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7 things England must do to win the Ashes

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England_Ashes_Test_CricketThe Ashes get underway on the 23rd of November with the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane. Australia definitely start as favourites going into the series as they are formidable opponents at home and England have suffered a number of setbacks in terms of injury and unavailability of their key personnel.

However, England cannot be written off even though they are the underdogs. For England, to win a lot of things need to go right and they will have to be at their best and get the rub of the green. Here are 7 things England need to do to have any chance of seizing the urn.

Cook and Root must score big

Alastair Cook and Joe Root are not just two of England’s most senior players: they are also two of the best batsmen in the English batting order. While Test series have been won in the past in spite of some main players not contributing, it will be almost impossible for England to pull off an upset if Cook and Root do not score a lot of runs.

They have played on Australian soil before and have faced express bowlers like Mitchell Johnson. They need to set an example for the newcomers, showing that they will not cower down and that it is possible to score big runs with application and grit. Moreover, Australian teams have been known to attack the opposition captain both in the game and verbally. Root needs to lead from the front and lead by example.

England’s inexperienced batsmen need to step up

While Alastair Cook and Joe Root are the most accomplished batsmen in the English line-up, players like Gary Ballance, Dawid Malan, Mark Stoneman and James Vince have to come to the party and be counted. Only Ballance has played Test cricket before in Australia.

Inexperience is no excuse, and whoever is selected among these players have to chip in with runs and avoid depending on Cook and Root, as the duo cannot be expected to shoulder the entire burden.

Lower order contributions

If we consider batting performances in Tests since 1st January 2016, the English middle and lower order (wickets 6 to 10), have averaged the 2nd most number of runs per wicket among all 10 Test playing nations (31.69) while Australians are right at the bottom, with 18.11 runs per wicket. This is one area where England clearly have the edge over Australia. Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes need to continue their vital lower order contributions.

Moeen Ali has to continue his good form of the English summer

Moeen Ali has grown in leaps and bounds as a cricketer. While he started as a batsman who could bowl useful off-spin, he is now the first-choice spinner for England. However, history is against him as off-spinners and left-arm spinners have generally found the going tough in Australia and it is wrist spinners who rule the roost.

Finger spinners like Lance Gibbs, Daniel Vettori, Graeme Swann, Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan have bowling averages of 33.38, 40.18, 52.59, 54.71 and 73.22 respectively. Moeen has shown the knack of taking wickets, and he will have to be at his best to avoid leaving the pacers to do all the hard work.

James Anderson has to provide early breakthroughs

In their last three tours to Australia, England were trounced 5-0 in 2006-07, emerged victorious 3-1 in 2010-11 and got trounced 5-0 again in 2013-14. James Anderson had taken 5 wickets at 82.6 in 2006-07, 24 wickets at 26.04 in 2010-11 and 14 wickets at 43.92 in 2013-14. His fortunes have directly mirrored those of the English team in their last 3 tours.

Anderson is often unplayable in English conditions, but rendered ineffective in Australia where the ball doesn’t swing as much. The Aussie wickets are hard and bouncy, and he does not have the extra pace to trouble batsmen. In the twilight of his career, at 35, Jimmy is no spring chicken. However, in tandem with Stuart Broad, he will need to make early inroads if England are to restrict Australia to manageable totals.

England can’t afford to be intimidated by pace

During England’s 2013-14 tour of Australia, they were blown away by Mitchell Johnson who took 37 wickets in 5 Tests, at a paltry average of 13.97 and strike rate of 30.5. More than the number of wickets, it was the sheer terror he struck in the English batsmen with his blistering pace and vicious use of the short ball. Jonathan Trott quit the tour early because he couldn’t handle the heat and Graeme Swann quit after the 3rd Test.

There is no doubt that Australia’s current attack, especially Mitchell Starc & Pat Cummins, have more pace than their English counterparts. The English batsmen have to show their guts and not get intimidated by pace.

England have to be totally focused on the game and not get distracted by external issues

Australian players are known to resort to sledging and provocative taunts on the field. In fact, David Warner has been sledging the English team long before the Ashes even began. England must be able to keep their mind focused on the job at hand.

The Australian media almost acts like a 12th player, attacking the players relentlessly and even the Australian crowd at the various grounds will heckle, abuse and taunt the players mercilessly. England, need to be strong mentally and not react to such obvious distractions and concentrate on the job at hand.

And here’s a bonus 8th thing that England doesn’t have to do, but probably will:

Hope Stokes comes back

Ben Stokes is the leading all-rounder in world cricket but there is no clarity regarding whether he will play any role in the series or not. Experts like Ian Chappell have written off England without Stokes, as he has the ability to change the course of the match both with bat and ball.

Even if Stokes misses the start of the series, if he is able to take the field towards the end of the 5 Test series, it could provide a huge fillip to England and could possibly affect the outcome of the Ashes.

 

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