By / 21st November, 2017 / Cricket, Tests / Off

John Rogers, proud VG owner and host, regularly regales his dearest, nearest and furthest, with his musings on the cricketing state of play. Here’s his latest on the upcoming Ashes contest.

Clean-sweep Australia?

Can’t see it.

Stats appeared this week to claim the current Aussie fast-bowing trio of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins are the most potent in history.

Yet last Ashes series Starc and Hazlewood simply weren’t up to it – consistently out-bowled by England’s Broad, Anderson, Wood, Finn and Stokes. Hazlewood was even dropped for the final test and was completely shown up by his replacement Siddle.

Supposedly now they are so much better. Starc is a world-beater we are told with his two hat-tricks of 9, 10 & jack in his last outing. Take off those 6 balls against the tail, and he bowled 34 overs and took 1 for 97 for the match. Meanwhile Cummins has yet to play a test match in Australia.

Flying under the radar is England captain Joe Root, who ranks with Kohli, Steve Smith, Warner and Kane Williamson as the world’s best. And the England lower order of Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Woakes might be England’s key advantage. I say, look out Australia.

And the Aussie team? Bancroft is a good selection given his performances against the trio of quicks above and then a double-hundred. And he’s been playing shield cricket for 5 years. Shaun Marsh just doesn’t inspire confidence – so many chances and so inconsistent. Tim Paine’s selection gets a pass mark – a quality keeper, who has been a good bat and has been on the scene for a long time. But not much keeping behind him at the moment with test incumbent Wade preferred in Tassie. I don’t know why Nevill presents on the field as a little boy/robotic type, but he doesn’t inspire confidence, and Paine put his hand up via the CA XI at precisely the right moment.

I can’t wait for the Ashes to start.

Meanwhile Cricket Australia keeps stumbling along

A casual game of cricket played by a group of friends staying at the VG, November 2017.

Grassroots cricket was in action here at the Village Green last weekend. Watched on by his 80 guests, birthday boy Steve takes strike – and dispatches it for 6 over square leg.

While announcing an Ashes sell-out, and no doubt in response to a question, its CEO tells us test cricket is in trouble worldwide. Back in May he told us grassroots cricket is in trouble and that the players were taking millions out of the game that should be directed there – and a few weeks later gave in to every one of the players’ demands – who’d got their backs up over what they saw as poor treatment of the state players who they believe (unlike CA) provide the necessary competition to enable ‘cream’ to rise to the top.

A few weeks back when promoting the women’s Ashes he announced CA has adopted a new strategic plan – after wide consultation of course. Women’s cricket is there; so too T20; Big Bash; grassroots as in junior cricket; and its high performance academy. Test cricket gets no mention, nor does ODI cricket, nor does state cricket nor Sheffield Shield in particular, and certainly not premier league/grade/pennant competitions which were once the bedrock of the game.

It smacks of the old East German laboratory hothouse system: find the best kids as early as possible and put them the ‘pathway’ of state and national academies and the game will prosper. My spies tell me that the CA XI of pathway kids playing the England tourists in Perth and Adelaide were all at sea when the ball began to move – “thrown under a bus” was the term used.

England coach Trevor Bayliss made it clear he was unimpressed that England should have agreed to a series of Ashes warm-up fixtures against a CA XI that was clearly the brainchild of the national talent managers in the academies.

But back to the Ashes series, woo-hoo!  

I’m predicting Warner, Khawaja and Smith and similarly Root and Bairstow will do wonderful things with the bat, while Woakes will be the best bowler on show – and if he gets a chance, Overton will light up a game with any of bat, ball and in the field. But I’m also fearful one of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins will be out injured by the Boxing Day Test.

I’m tipping Australia will beat an underdone England in the first test, and under lights either side could win in Adelaide with England’s Broad a big factor if he bowls at dusk when the lights come on. Especially if Stokes is back (as currently seems a chance), England will win in Perth, draw at the MCG and win in Sydney. So depending on Adelaide, England will retain the Ashes either 3-1 or 2-2.

Any of you out there predicting a 5-nil? Any other outrageous predictions, as above?