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Ashes 2023 – Can England’s batting superstars regain the Ashes despite their bowling fragilities?

England face Australia in the 2023 Ashes, with Australia aiming to win in England for the first time since 2001, and England looking to regain the urn for the first time since 2015. But who will be victorious come the end of the series?

It is fair to say that English test cricket has come a long way in the last year.

If you can bear it, cast your mind back to the winter of 2021/22, and the last Ashes series. England visited Australia and found themselves on the end of an embarrassing 4-0 thrashing, the third series in a row that England had failed to win a single test in Australia. The misery, however, did not stop there, as a series defeat to the West Indies followed, compiling England’s misery.

They had won 1 test match in 17. English test cricket looked lost.

That was until a Kiwi with a suitcase filled with a brave new philosophy arrived.

When Brendan McCullum took the reigns as England head coach, it is fair to say that a few eyebrows were raised, mainly due to McCullum having no international coaching experience. Needless to say, they had nothing to fear.

Under McCullum and his new captain Ben Stokes, England have played an attacking brand of cricket rarely seen before in the test format. ‘Bazball’ has revolutionised the test game and has seen England’s batsmen thrive through their implementation of McCullum’s masterstroke.

Incredible runs of form for Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ollie Pope, and Ben Duckett have all preceded this year’s Ashes series, with Pope recently getting the fastest double hundred in England, and seeing himself promoted to vice-captain.

One of the breakthrough stars of Bazball has been Harry Brook. Brook had never played an international match before being brought into the English test side, but has flourished since Stokes and McCullum gave him his chance. The youngest member of England’s squad has scored 4 centuries and 3 half centuries in 7 matches, at an average of 81.80.

Under Bazball, the batsmen have played attacking strokes and have looked to back this up with the ball through aggressive bowling and field placements. England have not lost a test series under the new system, and have won 11 out of 13 matches, becoming one of the most fearsome teams in the world.

But how will this new philosophy fair against the recent winners of the World Test Championships and the ‘Old Enemy’, Australia?

Australia will represent the hardest challenge this England side has had under Bazball; whilst our batsmen promise to thrive, recent injuries have threatened to dampen English spirits.

A key bowler in the 2019 series, Jofre Archer will miss the entire series with an ongoing elbow problem. Another pace bowler Ollie Stone will also be absent with a hamstring injury and there are still doubts over the fitness of Jimmy Anderson who has a groin strain.

There are still doubts over the fitness of Ben Stokes, whose ability to bowl for long spells in the middle overs have been invaluable for England in the past. But his knee injury may well see him confined to batting and captaincy (in the test match against Ireland, Stokes became the first test captain in history to win a match without batting, bowling, or keeping wicket).

But perhaps the most crucial absentee will be Stokes’ partner in crime in the great Headingly chase, Jack Leach. Leach has been ever-present in the team since Stokes became captain, and has thrived under the attacking field placements provided.

Leach is set to miss the rest of the summer with a lower back injury picked up against Ireland. The left arm spinner was set to be a crucial factor in the battle against Australia’s star batsmen Steve Smith, who averages over 60 in England and has shown weakness to left arm spin in the past.

A slight positive for England has been found in the ever-green Stuart Broad who took 6 wickets in the match against Ireland, and debutant Josh Tongue who took 5 wickets in the second innings.

However, it is clear to see that England’s bowling unit pales in comparison to Australia’s, and if there’s one thing we know about test matches in England, bowling is key.

The Baggy Greens have perhaps the best bowling line-up in the world, complete with Mitchel Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Nathan Lyon and their captain, Pat Cummins.

Whilst all possess their own threats, Mitchell Starc may be the biggest challenge to England’s Bazball style. Starc, who is one of the best one-day bowlers in the world, and boasts 306 wickets in 77 matches, is a fantastic bowler of yorkers, and his accuracy could be a big deterrent for England’s attacking style.

Another man to look out for in English conditions is Scott Boland. Boland was one of Australia’s breakthrough stars in the last Ashes series (despite being 34) and his ability to hit a length could cause England problems.

Australia also have the top three test batsmen in the world in the form of Marnus Labuschange, Steve Smith and Travis Head; all three got runs against India in the World Test Championships last week.

All-rounder, Cameron Green also promises to have a good series. The 6ft 6in giant has proved himself indispensable to this Australia side and, as well as being a fantastic batsman, possesses a nasty short ball.

Despite currently holding the Ashes, this Australia team will feel they have a point to prove. The Australians haven’t won a test series in England since 2001, and many will still have nightmares about Stokes and Leach from 2019.

I have no doubt that they will bring their A game, and despite Bazball’s recent success, the visitors do find themselves favourites for the series.

If England are to pull off an upset, they will have to hope their (g)olden boys Anderson and Broad pull off another bowling masterclass, and that Bazball can withstand Australia’s bowling might.

Stokes will be desperate to be the man to regain the Ashes for England, and even though his team find themselves the underdogs, if we learnt one thing from Stokes in 2019, he’s not a man to go down without a fight.


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