The biggest rivalry in cricket? Comparing The Ashes to other cricketing rivalries is like comparing Sir Donald Bradman to other batsmen. It beats everything else by a huge margin.
With about three hours till the start of the Ashes of 2017-18, both teams have their vulnerabilities. I’m predicting with some degree of confidence that Australia will regain the Ashes yet with the knowledge that fortunes could change at any time in this seven-week journey.
Australia has a recent away loss to Bangladesh on their form guide, and some tentativeness in selection policy that has thrown up the odd choice of Tim Paine as wicketkeeper. On the other hand Australia does have the fast bowling troika of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood at its disposal for the first time all at once. Can they remain unbroken? Will they remain unrotated?
England has a recent home loss to the West Indies on its formsheet, but some very exciting players in its eleven, particularly Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and James Anderson. On the other hand, Ben Stokes… waiting back in England to see if he will faces charges over an alleged video of an alleged aggravated assault. I’m guessing we won’t see him this summer, and that will be a shame.
There’s been a distinct polarity in series outcomes between Australia and England in recent years favouring the home side, and I believe 2017-18 will be no exception. Steve Smith will not be remembered in the highest echelon of Australian captains, but he does have a batsman called Steve Smith in his side who is currently one of the world’s finest.
Smith also has David Warner at his disposal as well as Usman Khawaja, who on Australian surfaces can be close to perfection when his mind is at it. I’d back Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood over Anderson, Ball and Woakes with little hesitation. Number six? If Shaun Marsh is ruled unfit in the last three hours before start of play and replaced by Glenn Maxwell then I would not be unhappy.
There’s been a lot of silly words thrown about this week by the players. The media lap it up but perhaps we should forget it ever happened and wish they never do it again?
America has organised a public holiday to coincide with the Ashes this year and that was very kind of them. For all of us, Merry Ashesmas!
Prediction: Australia 3 England 1.