The Ashes Preview
The most hotly-contested Test series of cricket begins this week, as a confident England look to win the Ashes on Australian soil for the first time in over twenty years.
Since Mike Gatting’s team registered a 2-1 series win down under in 1986, no English side has managed to win more than one away Test match in any given Ashes series. In Brisbane, home of the first Test, England’s draw in 1998 remains their best effort in five previous matches.
Not the time to get giddy about a positive result, then; but Gatting himself believes that this England team can repeat his heroic efforts of that year.
“[Captain, Andrew Strauss] has a very good side, has a great coach behind him and is a fine leader of men and I think we'll win it 2-1,” he predicted this week.
Strauss is keeping his cards close to his chest; Ricky Ponting has already named his side, including the late addition of Michael Clarke, whose persistent back problem made him a doubt. Obviously the intention was to spook the England side, having expected Clarke to miss some of the action, but the England skipper remains cool.
"We understand the size of the challenge ahead of us, but we couldn't be in a better place mentally to take on that challenge," he said.
England are 7/4 with Coral to leave Australia with a series win (and the Ashes trophy), while 888Sport reckon that the honours will be even at 9/2. Australia are 12-1 with Bet365 to take the series by three wins to two.
Australia - Simon Katich, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Xavier Doherty.
England (likely) - Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steve Finn, Graeme Swann.