In the final instalment of our Ashes head to head series, we look at the fast bowlers. With the spinners almost certain to come under heavy fire, the role of the seamers will play an absolutely pivotal role in shaping this contest.
Stuart Broad Vs Mitchell Johnson
Broad delivered decisive spells at the Oval in 2009 and Durham in 2013 that went a long way to delivering the urn into English hands. He had started to show glimpses of his best form against New Zealand and he will need to bring his best form into the series. His record against Australia is solid: he averages 30 with the ball against them.
Johnson was England’s tormentor in the last series, where he almost single-handedly blew them away. His record in England, however, is modest: 23 wickets at 38. He wasn’t at his best against India last year and, although he took wickets in the Caribbean, there is a suspicion that he might be past his best. At nearly 34, that could well be the case. If England show any fear, however, Johnson will be straight at them with some short stuff and a volley of verbal abuse.
The Cricket Blog’s verdict: We’d have to opt for Johnson. The fear factor will doubtless still be in the mind of those Englishmen who went Down Under in 2013/14 and his batting is also more reliable than Broad’s.
Mark Wood Vs Mitchell Starc/Peter Siddle
Wood enjoyed an encouraging start to his Test career against New Zealand, although he’s entering the Lion’s den now. There is talk that he may not feature in all five Tests in a bid preserve him, so Steven Finn and Mark Footit will also have an eye on this berth, although Wood is certain to play first up in Cardiff. He is deceptively fast and capable of moving the ball late. He is clearly highly regarded within the England set-up, but the Aussies will look to intimidate him immediately.
The forced retirement of Ryan Harris has left something of a gap in the Australian bowling attack as he looked a certain starter. Starc bowled well against Essex and may get the nod ahead of Siddle, although his mastery of the white ball has not been transferred to the red. Yet.
Siddle is a seasoned pro, the sort of reliable and aggressive fast bowler that Michael Clarke so dearly loves. He looks the natural replacement for Harris, so I have a feeling that he will get the nod over Starc, at least in the short term.
TCB’s verdict: We were impressed with Wood against New Zealand and believe that he will have a good Test career, although in a situation like this there is no substitute for experience. Starc has bowled his nation to World Cup glory and Siddle has played in numerous Ashes campaigns now. On that basis, we’d have to go with the Aussies on this one.
James Anderson Vs Josh Hazlewood
Anderson is the king of the swingers and a man who has mastered the Dukes ball. He is now England’s leading wicket taker and remains their most important bowler by some distance. If Australia can keep Anderson at bay with the new ball, then they will fancy their chances of picking off his teammates. If Anderson creates early openings, however, England will be keen to have a crack at Steve Smith and Michael Clarke as early as possible.
Hazlewood, much like Wood, has enjoyed an encouraging start to his Test career, so much so that he averages only 19 with the ball five Tests in. There might have been some doubts about his starting this series if Harris were still available, but Hazlewood looks set to feature heavily throughout. He shouldn’t find the going as easy he did against India and the West Indies, but he does appear to be another high class fast bowler coming out of Australia.
TCB’s verdict: You just cannot look past Jimmy Anderson here. The Australians never show the merest hint of fear, but he will be the one bowler that they are least looking forward to facing and they know how important a role Anderson can play in shaping the series.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our series and we hope that you enjoy the Ashes. The Australians rightly start as favourites, but England, with home advantage and a few young guns coming through, are unlikely to roll over. It should be an entertaining English summer ahead.
You can read our other Ashes head to head articles here:
By Miles Reucroft