Leaving on a jet plane…

My bags are (almost) packed, I’m (almost) ready to go…

After a short interlude of what the Royal Family euphemistically call a ‘chill’, am back to full fitness and health and starting to concentrate on the Ashes and Australia.

By this time next week we should be starting to understand who holds the advantage in the First test – this assumes that we have had some decent play by that time; the forecasts I’ve seen talk of rain interruptions during/throughout the match so will swing and seam in overcast conditions come into play or will bowling with a wet ball and slow outfield, but it’s not going to be an English ball! (I know by this stage some of my non-cricketing followers haven’t a clue of what I’m talking about!).

So…will the weather help decide the team make-up?

Probably not – the England side (for once, now that the selection and other issues have been put to one side) should choose itself – Cook, Stoneman, Vince, Root, Malan, Stokes, Ali, Woakes, Overton, Broad and Anderson – and could well be settled for the rest of the series subject to injuries, loss of form or complete catastrophic team performance etc; so have decided not to pack my whites! I would be more use offering advice from sitting in the Pavilion!

And so to Australian  squad…some old, some new, some borrowed (from England)…

I think it will all come down to the bowling not only at the Gabba but across the series- the batting for both sides centres on three/four players of class/quality (Cook, Root, Bairstow, Smith, Warner, Khawaja) so things look pretty even. The odds are that one on each side would fail, but the other two will succeed – and who knows, this could be the start or reboot of a glittering career for someone! I recall the family debates about taking Cook on the 2010/11 tour after a poor home season…how wrong others can be!

And the bowling? Australia are difficult to beat at home in the main due to their bowling across all types and the challenge other sides find in adapting to conditions. In times gone by when tours lasted six months, this was not such an issue but nowadays with five tests in 50 days and tour matches of dubious quality and value…

And when it comes to individuals England are dependent on Broad and Anderson and Ali as the infamous ‘second choice’ spinner. All of Australia know how to wind up Broad (ok he did take 8 for 15 against them at Trent Bridge when they last met), Anderson despite the spin doctors is not as good overseas as at home could be on a tour ‘too far’. The future without these two looks promising – Woakes, Finn, Overton, Ball, Plunkett, Porter etc – but as above promise needs to be converted into reality.

Unless of course a certain B Stokes is able to travel to Australia and the Australian fans, media and team don’t press his buttons and he gets suspended (after all he’s one demerit point away from suspension). If he does arrive and can overcome all the adversity and show more maturity than he has to date, then the enticing balance of all the above is skewed towards England.

Experts claim that a side making over 400 in the first innings in each test stands a good chance of winning (stating the obvious I know) but this does have more than a grain of truth. After all, as the great Richie used to say, 90% of the game is played in the mind – imagine spending two days fielding in hot conditions, your bowling trashed and the ball having to be retrieved from the boundary time after time and then having to bat and bat to just get back into the game but with 40,000 Australians (at least) baying for your blood, 400 runs just to get back on equal terms is a very long way away! So a good batting performance is essential – I know this is in the Basil Fawlty ‘bleeding obvious’ category – but the side with the most runs wins the game!

At Brisbane, bat first and score as many as you can before the rain comes and squeeze out/survive for a draw; at Adelaide, make the most of the day/night game pink ball and swinging/seaming in the gloaming; at Perth make the most of the fastest pitch in test cricket (for the last time) – and you approach the last two games in a reasonable state or if things have gone so one sided as we have seen, the Ashes have been decided in 15 days play! But let’s hope for a good series, played hard on both sides on the field and cricket is the winner.

So just the packing to finish, check in on line, get to the airport, travel for 24 hours non-stop, arrive in Brisbane early morning – hours before I can check into my hotel – adjust the body (clock and all) and Ashes here I come!

If you’ve read this far, well done – my intention is at least a daily blog from each game, perhaps even session by session for the more UK time friendly matches and even a few photos-and not all cricket related as it seems there’s a lot more to Oz than just cricket!