Note: My second preview can be found here: https://hardmansthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/ashes-preview-part-2-of-3-the-players/
Note: My first preview can be found here: https://hardmansthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/ashes-preview-part-1-of-3-recent-test-series/
At 11:00 on the 10th July in Nottingham, England and Australia will lock horns again in the first of two back to back Ashes series. The first series in England will feature 5 test matches at Trent Bridge, Lord’s, Old Trafford, Durham and the Oval. The last series was won by England in Australia, when England were very much the better side. They had a better attack and a better batting line up with a captain who made some wonderful decisions. Not only did they retain the Urn, they won a series in Australia for the first time in 24 years.
My final preview, 2 days before the first ball is bowled, is going to take a look at the grounds where the matches will be played. More specifically, I am going to look at the conditions that are usually present as well as the recent test matches and if the toss makes a difference there or not. Afterwards, using all the information from each preview, I will give you my prediction.
When: 10th July – 14th July
County: Nottinghamshire, County Championship division 1
Last 5 test matches:
- West Indies 2012, WI won toss and batted, England won by 9 wickets
- India 2011, India won toss and fielded, England won by 319 runs
- Pakistan 2010, England won toss and batted, England won by 354 runs
- New Zealand 2008, NZ won toss and fielded, England won by inns and 9 runs
- India 2007, India won toss and fielded, India won by 7 wickets
Trent Bridge has become a bit of a fortress for England, with only two losses in seven test matches. The information above implies that it doesn’t matter whether you bat or bowl first, but if there is a ground in England where you will get conventional swing from the first ball, then it is Trent Bridge. The pitches at Trent Bridge, from what I can recall, have never catered for much spin but given that it is where Graeme Swann plays his cricket, he will know conditions well and can get the most out of the pitch. Trent Bridge is a ground where the new ball can wreak havoc with even the best batting line up’s in the world and both teams’ temperament will be tested. If you survive that test then there is a chance to score some runs, given the usual lack of reverse swing in Nottingham. However, this year the pitches have been drier given the new outfield absorbing water quicker. This has meant that less conventional swing has been on offer and more reverse and spin instead. The forecast looks good, meaning conditions are even less swing friendly however I expect these two attacks to get something out of the pitch. The weather is less of a factor in Nottingham, hence why results are common.
When: 18th July – 22nd July
County: Middlesex, County Championship division 1
Last 5 test matches (involving England):
- South Africa 2012, SA won toss and batted, SA won by 51 runs
- West Indies 2012, England won toss and fielded, England won by 5 wickets
- India 2011, India won toss and fielded, England won by 196 runs
- Sri Lanka 2011, Sri Lanka won toss and fielded, match drawn
- Pakistan 2010, Pakistan won toss and fielded, England won by inns and 225 runs
Lord’s, the home of cricket, and venue for the second test is a ground where batting first can be a blessing or a curse. If you do it right and the ball doesn’t swing, which is likely, then you can get big scores and bat opponents out of the game. However, batting traditionally gets easier on the second or third day so choosing to bat first can be a risk. When putting a side in, you probably need 6 or 7 wickets during the first day to give yourself a good chance of winning – yet Pakistan found out that if you leave Trott in overnight it can be disastrous. Batting usually stays good throughout the test although the fifth day pitches can show movement. In recent years, teams were able to bat well on the final day, with England nearly snatching a victory from SA last year and Sri Lanka comfortably surviving a session in 2011. The toss feels important at Lord’s but it is very difficult to know what teams should do. I would expect England to bat and Australia to field, whoever wins the toss. I say this because I believe England will back themselves to bat well whatever the conditions and expose Australia to the new ball, even if the pitch gets better for batting on.
When: 1st – 5th August
County: Lancashire, County Championship division 2
Last 5 test matches:
- Bangladesh 2010, England won toss and batted, England won by inns and 80 runs
- New Zealand 2008, NZ won toss and batted, England won by 6 wickets
- West Indies 2007, England won toss and batted, England won by 60 runs
- Pakistan 2006, Pakistan won toss and batted, England won by inns and 120 runs
- Australia 2005, England won toss and batted, match drawn
Test match cricket is back at Old Trafford! Let us rejoice for this is something that all Lancastrians and Mancunians have been hoping for ever since that Bangladesh test. I should start this by saying that I don’t expect any of the 5 previous tests to have any bearing on this test, except that I still expect the captain who wins the toss to bat. The reason for this is that a lot has changed at Old Trafford since 2010. If you haven’t seen it since then you genuinely won’t recognise it! There are three new stands, a new player’s area and media centre, the pavilion has been raised and a new conference centre, The Point, which still divides opinion (personally I love it). Floodlights have been installed and the square has been turned around. Whereas the ends used to be square on to the pavilion, they now face it. This has meant that the wicket has become a lot slower and if there is any ground where the ball will spin this summer, it will be Old Trafford! This would imply that you win the toss and bat, batting well to avoid batting on it on the fifth day. However, it may not be that simple. For a start, the weather is always a factor in Manchester and secondly, swing bowlers have got a lot out of the new wicket recently. The most recent 4 day match at Old Trafford was won within 2 days, without much sight of spin. Whether this was down to the pitch or just poor batting is still unclear, it will be interesting to see which wicket the ground-staff produce for the test!
When: 9th August – 13th August
Where: Chester – le – Street
County: Durham, County Championship division 1
Only 4 test matches:
- West Indies 2009, England won toss and batted, England won by an inns and 83 runs
- West Indies 2007, England won toss and fielded, England won by 7 wickets
- Bangladesh 2005, England won toss and fielded, England won by an inns and 27 runs
- Zimbabwe 2003, England won toss and batted, England won by an inns and 69 runs
So England have a 100% record at the Riverside, both in terms of the result and in terms of the toss. However, I don’t expect this to have any bearing when Australia visit the north of the country in mid August. For a start, the last test match was 4 years ago and secondly, the standard of opposition is much better this summer than it ever has been there before. I expect the wicket to be bowler friendly, pitches in the north usually are and county matches there this season have produced results. Bresnan picked four wickets up bowling first for Yorkshire earlier this season which suggests to me that there also can be conditions favourable to swing there. It is the home ground of English seamer Graham Onions, who is known for his ability to swing the ball – this implies that his home ground gets swing too. There always seems to be a mix of batting and fielding first when winning the toss, with both methods getting positive results, and so this implies that conditions won’t change throughout a five day match.
When: 21st August – 25th August
County: Surrey, County Championship division 1
Last 5 test matches:
- South Africa 2012, England won the toss and batted, SA won by an inns and 12 runs
- India 2011, England won the toss and batted, England won by an inns and 8 runs
- Pakistan 2010, England won the toss and batted, Pakistan won by 4 wickets
- Australia 2009, England won the toss and batted, England won by 197 runs
- South Africa 2008, South Africa won the toss and batted, England won by 6 wickets
The recent formula at the Oval seems to be to win the toss and bat, to varying results. Batting first makes sense as the Oval, like Old Trafford, is likely to spin by the final stages of the match but it won’t become a dust bowl. I expect the team who wins the toss here to bat first again, unless it is overcast and might suit swing bowling. Swing bowling doesn’t tend to be hugely successful here but bowlers who pitch the ball in the right areas usually get enough to nick batsmen out. The important thing to notice from that list above is that all 5 of the most recent test matches have produced results. This shows that the pitches usually produce a fair contest between bat and ball, and I don’t expect that to change. Hopefully, this will be the match that decides the Ashes and the Oval is the perfect place to do that!
I expect there to be a result in every one of these test matches, unless there is weather about, as both teams have attacks capable of taking 20 wickets and all grounds give a fair battle between bat and ball. If there is to be a draw, then I expect it will occur at Lord’s, although local knowledge suggests that Manchester is the most likely place for rain! What grounds suit whom? Trent Bridge, Chester-le-Street and Old Trafford should suit England whereas Lord’s and the Oval are more closely matched, although the Oval spin could just nudge it in England’s direction.
I can’t see Australia being white-washed but I can’t see them winning either and so hence my prediction is a 4-1 win for England, with Australia getting a win at Lord’s.