Here they come. They’re Australian, so you’ll hear them before you see them.
English confidence isn’t quite at a low ebb, but drawn series away to the West Indies and home to New Zealand are the cricket equivalent of preparing for 12 rounds Anthony Joshua by having a Bible-quote-off with Dott Cotton. In contrast, the Aussies arrive full of the overt over-confidence we’ve come to expect from the Baggy Greens. But Kevin Pietersen believes a series win is possible for the hosts.
In conversation with the Paddy Power Blog, the exiled England batsman explained that victory is possible – providing some of England’s biggest names find form in the next couple of months:
“This is going to be a very tough series; Ashes series always are. But that’s not to say we can’t beat Australia, far from it in fact. A great deal, however, relies on the form of the three players Australia will be most concerned about: Joe Root, Jimmy Anderson and Alastair Cook.”
Chief among them is Joe Root. The most baby-faced Yorkshireman we’ve seen who isn’t actually a baby has the ability to rack up huge scores and whether the Aussies admit it or not, he’ll be the most prized wicket in the England line-up.
But despite averaging an impressive 54.1 in Test cricket, Root has managed an average of just 33.1 against the Aussies. The damage was done in the back to back Ashes series of 2013 and 2014. 10 innings into his Test career, Root’s average had settled to an impressive 44, but 10 Test matches and one harrowing 5-0 series defeat later, that was down to 36 – a figure that was preserved largely by a stunning 180 in the second Test at Lord’s.
Since then however, his number has shifted back up to 54.1 on the back of some heavy scoring. In fact, if Root could magically expunge his Ashes experiences from the record, he’d now be the proud owner of a Bradman-esque average of 67.
As much as we’d like it and pay significant sums of money to do it, you can’t avoid the Aussies. Root needs to step up to the plate. Pietersen sees him as being crucial to England’s chances of a win and if he can improve on his disappointing first couple of Ashes series. KP is willing to cut him some slack based on his inexperience last time out:
“In Joe Root we have one of the most exciting and in form players in the world right now. Last time Root played in an Ashes series he was a young guy, new to the team”
It’s a different story a couple of years later however and the leading runscorer of the 2005 Ashes series reckons the time is right for Root to step up to the plate and deliver on his potential in the biggest series in Test cricket
“Now he’s very much an established international player and someone we’ll look upon to bring the attack to the Aussies. Over the last year or so we’ve seen him transform from a young man with vast potential to a proven match winner and his form will be vital if we’re going to reclaim the Urn”
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) June 23, 2015
While much of the 24-year-old’s history with the Aussies has involved underwhelming scores and unsavoury encounters with David Warner, Pietersen reckons Root’s work ethic gives him a good chance of improving his stats against the Aussies.
“Last time out in Australia, we had some great times working on his game in the nets and although our cricket on the field was nowhere near good enough, it was very clear even then he was eager to learn and had all the hallmarks needed to be a world-class batsman. I have no doubt he’ll go on to break many records for England and I just hope he can transfer his form of this summer through to this Series.”
WATCH KP KEEP HIS EYE IN AHEAD OF THE ASHES
In a similar bracket to Root are England stalwarts Alastair Cook and Jimmy Anderson both of whom have failed to consistently boss their southern hemisphere rivals in the way they would ideally like.
“Cooky will need to be at his best if we are to stand any chance, as well. We’ve seen over the years, and importantly so this summer, just what a fantastic batsman he is and if he can make a big score in Cardiff, the Aussies will certainly have cause for concern. An in-form Cook, batting over a great deal of time is something Australia will be fearful of.”
Anderson has become England’s all time leading wicket-taker and reached the milestone of 400 Test wickets since last crossing swords with the Aussies. His reverse swing has bamboozled the Aussie batsmen over the years and KP reckons a strong start may see some doubt creep into the overconfident ranks.
“If he can take some early wickets and put the Aussies on the backfoot, it will give the boys an incredible boost. Confidence is vital and if these three guys perform, it will filter all the way through the side, which could mark the difference between winning and losing.”
The Aussies seem to be even more smugly overconfident about the quality of the team they’re sending over than usual, it’s up to England’s established stars to help wipe that smugness of their faces.