In the space of a month, England have gone from a team capable of being considered possibly the second-best in the world to a complete rabble, the like of which hasn’t been seen since Graeme Hick was actually batting rather than teaching Australians how to bat. Meanwhile Australia have transformed themselves in the opposite direction. But now it’s time to remove the lens cap from the binoculars of destiny and view the future. You see, once this 10-match megaseries is over, England and Australia will be completely bored, sick and tired of playing each other. And we’re bored, sick and tired of writing about them. This is in no way sour grapes and we are definitely not bitter.
Anyway, whilst 10 matches in six months is simultaneously ridiculous and entertaining, it is plenty really – and we’re only seven-tenths of the way through. That’s almost 70%. We think that the teams deserve a break from one another, so that the Ashes can regain their special aura. Or alternatively another series can start in less than 24 months’ time. Oh joy.
So we thought we’d look forward to the Ashes after next and play Guess The Teams, presenting our future selves with the opportunity to cast elderly, glaucoma-ridden eyes back over our predictions and give them a fucking giggle. Bear in mind that this sort of mysticism often leads to such ideas as Gary Flitcroft or David Dunn leading England to a football World Cup victory or Jamie Dalrymple spearheading the England ODI campaigns. We’ll look at Australia later, but this is all about England.
Alastair Cook will be 30, so still nailed on to play. As broken as he looked at Adelaide, a man of his resolve can fix himself like some kind of non-sweaty terminator. Even having lost the Ashes he’ll probably remain captain, seeing as England won’t have played South Africa again by 2015. It’s highly likely that Joe Root will be alongside him, assuming he progresses along the lines of his 180 and 87 rather than his other, more shit, innings. We can’t see Kevin Pietersen still playing all formats in two years, due to a mix of increasingly frequent injuries and/or falling out with someone and/or constantly hitting Peter Siddle to mid-wicket. We reckon he’ll be playing only T20s after the 2015 World Cup. Ian Bell is a sure thing (he’ll be the same age in 2015 as KP is now) and will probably be described as the greatest captain England never had. The big question is obviously about Jonathan Trott – even before his illness was reported we suspected that others will start to challenge him by the next Ashes. He’ll be 34 in April 2015; his career had hitherto been free from injury, but it is impossible to know whether he can overcome his illness, what a ‘recovery’ might be and whether he will be able to play for England (regularly or irregularly) again. However, based on admittedly thin publicly-available evidence, we suggest he won’t be there. With Michael Carberry looking like a temporary fix at best, there are three space in the top six to fill. James Taylor ought to be one of them – there’s no way a man of his run-scoring ability can continue to be overlooked (especially if Pietersen is no longer in the squad).
Matt Prior is another who will be 33 in two years’ hence. There is uncertainty over who his long-term replacement will be – Jonny Bairstow is one obvious candidate, but we suspect he will still be being shafted by England and just won’t have had enough time with the bat or behind the stumps to show his ability. Therefore we can see him still Prior being in the team (though under intense scrutiny).
Stu-Bro will turn 29 in midsummer 2015, therefore, assuming he’s not injured, he’ll be there. James Anderson is less clear-cut. Currently 31, age-wise he shouldn’t be over-the-hill by 2015 and his workload is likely to be managed by England’s staff. But he’ll have played more than 100 Tests and have been attack-leader for around six years by then – and not many fast bowlers will have bowled as many deliveries as him in their Test career. Moreover, of the recent generations of England pacemen, only Caddick played to an older age (i.e. Gough, Hoggard, Harmison and Flintoff all ceased playing Tests by 33 or thereabouts). Consider him having made way, perhaps unfairly, for someone else. As much as we’d like it to be Liam Plunkett, we reckon it will be one of the very young breed, and suggest Reece Topley rather than Jamie Overton in an effort to find England’s first properly good left-arm seamer since, erm, Big Al. The third quick bowler will be either Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn. Fact.
We’re also sure that Graeme Swann will have had to retire by 2015 – although he may have made it through to the World Cup high on painkillers and booze. God knows what state his elbow will be in if he does. We can’t see either Monty Panesar or James Tredwell being anything other than a temporary replacement, so suspect that Simon Kerrigan will be playing as England continue to move on from the Flower-era (did we say that Ashley Giles, Graham Thorpe and David Saker will be the three main coaches?). And Kerrigan will still be rubbish at this level, because international quality spinners need years of maturing in domestic cricket.
Any reading mathematicians will have realised that these players sum nine, meaning there are two places to fill. Our hunch is that these will be taken by players vaguely fitting the all-rounder category to help balance a team shorn of Trott, Pietersen, Swann and Anderson. Ben Stokes will have been yo-yoing in and out of the side for a while, but by the Ashes should be a regular in the ODI team and probably in the Test team threatening to eventually make a match-altering performance. As the spinner will likely be a left-armer (whether the aforementioned Kerrigan or the older Panesar), another batsman capable of bowling off-spin will be seen as a valuable commodity. Therefore Moeen Ali fits the bill nicely, with several seasons of handy runs behind him, supported by reasonable bowling and a magnificent beard.
England XI to play Australia in first Test 2015: Cook*, Root, Bell, Taylor, Ali, Stokes, Prior+, Broad, Bresnan, Kerrigan, Topley. 12th Man: Bairstow. 13th Man: Finn.