Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Ashes Test Preview

The stage is set for the biennial Ashes Test, this time at the North Sydney Oval in Australia, to be played as a day/night game, with a pink ball. Like you didn't know that already?

It all kicks off on Thursday 2.30pm local time, which is 3.30am GMT.

The warm-ups are done and here is our best guess at the probably line-ups

Mooney, Bolton, Blackwell, Perry, Villani, Haynes, Healy, Gardner, Wellington, Schutt, Cheatle

Beaumont, Winfield, Knight, Elwiss, Sciver, Taylor, Brunt, Gunn, Marsh, Shrubsole, Ecclestone

The issue for Australia is in the bowling department - should left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen or medium pacer Tahlia McGrath replace Gardner or Cheatle? Whichever they run with, it looks like the Aussies are a bit light on bowling, with only five front-line bowlers. It would be no surprise to see part-timers Villani, Haynes or Bolton twirling their arms over if England can bat long. Beware the rank long-hop England!

For England that may be their major issue - batting long. One of their top six needs to bat, and bat, and bat. Their two imponderables are whether a space should be made for Alex Hartley or Fran Wilson. Two left-arm spinners is a bit of a luxury so the Hartley question comes down to a straight choice between her and Sophie Ecclestone, with Ecclestone likely edging it. Wilson has kept her place in the ODI team, but may be passed over in favour of Georgia Elwiss. Both could play if Jenny Gunn were to be dropped, but that seems unlikely. The XI above is stacked with bowling - eight realistic options. Given that England really need to win and therefore need to take 20 wickets, it is a line-up that will give skipper Heather Knight plenty of options.

So who will win? Well the Aussies are favourites with the bookies on home soil and you would say that Test Match batting will suit Bolton, Blackwell and Haynes. England will need to winkle each one of them out, but England have the better, varied bowling attack, so it should not be impossible. 

Stickability is not a quality much evident in England's top six, with the exception perhaps of Beaumont and Knight. The rest need to bat around these two. If England can get on top of the thin Aussie bowling attack then they could go very big. Any score in excess of 350 on the board in the first innings and England will be in the box seat.

So what is the answer then? Who is going to win? Your guess is as good as mine! Which is how it should be. An even contest. I am sure both coaches will be telling their players that now is the time to pull out that top performance. It is time to stand up and be counted. This is an Ashes Test! [Is that strains of Jerusalem I hear in the background?]

Someone is going to put in a key performance, probably with the bat. The question is who will it be?


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