I admit. I’m not optimistic about England’s chances this winter. I’ve seen far too many Ashes tours go wrong and get nothing but great shows. However, I don’t think it’s a closed deal. Australia isn’t great either. The surprise picks of Paine and Marsh suggest their XI is a bit shaky and their confidence may be a bit shaken.
For that reason, I don’t think it will take much time for England to turn what is usually a major disadvantage – the loud and impolite Australian crowd – into an advantage. If Australia get off to a bad start and fail to win the Gabba (as they failed to do in 2010), the raucous crowd could turn against them. That will add to the pressure on Australia, who have already riled up the locals with their left-field selection.
Those of us who have watched an Ashes cricket match in Australia know that there is usually a cheering crowd of camp balls. The Australian crowd is mostly well-informed and very knowledgeable about their cricket, but in any given (drunk) situation, there is certainly a fickle factor abusing the easiest targets. It is often the struggling Australian players who find themselves in the line of fire when opponents are in the lead – especially when expectations are high. I’ve even seen Glenn McGrath being abused at times.
If England get off to a good start – and it’s entirely possible that the combination of Root, Cook and Bairstow will do enough in Brisbane to give England the lead – it’s entirely possible that the mood on the ground and across the country will do the trick. A little bit changes quickly. When that happens, every mistake by Paine or by Marsh is met with national ridicule.
Furthermore, it is actually possible for English players to convince Australian audiences by playing aggressive cricket. When I was at my lowest point in the 1998/99 season, the Australians looked up to Darren Gough. He gave everything and was a natural entertainer. As a result, the Australian public often roared at him, not particularly caring whether the result was an Australian wicket. As Geraint Jones explains in this Betway Insider interview, Australians will welcome you as their favorite son if you show a little ‘mood’ and personality.
What we cannot escape, however, are England’s own weaknesses. We have too many inexperienced players, we lack the best all-around players. In fact, serious questions should be asked of Trevor Bayliss if England loses the Ashes… as regular reader Danny Holden explains below:
Trevor Bayliss seems to be exactly what he says on the can. He’s aggressive, does nothing, tries to support the players. We’ve now seen the best and worst of this England squad, but the truth is this squad hasn’t improved much, if anything, since 2015.
It may be hard to attack Trevor Bayliss for doing what he says he does; English Cricket wanted to take a bold step and play more exciting and aggressive cricket and he did. Yet one cannot get around the fact that England tend to fold like cheap suits and Sunday cricketers are ashamed to play.
Without examining every single series England have played under Bayliss, I can tell you they all follow the same pattern. Some of the funniest cricket I’ve ever seen is played during this period, but our inconsistencies are exasperating. On a good day we could beat any team in the world, but on a bad day we could lose to Geoffrey Boycott’s Grandma Rhubarb.
I have no doubt I’ll drop the phone a few times during this series. Joe Root and his colleagues undoubtedly make the most difficult recordings imaginable, and when it’s stupid, they back out before they insist it’s the right thing to do. But that’s exactly what this England team is doing. England strike, Counter-Strike, strike again, strike again. They can turn you on or drive you to the brink of complete madness.
While this is often seen as a weakness, I wonder if this “thrilling” approach can actually be the recipe for England’s success this winter. Few English teams have approached the Ashes tour with such a positive attitude; so this may come as a surprise to Australia. Furthermore, this “punch, counter-punch, punch again” mentality can capture the imagination of the Australian public. Call it Darren Gough’s ghost, if you will.
While Australian sports fans don’t like us Poms because we’re seen as arrogant, they also have an innate dislike for our traditional British conservatism. They hate how we (traditionally) play football in an unimaginative way that emphasizes forward power and scoring, they hate clean “schoolboys” like Andrew Strauss with a drain that basically bores batsmen Strategies come to Australia.
Luckily, this time we didn’t send the usual bunch of conservative boring stuff. Instead of playing cricket by the numbers, teams now play aggressively in any situation – even if it’s akin to committing hari-kari. It’s down your trousers all the time and it usually leads to an enjoyable cricket match.
So I wonder if the current English squad is really well-suited to play in Australia – not necessarily in terms of skill and ability, but in terms of temperament. Trevor Bayliss has yet to assemble the best Test team in the world, but he should know how to build a team that can compete in Australia.
The strength of this British team may be that they are not very British at all. It is a pity that Ben Stokes, the player who, more than anyone else, embodies England’s existential mentality, will not be in Brisbane.
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