Before I start, I’d like to make it clear that this is not a joke. It isn’t my intention to poke our rivals in the ribs like Glenn McGrath used to do with his 5-0 series predictions. It’s meant to be a serious discussion (as if you’d expect anything else from that blog that brought you the ten best Ashes jokes from 2011).
Over the last twenty five years (or is it one hundred and twenty five?) Australia have been far better than New Zealand at cricket. To claim that the Black Caps are superior to the Canary Yellows would be like saying Fosters is better than London Pride. However, things aren’t so clear cut these days.
New Zealand gave England a much tougher time in Australasia last winter than Ricky Ponting’s motley crew did two years ago. All the talk might be about this summer’s Ashes – with the New Zealand series considered nothing more than a warm-up – but the first half of the summer might actually present Alastair Cook’s boys with a tougher assignment.
Let’s look at the two teams. On paper, Australia’s batting is weaker than a watered down can of XXXX. Michael Clarke is arguably their only international class batsman – and even ‘Pup’ isn’t guaranteed to play all five tests because of his dodgy back. In American sports, ‘PUP’ actually means ‘physically unable to perform’. Ironic, isn’t it.
New Zealand, on the other hand, have several young players who are improving rapidly. The future of their batting line-up looks pretty good.
I didn’t buy into the hype surrounding Hamish Rutherford after his scintillating century in the first test earlier this year, but there’s no doubt he’s a talented chap. Is he any worse than David Warner? I’d say ‘no’.
Meanwhile, Kane Williamson looks a very organised player with a good temperament. I’d bet he’ll have a more productive test career than Phil Hughes, who showed in India he’s just as clueless against quality spin bowling as he is against pace (and I’m a Worcestershire fan … sorry Phil).
New Zealand’s middle-order also looks better than Australia’s these days. Ross Taylor is an effective strokemaker, whilst Dean Brownlie has similar traits to Williamson. And then there’s Brendon McCullum. I’d take him over Wade and Haddin any day. BJ Watling isn’t bad either.
Now I admit that my theory falls flat on its face somewhat when it comes to the bowling, but hear me out. Is Australia’s attack really that much better than New Zealand’s? Trent Boult is a promising left-armer, and he’s troubled England’s batsmen a lot more that Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and company.
And then there’s the spinners to consider. Daniel Vettori is twice the bowler Nathan Lyon is. Bruce Martin is better than Xavier Doherty too.
Those deluded souls who think Australia actually have a chance of winning the Ashes (Steve Waugh, we expected more from you) usually point to the Canary Yellows battery of young fast bowlers. Well, we’ve got news for optimistic Aussie fans: the battery already looks flat.
Pat Cummins has already been ruled out of the tour because of (yet another) serious injury. Will this bloke ever play more than twenty tests? Meanwhile, James Pattinson is also coming off a bad injury; he struggles to stay healthy too.
Bowlers can be as talented as you like, but if they can’t stay fit they’re about as useful as Ed Cowan in a T20 match. Who do you think will take the most test wickets (and be honest), Cummins, Pattinson, or Trent Boult?
Although this post will probably incur the wrath of our lager swilling Aussie friends (I’m allowed the odd dig, aren’t I?) our more cerebral antipodean cousins might concede I’ve got a point. Australia are no longer far superior to their much patronised southern neighbours.
In fact, the Canary Yellow’s best chance of winning the Ashes could well rest with New Zealand tweaking England’s nose, and undermining their confidence, before the so called main event begins.
What do you think?