly as part of Darren Lehman’s ongoing ‘not a racist’ campaign.
In terms of the bowling attack, it’s likely to be Pattinson, Siddle, Starc and the Lion. Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird can consider themselves a bit unlucky to miss out, although ongoing Operation Yewtree investigations are likely to hinder the former throughout the tour. That and crippling knee injuries.
Even after the whole Operation Be Less Of A Shambles of the last fortnight, it’s hard to see Australia winning this game. The weather forecast is decent, so there’s unlikely to be much play lost to the elements. England are just a much more consistent side – Australia will have their moments during the match (and probably during every match) but will always manage to mess it up somehow, either through a comedy batting collapse or one of those sessions in the field when the game races away from them.
England’s victory won’t be without a few wobbles – expect Jonny Bairstow to make a couple of low scores, leading to plenty of massively exciting discussion about him and Nick Compton – but will have a crushing inevitability about it. We can’t wait!
Before the series starts, you can still enter our competition to win an unsigned picture of a future Ashes great. We’ll be tweeting our way through the game from Wednesday morning (@51allout) so join us for that. We’ll have daily reviews of the Test up as well, unless everyone buggers off on holiday due to some utterly terrible planning on our part.