So this is it. After weeks of build up the Ashes has finally arrived. It’s only a matter of hours until Joe Root wins the toss and inserts Australia on a featherbed after seeking advice from Nasser Hussain. Don’t laugh. It may actually happen.
In the spirit of Ashes festivities we’ve come up with a definitive TFT Ashes prediction guide. I’ve spoken to all our contributors, asked them what they expect to happen, and here are the results.
You’ll see it’s the usual mix of pie-eyed optimism, self-delusion, self-defeatism, irrationality, and theories that make about as much sense as Ben Stokes after twenty pints. Well what did you expect, serious journalism?
So, without further ado, let’s cut to chase and get on with our individual predictions. Here’s what yours truly, Peter Jackson Eastwood, Garry White, Hector Cappelletti, Jack Mendel, and Daniel Splarn think will happen this winter …
I’m sorry to be such a misery guts but I worry that a shellacking is on the cards. Australia might not be much cop but they’re still better than us in every single position (except wicket-keeping) in home conditions: they have slightly better batsmen, a better specialist spinner, and faster and more aggressive bowlers.
When conditions are benign I fear we’ll struggle to find a plan B. Australia, on the other hand, can revert to short pitch bowling and ruffle us up. They also have the underrated Nathan Lyon, who should keep a lid on things at one end and take useful wickets too.
Even if Root has a great series he’s unlikely to score more than Steve Smith, whose record at home is remarkable. Plus there are more question marks about our bankers (Root, Cook and Anderson) than theirs (Warner, Smith, and Hazlewood) on Australian pitches. Heaven knows how our inexperienced players will fare.
It’s not inconceivable that England prove everyone wrong – after all, Australia aren’t a great side – but I fear things could get very ugly quickly. The day-nighter at Adelaide will be key, especially if we lose at the Gabbatior. If we’re heading to Perth at 1-1 then we might have a chance. However, if we lose the first two tests then another 5-0 drubbing could be imminent.
Series Score: 0-4 to Australia
Leading run scorer: The Gerbil (Steve Smith)
Leading wicket-taker: The Bear (Josh Hazlewood)
Most likely to get sent home: Alastair Cook … he’ll go shooting and accidentally murder a koala.
Most likely to retire mid-series: Mason Crane … after losing his first three tests he’ll do an Alex Loudon and decide that cricket isn’t for him after all.
Most likely to become ‘disengaged’ – Jake Ball … the lumbering giant looks like he has trouble engaging with anything, unless it’s a late night drinking binge with Bairstow.
Peter Jackson Eastwood
As Christmas creeps closer, I want to make a confession. I don’t like Christmas films, and the one I like least is The Polar Express – dreadfully boring. But where dull locomotives are concerned, nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the relentless tedium of the Australian pre-Ashes hype train.
Ever since David WAR(ner) opened his gob to fire forth some trademark hot air, I have felt my fears and worries ebbing away. I’m light as a feather now, and why?
Simply, Australia aren’t that good. We’ve heard it all before about their bowling attack, but are they that special? Hazlewood is a line and length bowler inferior to our own openers, Starc is an excellent one-day bowler with a good yorker, but a very expensive five day operator. In fact, this is indicative of their whole attack: pace, when inaccurate, goes for a lot of runs, and quickly.
Their batting is just as flimsy as ours, (while we are lamenting the loss of Stokes, they can’t even find a new dobbler to replace the garbage Shane Watson at 6). In a combined England/Australia XI, you could make a very strong case for the inclusions of Cook, Root, Bairstow, Moeen, Broad, Woakes and Anderson.
No draws or close games as both batting line ups collapse consistently, and England nick the series.
Series Score: 3-2 to England
Leading run scorer: Steve Smith to plunder like Jack Sparrow on the Aussie tarmac. Would’ve been Sam Northeast had he been picked.
Leading wicket-taker: Stuart Broad loves giving Aussies the finger and he’s due a devastating series.
Most likely to get sent home: The fiery Craig Overton will lamp an old woman when she questions his full length. Old woman knocks Overton spark out in return.
Most likely to retire mid-series: David Warner watches Dunkirk for motivation mid-series and has a nervous breakdown. He becomes a primary school counsellor instead.
Most likely to become ‘disengaged’: James Vince … already has the concentration span of a toddler on a sugar high at Christmas.
Although I would make our Australian friends firm favourites I really do think everything hinges on the first test. The Aussies, despite the usual low-rent trash talk are light-years away from the swagger of old.
It is easy to look at England’s line-up and adopt the look from Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, but behind the bravado the Aussie fans have all the same concerns about their team. If we can get them on the ropes in Brisbane the media and fan backlash will be deafening, and crack sledgehammer size chunks from their already fragile self-confidence.
However, if as likely, England meekly fold in the opener, expect the entire penal colony to rest their collective boot on our throat for the rest of the series. One unedifying pasting after another will lead to a cancellation of your exorbitant BT Sport subscription before the 3rd test is out.
Reasons to be fearful are that I anticipate Smith / Warner to contribute more runs than Root / Cook (love Chef, but just can’t see him firing consistently…hope I’m wrong!). The Aussie attack is stronger in the conditions with our one consistent weapon Anderson largely negated. I also fear that Broad has looked a little toothless of late, but I have high hopes for Warwickshire’s Woakes.
Reasons to be cheerful are that the Aussies just aren’t all that. A lot of their fans consider Smith as the wrong character to lead the side and their hyped bowling attack is mostly held together by sticky tape. Their tail is also longer and they lack an all-rounder. But, sadly I expect home advantage and our previous mental scars to make all the difference.
Series Score: 3-1 Australia
Leading Run Scorer: Steven Smith – but, when he scores big just keep telling yourself that he is a dead-ringer for the evil pigs in the “Angry Birds” game (whatever gets you through the night!)
Leading Wicket Taker: Josh Hazlewood / Chris Woakes – Has the potential to be the new Ryan Harris. An alternate and happier proposition would be Chris Woakes
Most likely to get in trouble of the field: Gary Ballance – He follows up his non-playing winter-sun sojourn in India with an inactive couple of months in Australia. Expect the big lad to gorge on tinny’s and Lamingtons before blowing a sugar induced fuse.
Most likely to retire mid-series – Australia’s much vaunted pace attack. Alternatively, Graham Swann from Test Match Special. Couldn’t get that lucky and surely lightening can’t strike twice?
Most likely to get sacked – Steve Smith (can but dream!), Gary Balance and James Vince (both are draining some very bitter dregs whilst leaning on the swing-doors at the last chance saloon).
The old adage dictates that it’s all about the bowlers. Winning test matches depends on the potency of a team’s attack. This Ashes will be no different but perhaps victory will also be down to which batting line-up proves to be the least brittle. Australia’s isn’t overly foreboding but England’s looks a little more powder puff.
Touring Australia is hard enough when at full strength, even harder when one’s talisman is languishing at home and the squad is carrying passengers.
England’s position isn’t helped by their skipper failing to shoulder responsibility. It is obvious that the squad doesn’t possess a batsman good enough to slot in at number 3 but Root fails to lead by example and take over such a pivotal role.
Instead we are likely to have Root’s mate or Vince shoehorned in between the openers and the skipper, offering a soft underbelly right from the outset unless Cook and Stoneman begin well.
Bayliss has correctly highlighted that pretty 60’s are not going to cut the mustard but neither is offering cheap wickets either. In the T20 age where taking test wickets has become a little easier courtesy of careless, impatient batting it seems foolhardy to provide quality bowlers a considerable leg-up.
Series score: Australia 3-1
Leading run scorer: Joe Root. But a succession of nice half-centuries will win little in comparison to the two pivotal, match influencing daddy hundreds that each of Warner and Smith are likely to score during the series.
Leading wicket taker: Nathan Lyon. This is a bit leftfield but England will be concentrating to such an extent on the much vaunted quick bowlers that they are likely to come unstuck against a bowler that seems to be viewed as lower class.
Most likely to get into trouble off the field: Ben Foakes and Tom Curran. Neither have the class to match David Gower’s Tiger Moth exploits so maybe it’ll involve a dispute over hair gel, a hover board or a selfie.
Most likely to retire mid-series: Mason Crane after being persuaded to move to Australia full time with a view to playing regular test cricket for a country that pays more than lip service to legspinners.
Most likely to get sacked for being disengaged: Mason Crane as he will be mulling over the above offer on the table. Stuart Broad to also be in trouble after clattering the stumps with his bat a la Pappa Broad!
I think it will be 2-1 Australia. England are overly-reliant on their lower middle order, and our bowling attack looks weary and brittle.
Australia’s punchy batting throughout and hostile seam bowling will break England down. I think Australia will win the first Test, draw the second, win the third, England will win the fourth, and they’ll wrap up the series on the fifth.
Starc especially will ensure Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow can’t cash in down the order like they’ve been able to in England. Short pitched bowling will be England’s downfall.
Overall score prediction: 1-2 to Australia
Leading run scorer David Warner will tear apart our weary team
Leading wicket taker Mitchell Starc
Most likely to get into trouble off the field: Joe Root. Inexperienced captain, and they’ll try to get under his skin
Most likely to retire mid-series Anderson.
Most likely to get sacked for being disengaged post-series England’s (Aussie) coach!
Obviously preparation has been far from great, but it seems premature to anticipate a pasting before a ball has even been bowled.
Steve Smith has spoken of “opening up a few of the scars” from our horror show of 2013/14, but – for me – this Aussie outfit aren’t as strong as they were back then, and the fact that players like David Warner are having to talk up the series as “war” proves they know this, and they’re trying to overcompensate.
Granted, a group of bowlers featuring Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc – he who just took two hat-tricks in the same match – is nothing to be sniffed at, but it’s a different prospect to the Aussie bowling attack spearheaded by a rampant Mitchell Johnson chucking down 93mph rockets with Ryan Harris at the other end.
Joe Root said it best: “We’re a completely different side and so are they.” And so it’s with this in mind that I hope the lads can keep a positive mindset and actually believe they can get a result.
Ultimately, however, I think we will become unstuck due to the lack of depth in the squad and the distraction of losing our best player before we’d even reached the departure lounge. But with players like Cook and Root, Anderson and Broad, Bairstow and Woakes, we can at least be competitive.
Overall series score: Australia 3-1
Leading run scorer: Joe Root
Leading wicket-taker: Mitchell Starc
Most likely to get into trouble: David Warner – looks like he could lose his head at any given moment. Curran also seems to have some fire in the belly.
Most likely to retire mid-series: Gary Ballance (with any luck, Ed)
Most likely to be sacked: Stuart Broad, after a vitriolic campaign by the Brisbane Courier Mail.
So what do you guys think? We’d love to hear your own predictions (and your thinking) in the comments below. Perhaps the selections of Paine and Marsh have put the home side under undue pressure? There are reasons for optimism … but probably more reasons to be fearful in my opinion. I guess we’re about to find out.
Oh, and Joe. If you win the toss at the Gabba, remember to effing bat.