You might have noticed a certain jaded world-weariness about our recent Ashes coverage as a result of mindless media coverage smotheration. It feels right that we should return to our natural demeanour at a time when everyone else is bouncing about like there’s a lot of bouncing to be done in the strange belief that mindless bouncing ever solved anything.
We haven’t picked cricketers to watch because they’ll be eye-catching. We’ve had a think and these are three who we think will play a big part.
He’s not trendy and exciting any more, like Phil Hughes. He’s not got the monumental record of Ricky Ponting or the inflated average of Mike Hussey. But whereas the likes of Hussey and Katich rely on experience and sound decision-making for Test runs, Michael Clarke is more like Ponting. He has better hand-eye co-ordination than most, quick feet and plays all the shots.
However, unlike Ponting, he’s got a long way to go. We’ve probably seen Ponting’s best, but Clarke could get even better. He’s probably still on an upward curve.
Hussey, Katich and even Marcus North are other low-key batsmen to watch as well, because all three have years and years of cricket in England behind them.
Never mind Kevin Pietersen, Ravi Bopara seems as likely to score runs as any England batsmen right now. A lot of cricket people seem to think Bopara’s some kind of geezer, but he just seems like a nice bloke who plays cricket to us. He plays it very well and he’ll be immune to the Ashes pressures, which is absolutely vital in the quest for runs.
Whether he’s immune to the pressure because he’s confident or because he hasn’t really noticed quite what’s going on is a moot point – although we’d bet on it being both.
We’ve picked two batsmen above, but batsmen are really just obstacles to victory. Bowlers decide series. England’s best chance of dismissing a hugely strong and quite possibly long Australian batting line-up is through swing. Swing a cricket ball and you can get the very best players out.
It’s hard to think of another swing bowler who can work a great batsman over as comprehensively as James Anderson (Zaheer Khan, maybe). Old school inswing and outswing with the new ball and their reverse swing counterparts with the old one. All bowled with thought. All bowled with control.
If the ball doesn’t swing, he’s a bit blunted, but if it does, James Anderson is the man to dismiss cussed batsmen who are hard to beat and who rarely make mistakes.