With less than 24 hours to go until the moment we’ve all been waiting for, here’s a quick assessment of how the two teams match up player for player. For England, the side that played in the New Zealand series will be used, with the Australian side being the one that played against the West Indies.
Lyth vs Warner – Warner. This is a nice easy one to judge first up. Despite the new Yorkshire man’s undoubted potential, he doesn’t have the experience nor the destructive ability of his Aussie counterpart. Warner can take the game forward significantly in half a session, and make even the world’s best bowlers look like amateurs. This could well be the start of a great test career for Adam Lyth, but right now this one goes to the Aussies.
Cook vs Rogers – Cook. Chris Rogers is a very good player, make no mistake about that. However, Alastair Cook showed signs against New Zealand that he might just be getting back to his best. If that does prove to be the case, then few in the Australian team would come close to England’s skipper. Rogers should certainly be acknowledged as a danger for England though, particularly if he is underestimated. He had a fine series in 2013, and knows English conditions very well.
Ballance vs Smith – Smith. This is another relatively easy one. These match ups have to be done on form, and on current form England’s number three isn’t even in the same league as Australia’s. Steve Smith is one of the world’s best (if not the best) batsmen at the moment, whereas Gary Ballance really struggles against New Zealand. Ballance hid, deep in his crease, as Trent Boult had the edge over him all series. Unless he can return to form quickly, he will certainly be fearful of a Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan taking his place.
Bell vs Clarke – Clarke. There’s not much in this match up at all. I’ve gone with Clarke purely on form, as Ian Bell has struggled a little more in recent times. That said, Clarke has been plagued by injuries and that has undoubtedly affected his game. Either way, if both players deliver to their full potential then there won’t be anything to choose between them. They are two of the most fluent, free scoring players in world cricket, and few players are more gifted technically. A lot might just rest on the runs that these two make, as they are senior men for both of their respective sides.
Root vs Voges – Root. Has to be Joe Root. Like Steve Smith, he’s one of the world’s best players at the moment on current form, and has been England’s most reliable run-maker over the last year or so. Coming in, often when the top order have failed, Root has been a consistent deliverer for his country. Voges is no bad player, scoring a hundred on his test debut and all, but he will have to play exceptionally well all series if he is to win this battle.
Stokes vs Watson – Stokes. This wasn’t easy, but once again I’ve mainly considered form. Ben Stokes has been largely responsible for the breath (and a deep one at that) of fresh air sweeping through English cricket at the moment. He has the ability to be better than Andrew Flintoff, and if he can rise to the occasion will be able to emulate what big Fred did in 2005. Watson has been out of nick slightly of late, with rumours circulating that he might be replaced by Mitchell Marsh. However, he has always stepped up to the plate when he’s been in most desperate need of it. Should that happen, he might well make me eat my words…
Buttler vs Haddin – Buttler. Haddin’s getting older, while Buttler’s getting better. I don’t buy into this ‘Dad’s Army’ tag that some are pinning on the likes of the Australian wicket keeper, as he still has the ability to score rapid hundreds at the back ends of innings, and is a fine keeper. However, Buttler’s glovework has improved beyond measure, and his ability to counter attack has more than a little resemblance to a certain Adam Gilchrist. Again, this isn’t to discredit Haddin at all, it’s just to heap praise on England’s keeper.
Ali vs Lyon – Lyon. I’m judging this as a battle between two spinners. Obviously, Ali has more batting ability, but Lyon is by far the better off-spinner. Ali’s place will certainly come into question if he fails to bowl well in the first test, with Adil Rashid waiting eagerly in the wings. I feel a bit for the Worcestershire man, as he’s more of a batsman than a bowler for me anyway! He is in the side as a spinner though, and has to be judged in alignment with this role. Lyon is often underestimated, and is a bowler who can take plenty of wickets on a turning track, and also contain when he’s needed to.
Broad vs Johnson – Johnson. Broad will have a good series. He looked as good as he has in a long time against New Zealand and I hope he can carry on in that vein. However, it would be a bit ridiculous not to give this one to Johnson, after he utterly destroyed England’s ashes hopes last time out. He bowled with express pace and hooped it back into the right handers. He was virtually unplayable for most of the series. Johnson’s lower order runs also come in handy, and Broad’s provided few of those recently. Granted, Australia’s paceman looked a bit out of sorts in the Caribbean, but the word is that he’s back bowling fast, and is swinging it.
Wood vs Starc – Starc. Mitchell Starc has out-bowled his namesake in recent times; that’s no mean feat. Australia’s latest fast bowling star has done what Johnson did to England to oppositions all around the world for the last 9 months or so. He had an outstanding world cup, and hasn’t exactly looked like dropping off. Wood has done well though. He gives England’s attack something different, being a fast, skiddy bowler. He will take wickets this series, but isn’t quite up there with Starc at the moment.
Anderson vs Hazlewood – Anderson. Anderson in English conditions is the best seamer in the world. He rarely fails to deliver, and has a certain monkey off his back now he’s become England’s leading test wicket taker. Hazlewood should do very well in English conditions, and is an apt replacement for the retired Ryan Harris (incidentally, commiserations to him). However, the Aussie new boy is not as experienced, nor nearly as skilful as Jimmy, and has to lose out in this battle before a ball has been bowled.
Well, I make that 6-5 to Australia. A lot of those match ups are pretty close though, and England are playing in their own conditions. All in all, it’s really quite even, and I’m really rather excited. Roll on tomorrow morning, I’ll be glued to the television all day. I’m really excited, I’m really excited, it’s going to be so good.
P.S. I think England will win 3-2. The Aussies may have come out on top here, but who ever listens to stats in cricket?