Craddock: Eight reasons Australia can win Ashes
Who would you rather be … the team with no allrounder or the one with six of them?
This is the fascinating match-up that awaits us in this year's Ashes series between a fragile Australian side and a suddenly shattered England who have been ripped apart in two Test match spankings in the West Indies.
Australia lack an allrounder and their top order often needs to confront only a decent breeze to be knocked flat.
But guess what? The Poms are not that flash either so it's time for Australia to raise their eyes and expectations.
Until England were thrashed by the buoyant West Indies, Joe Root's team were getting rave reviews for their quirky team balance.
They have six allrounders of sorts, including three who can bat and bowl (Sam Curran, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali) and three wicketkeepers (Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes), although the fact that only one can keep means the multiskills of two were not used.
Australia have plenty of their own issues to sort out in England but at least now there are visible soft spots to be targeted in the home side.
Here are eight reasons for Australian fans to think their team is capable of an upset.
1. OPEN SEASON
With Alastair Cook retiring, England lack a decent opening batsman for the first time in four decades.
Joe Denly (one Test), Rory Burns (Test average 26) and Keegan Jennings (Test average 25) could not open a baked bean can between them at the moment.
2. GOOD NOT GREAT
The fact that England bat down to No.10 creates an illusion that they are a fine batting side.
But they tend to accumulate rather than dominate. England have made more than 350 in their first innings just once in their last 15 Tests and their order has an odd look about it with Bairstow, bowled 30 times in Tests, batting at No.3 in the position which should be filled by Root.
3. HOME TOWN BLUES
England play well at home but are prone to the occasional dreadful stumble.
Since Australia last toured England four years ago, India, Pakistan (three times), South Africa and the West Indies have all won Tests in England.
The problem for England is that visiting teams feel inspired when playing on their soil.
4. THE AGEING WARRIOR
Magnificent Jimmy Anderson has been the most successful swing bowler the game has seen but at some point he has to fade.
By the first Test of the Ashes he will be 37. Glenn McGrath and Richard Hadlee were still dangerous at that age. If Anderson can keep Father Time at bay until September, we will tip a comfortable England win. But if he doesn't …
5. LOW EXPECTATIONS
When Australia won four series in a row against England between 1989 and 2001, it created an aura which suggested Australia would win every series.
But that's gone now. England will start favourites and be expected to win. Australia at least have the luxury of being unburdened of massive expectations. Remember 1989?
6. THE SAFETY NET
By choosing so many all-rounders there is a theory that England have created a safety net for their batsmen, who play with cavalier style in the belief that if they don't score the runs then someone else will. Choosing all-rounders is also dangerous because, as Greg Chappell once said, you tend to count them in both categories and if they let you down you can be a batsman and a bowler short.
7. SOFT PICKINGS
England got rave reviews by recently thrashing Sri Lanka on the road but this Sri Lankan team is one of the weakest that nation has fielded in recent times, as evidenced by their efforts in Australia.
8. AUSSIE UPRISING
Despite its soft finish, this has been an intense summer for Australia, just what they needed to be knocked into shape for the Ashes.
Australia had been leaning on David Warner and Steve Smith for too long. Having them back will be a bonus. Sport works in strange ways. Don't be surprised if someone like Usman Khawaja lifts a gear as he performs in the shadows rather than the spotlight in England.
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