Tuesday, October 10, 2006

England's young pace duo of Jimmy Anderson and Liam Plunkett have both declared their fitness for the Ashes, whist two Aussie fast bowlers are already on the physio's couch.
Stuart Clarke, a tall, accurate, fast-medium right-armer who impressed in South Africa earlier this year went down last week and will miss the ICC Trophy with a torn muscle. This will dilute his Ashes chances for sure, leaving young left-armers Johnson and Bracken competing for the third seamer's spot. Michael Kasprowicz has crocked his back, looking certain to be out of the contention for bowling places. After last time, when he and Gillespie got spanked all over the park, it's a doubt he was ever in the frame.
Alan Border, who recently argued in favour of fielding a 5-pronged bowling attack by playing Shane Watson as all-rounder has quit the board of selectors too. He stated he was too busy, too busy for what we might ask? They must be having some frantic debates about the balance of their side, what England fan wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall in that room? It's a good bet some of the guys aren't happy with the idea of Watson as a test match batsman.
In the England camp things are rosy. Liam Plunkett is '100% fit and raring to go Australia' according to his own words on the BBC TMS blog. Anderson is ready for the ICC one-day action ahead, and England would be fools not to let him open the bowling with Steve Harmison.
So much for Glen McGrath's statement to the Mail on Sunday last week that the Aussies would win the Ashes series 5-0. The 37 year old reckons he will be bowling at 100% by November 23rd, but it's more likely he is getting over the hill for a test match bowler. Perhaps this is one reason the selectors are arguing about whether or not 4 bowlers in enough to take 20 wickets against a confident England side with good competition for middle-batting slots.
This time in 2002 the Aussies would not have questioned their ability to win with 4 bowlers. The balance of power has shifted. Not only do England have more internationally experienced fast bowlers to call on, the aussies have to win the series to get back the urn. This means they have to bowl us out twice and their pace men are starting to drop like flys. There is the option of playing 2 spinners, but allegedly Warne doesn't like playing in the same team as MacGill.
Expect the Aussies to start with Johnson as third seamer at Brisbane. Englands best hope is that that their left-handed openers will make him look a national embarrassment. This will bring on a crisis for their selectors and a media backlash. Watson's position is still not clear, call it 50/50 whether he'll be in the final 11.
William Hill still make England 4/1 to win the series but have dropped the price on an England win at the first test from 11/2 down to 9/2. Expect this to fall a bit more before the toss the on 23rd November, especially if another convict gets crocked.

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