The Australians have named their 16-man touring squad for the upcoming Ashes Series, beginning at Trent Bridge on 10th July.
Much has been made of the relative inexperience of this squad in comparison to its predecessors, for example, in 2005 the squad had over 700 caps, compared to the 352 this time around.
But will it be as easy as some people seem to be making out? After all, this is The Ashes. One of the most fiercely contested and competitive rivalries in world sport, so it will be keenly contested at the very least.
So here it is, a brief run-through of the touring party for the 2013 Ashes series:
Michael Clarke – Captain and key man – One of the most consistent performers in the side, even more so since he became captain back in 2012, which resulted in his most profitable years, which included a stunning 329* at the Gabba, usurping Alistair Cook’s magnificent 235* in the 2011/12 Ashes Series.
Brad Haddin – Vice Captain – Back in the side after a period out and replacing Shane Watson after the ‘homework’ debacle, having been replaced himself by Matthew Wade. Averaging 35 in his 44 tests to date, a solid if somewhat unspectacular keeper-batsman – certainly not on the same level as his opposite number Matt Prior.
Jackson Bird – Never heard of him. Of course, I’m joking, I know the name. As a cricketer though, he is a complete mystery. More of a swing bowler as opposed to out and out quick, but has proved useful in Sheffield Shield cricket in Australia.
Ed Cowan – Signed for Nottinghamshire over the winter, and has had a decent start to the English summer, scoring 211runs at a touch over 42.
James Faulkner – The only uncapped player in the touring party. He has impressed with 125 wickets in 34 first-class games for Tasmania. Also a graduate of the Twenty20 game, currently playing in the IPL with the Pune Warriors India, and now given his chance in the longest form of the game, it will be interesting to see if he is up to scratch.
Ryan Harris – Genuinely quick bowler who could trouble England, but can struggle to keep himself fit. Played well in the 2011/12 Ashes until he broke down with an ankle injury.
Phil Hughes – Something of a nearly man at the top of the order, aggressive and flamboyant, can be very destructive at times, but can struggle against the short stuff – as we found out in 2009, and can tend to flail and waft outside the off-stump – as we found out in 2011/12.
Usman Khawaja – Came into the side in the final test of the 11/12 Series in Sydney in the place of now-retired Ricky Ponting, made an assured if unspectacular start, but has really struggled to assert himself at the highest level. Also dropped as a result of the ‘homework’ fiasco in India.
Nathan Lyon – The one spinner that has been selected for this tour. Comparisons with the great Shane Warne are, of course, unavoidable, but he was one of the few positives to come out of a pretty dire tour of India just after Christmas. 76 wickets in 22 tests at 33, a useful spinner, but certainly no Warney.
James Pattinson – Brother of the England one-cap wonder Darren Pattinson, a young, fast and aggressive quick bowler, could possibly be the bowler to cause England the most problems.
Chris Rogers – Veteran opener who has spent many years in the County Championship with Middlesex, as well as spells with Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Scored a double-hundred in the game against Surrey this week. Something of a surprise pick, with his sole previous test appearance coming in 2008, where he scored 4 and 15.
Peter Siddle – Another consistent performer for Michael Clarke’s men. Quick bowler with experience of English conditions from 2009. Took a hat-trick in the opening test at the Gabba. Definitely a threat come June 21st.
Mitchell Starc – A tall left-arm seamer who can bat a bit, could be seen by some to be a direct replacement to the sporadic Mitchell Johnson. I’m sure the Barmy Army will do their utmost to come up with a song to rival that of ‘The Mitchell Johnson song’.
Matthew Wade – Second glovesman in the squad. Can come up with some decent runs in the lower order, but glovework is a little shaky.
David Warner – Another aggressive opening batsman who has found his way into the test team via Twenty20 in the KFC Big Bash and the IPL. Like Hughes he can be destructive, but could be susceptible to Jimmy Anderson’s in-swinger.
Shane Watson – Solid opening batsman and can usually be counted on to get to 50, but appears to have a chronic inability to convert starts into hundreds. He was the vice captain, but resigned after his dog ate his homework.
So there we have it, a few familiar names, and a few that I had to Wikipedia. Maybe they aren’t as strong this time around as they have been, but it is the Ashes, and anything can happen, and it is sure to entertain, and if the cricket doesn’t, The Barmy Army surely will.