The respective attacks will dictate who wins this series. We saw this in 2009 when Freddie Flintoff’s inspiring five-wicket haul in the second innings of the second Test at Lord’s got the Poms back in the series.
The Aussie bowlers dominated at Headingley. And with the series level heading into the Oval Test it was Stuart Broad who ripped through the Aussie batsman and sealed England’s triumph for second time in three series. Let’s have a look at both bowling lists.
Australia have the advantage in this department, with Mitch Johnson regularly bowling his 150km/h thunderbolts. Peter Siddle is probably the second fatest bowler in this series, with Broad third. The rest are all pacy but Johnson expertly combines pace with hostility – particularly on Austrailan wickets – and that gives the Aussie an advantage there.
New Ball: James Anderson and Ben Hilfenhause are both quality new ball swing bowlers who can easily rip through top orders when conditions suit. But the Aussies have an advantage with Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris,who both use the new ball skillfully. Opening batsman Shane Watson is coming off two five-wicket hauls against Pakistan in England with his crafty outswingers. But surely the quicks don’t want to be shown up by a batsman again?
Old Ball: When the ball starts going reverse for the Aussies, Ricky Ponting often throws the ball to Watson and Bollinger, as they both have great wrist release which enables a stable seam; a crucial factor in reverse swing. Watson has been a revelation with the ball since he has dropped his pace and now swings the new and old ball with great skills. Bollinger’s reverse swing education has flourished and is benefited by regularly bowling at the SCG. Johnson bowls reverse well and his extra pace only makes playing him more difficult. Broad and Anderson are again the keys with the old ball. Swing is vital for Anderson as he doesn’t get the bounce the other English quicks enjoy.
There has already been plenty of off-field chat from Broad, Johnson and co. This will only build as we get closer to the series. But it’s about controlled aggression on the field. I’m on the Aussies here. Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Bollinger, Harris and Johnson are aggressive types who are always stalking the batsman. If they can hunt as a pack they will make things very tough for the Englishmen.
Broad seems to have taken on the enforcer role for England but needs more support from Anderson, who record away form home is poor (52 wickets at 43 in 19 Tests). If he can lead the attack in a successful Ashes series Down Under, it could be his defining series.
Points to England as having the advantage, with three bowlers over 199cm in Broad, Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett. If they can bowl the right length on the Aussie pitches they should gain steep bounce off a decent length. Bollinger and Siddle are Australia’s bounciest bowlers, coming from strong actions with high releases.
Advantage England, with world’s No.2 ranked bowler, Graeme Swann. The “Doctor Comfort: lead singer has been ripping through batting line-ups with his aggressive off-spinners in the last couple of years. He will have to overcome the touring off-spinners’ Down Under – even Muttiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh have just 21 wickets between them in nine Tests in Australia at an average of 74.
Englishmen haven’t fared too much better recently; Robert Croft and Richard Dawson played five Tests between them for seven wickets. Peter Such did well, however, with 11 wickets in two Test in 1998-99. Swann could prove a big factor against the Aussies’ middle-lower order, especially the left-handers. His backup, Monty Panesar, is making his second trip out to Australia. He was monstered by Adam Gilchrist in the Perth Test of ’06-07 but still ended up with eight wickets for the match. I’ll be intrigued to see whether he has added some skills to his game since he last played in the Ashes.
Nathan Hauritz had a terrific Australian summer against Pakistan and West Indies, taking 29 wickets, but is under the pump after a poor Indian series. Not a great spinner of the ball but can be a good defensive option for Ponting ,bowling long spells at a low economy rate and allowing the quicks to attack from the other end. Steve Smith is an exciting leg-spinner but may play a bigger part in the Ashes series to come. Marcus North, Michael Clarke and Simon Katich are all handy part-time spinners and if Hauritz doesn’t play in Brisbane and Perth, expect North particularly to bowl a lot of overs.
This is where the series could be won. Who will stand up for the whole five Tests? Almost all the quicks have had some injury problems in the last couple of years. The most resilient bowlers have been Broad and Johnson; both need to stand up and lead their team with a 25-wicket series. Australia is a huge test for 21-year-old Finn – it will be interesting to see how he performs on hard pitches in hot conditions.
Points decision to the Aussies. They have greater diversity in their attack. A good blend of swing bowlers, pace and left-armers. However, the spin advantage could be decisive for England, especially in Adelaide, and if the series comes down to the final Test in Sydney.