12 November 2013

The Ashes: Australian 1st Test squad announced


The 1st Test to be played at the Gabba is just 9 days away and I cannot wait for the battle to commence. The hype here hasn't been too immense and perhaps the low key approach - given we have lost the last three battles - may be the exact approach to just get on with the job.

In any case, below is the side that will head up to Brisbane to try go 1-0 up in this series as we aim to get back the urn and hope that life will once again make sense for Australian supporters.

This series has similarities to 2006/07 as a number of these players have experienced the pain in losing the Ashes - too many for some - while also accepting the fact they will unlikely be around come the next series. These players include; Chris Rogers, Michael Clarke, Ryan Harris, and possibly Shane Watson depending how long he fights injury off. Many of the greats of the Golden Era were shrugging off the 2005 loss and knew there time was running out. That desperation may play in our favour.

The side was pretty much to be expected, however there were two inclusions I am sure not everyone anticipated.

Chris "Stalwart" Rogers
David "Pitbull" Warner
Shane "Watto" Watson
Michael "Clarkey" Clarke
George "Blazing" Bailey
"Young" Steven Smith
Brad "Hads" Haddin
Mitchell "Mighty Mitch" Johnson
James "JF" Faulkner
Peter "Sid Vicious" Siddle
Ryan "Ryano" Harris
Nathan "Gaz" Lyon

Chris Rogers
and David Warner will open at the top of the order. Shane Watson is not expected to face the new ball with Rogers, despite the two of them finding some sort of connection I had not sensed in Watson since his time opening with Simon Katich, but number three is likely his place after his 176 at The Oval.

Rogers has already put together one century for Victoria against New South Wales (117) and before this he just missed out, scoring 88. He's ready to have another go, this time in his home territory! I am also defensive regarding his age. This is Test cricket people. It's not about age, it's about bringing the skills, stamina, and a solid defensive game to the arena with a personal game plan. He has this so stop nagging about age. That stupidity brought the end of Simon Katich.

David Warner found some fine form for New South Wales, as he did so too in the Ryobi Cup. His approach is simple. Go big or go home. It will be no half measures. This will be Warner's most prolific series or his most forgettable. I am backing our strong left hander to give it to the Poms far more effectively than a swift upper cut.

Shane Watson could, in a way, count himself fortunate to be in our side. James Faulkner has been the only all-rounder with deadly intent to find his way into our side - which he has. However, Watson remains a guy who struggles to go on and fulfill his true potential so many of us see, but his moments during the final stages of this years Ashes series showcased he is perhaps ironing some technical dilemmas just in time for this massive series. His batting is essential for him to remain in our campaign as injury may rule out his very effective bowling duties - a big loss for us if he cannot perform all-rounder duties.

Michael Clarke hasn't kicked off his summer for New South Wales in big style, but he's been putting runs on the board, his body has been holding up, and he's just gearing up for what may very well be his final Ashes series for The Baggy Greens. A victory - in my opinion - may very well see him calling it a day if he experiences further back issues. He's worked bloody hard to stay in the zone.

Steven Smith has just stepped up in a way we've all been eagerly awaiting. As mentioned many times, I was hard on the youngster and I will never back down from my opinion he was put in the team too soon with an unclear role which ultimately destroyed the belief many supporters were expected to develop for him. However, with the right mindset, time, opportunities to rebuild his skill set and choose his own path in the game, we have a talented middle order batsman who has also been holding it together for New South Wales in pressure situations. This bloke is ready for it. It will be tough for him, but this is now Steven Smith's time.

George Bailey is not too old, he's just a happy-go-lucky guy who has stepped up when representing Australia. In India he was explosive and even with the high scoring run fests which saw us lose the series, he smiled away and went about his business in record breaking style. His selection was speculated but not a given. This has led to a Test debut and a fresh Baggy Green cap awaiting him.
This alone is a sign that he steps up at the elite level when the expectation on him is at a high price. Furthermore he is an experienced campaigner, while not statistically a recognised Baggy Green candidate, he has a wonderful attitude that we need. He's in Australia, he'll have our support, and this is his moment, his chance and he must own it!

Brad Haddin is also in his final Ashes series as realistically he will not be able to keep Tim Paine, Matthew Wade and Chris Hartley out for much longer. The keeper quality is steadily on the rise again and two of these keepers have played at Test level for Australia with relative success. Hads will be under pressure, but perhaps with the knowledge this is his last crack at the Poms he will play with a cool head, high standards, and help our team regain the urn.

Mitchell Johnson is, like Bailey, a selection not many saw as a definite but it was speculated. With James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Patty Cummins out of the mix it was a call that needed to be made. Do we bring in an experienced campaigner who can keep it stable, like Ben Hilfenhaus, or do we substitute these  youngsters with an experienced spearhead? Mitchell Johnson is the answer and even though I have always felt Test cricket exposes his inconsistencies and is far harsher on his natural game, he has performed for us before and is a brutal, terrifying bowler to face on his day. He's been in good rhythm as of late, but let's all shout loudly for Mitch as we hope those inconsistencies will be shoved aside and that this will be his golden summer.

Ryan Harris, well, not much needs to be said. He has the skills, the drive, the focus, but injury will be the worry. This is also his last Ashes series most likely, so he will also be looking to bow out victoriously and taste an Ashes victory. He's our best bowler and I seriously hope he owns the English batsmen. I want to see shattered wickets!

Peter Siddle has been fairly modest in his takings for Victoria but he'll rise to the occasion. This is his third Ashes series and even though he will probably be around for the next series, three will be too many for Sids and I think this will be the most ferocious we have ever seen him this summer. Alongside Ryano and Mitch I think we will see a very aggressive bowling line up, physically and mentally.

Nathan Lyon remains our spinner of choice. No doubt Gaz is facing competition from a number of guys, but he improves with each series he plays in and must now step up and believe he is the spinner of choice. He must just believe in his skills. With the right captaincy from Clarkey and the understanding from the supporters that spinners role in Australian cricket has changed since the Warnie days he may have a fantastic output for us.

Just 9 days to go to see how it starts to play out!

Next article will be some photos of the soon to be completed Adelaide Oval. I will be heading to the ground tomorrow to watch the historic opening match on the new pitch and surface between South Australia and Western Australia.

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