Let the Ashes begin!

2013-11-18 11:38
Kevin Pietersen (File)

Brisbane - The Ashes contest must be imminent. The local newspaper featured a front-page photo of Kevin Pietersen on Monday, describing the England batsman as the "walking ego of world cricket."

That was published only hours after the national broadcaster aired the latest in a long line of Australian TV retrospectives of the Bodyline series, the divisive 1932/33 Ashes episode that soured relations between the two countries.

Alistair Cook's England squad has arrived in Brisbane to finalize preparations for the first test starting Thursday, with the first three days of the match already sold out.

England are chasing a fourth consecutive series win - an achievement that has eluded them since the 1800s.

And that stat more than anything has piqued the interest of Australians from all walks of life. There's nothing quite as bad in a sporting context for most Aussies as too-frequent losses to the old enemy.

"There's always a lot of bluff and bluster in the lead-up to an Ashes series," former Australia captain Ian Chappell wrote in a column, adding that there were plenty of ifs and buts and not a lot of certainties. "On this occasion Australia have more ifs, while England are superior in the number of proven performers."

Veteran cricket radio broadcaster Jim Maxwell took to twitter to voice his reservations about the "provocative tabloid front page" in Brisbane's The Courier-Mail on Monday, saying the Australian "belligerence, get the enemy, might be misplaced, backfire."

Australian crowds don't need any encouragement when it comes to cheering against The Poms, as the English are widely known in this federation of former British colonies.

England's pace spearhead Jimmy Anderson is all too aware that there's a lot more to an Ashes tour of Australia than what happens on the field.

"Coming out here ... it's always a tough place to be," Anderson said after arriving in Brisbane. "You're not just playing against the 11 blokes on the field, you're playing against the whole country that are backing them. It's a real challenge for us."

Most conjecture about the England selection has been about the third seamer to back up Anderson and Stuart Broad, who will be the main target for boisterous crowds.

Anderson said all the seamers had improved as the tour has progressed, with draws against a Western Australia XI in Perth and Australia A in Hobart followed by a seven-wicket win over a Cricket Australia Invitational XI in Sydney on the weekend.

"We've all started to find some rhythm. Getting to a good place," he said. "What we're excited by is the fact we didn't play our best in England against Australia but we still ended up winning 3-0.

"We're very hopeful that we're going to play better cricket than we did in England — we know we're going to have to play better cricket.

"Certainly every time we've won, the next series has been even tougher."

England ended Australia's eight series of domination around the turn of the 21st century with a victory at home in 2005, but was then swept 5-0 on the following tour Down Under.

But the English have won twice at home since then, including the series just completed in August, and had a 3-1 victory in Australia in 2010/11 — its first on Australian soil in 24 years. This series is being held 12 months ahead of schedule due to Australia's co-hosting of the 2015 World Cup, leaving little time for the English to celebrate their third consecutive series win.

Now Cook's team is on the brink of its best run in 120 years, since England won seven consecutive series from 1884 until 1890. And with eight wins and only two losses in the last 15 Ashes tests, and with a stable squad, England will start as favorites.

"It is crucial to get off to a good start," Anderson said of the anticipated steamy opening match in the Queensland state capital. "It is going to be a long six weeks for both teams so it is very important to get that first blow in."

The Australians have had a disjointed buildup to the series, with the limited-overs squad away in India until earlier this month and the likes of opener David Warner and skipper Michael Clarke playing in the domestic competition.

But Clarke is confident his squad is stronger than it was leading into the last Ashes series, when Warner was suspended after a nightclub altercation and Mickey Arthur was fired as coach. Darren Lehmann, who came in on short notice to guide the team in England, is confident his squad is more settled and things will be different in Australia.

"I think we can win the Ashes," Lehmann was quoted as saying. "From my point of view it's about giving the side confidence. We chopped and changed in England but this time, when we find the right top seven, they will get a good run at it. I think we can do it, but it comes down to how you handle the big moments on the tough days."

Read more on:    ashes  |  kevin pietersen  |  cricket

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

India may be ranked No 1 in the ICC Test rankings, but after their series defeat to the Proteas, do they really deserve the mantle as world's best?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.