Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Bowlers Hold Key If Staying Up All Night until after Christmas Is to Pay Off

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Bowlers Hold Key If Staying Up All Night until after Christmas Is to Pay Off

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones Read his column every Tuesday @dgjones

FOR years I have maintained that the only three things in life worth staying up all night for are work, love and the Ashes. As life goes on, I have begun to entertain some doubts about the first two.

Not so the Ashes. This year's series has none of the hallmarks of a classic. It is less a clash of Test titans and more a coming together of two curates' eggs: incomplete and undercooked sides that may or may not be the sums of their parts.

Yet the fact of the contest -- with its history stretching out of living memory but its rivalries and past squabbles still very much fresh and raw -- is as stirring as anything in sport. The long grind Down Under, where the Pom-bashing is as lethal as the wildlife, exposes character and has broken bigger cricket men than most who will walk out at (our) midnight in the Gabba this week.

By the time five Tests are done and they are pulling up the stumps at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the other side of Christmas, we will know a lot more about this year's crop of Ashes cricketers. Which is no bad thing, for if one thing characterises both squads, it is unfamiliarity. With themselves, each other and with us.

Cast your eye down both team-sheets. There are at least as many young bucks as old lags: which makes it very hard to know what to expect, still less what to predict.

England retaining the Ashes at 2-2 is possible but 5-0 (to the Aussies) is also perfectly imaginable.

Anyone betting on this one with absolute confidence either has Biff Tannen's sports almanac or balls made of titanium.

Be that as it may. The bookmakers have Australia as favourites for the series -- assuming, I suppose, that their Plan A for taking 20 wickets per match looks more convincing than England's. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood would seem a more likely combination for fast, bouncing pitches than James Anderson (left), Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Jake Ball.

By contrast, England's Plan A for taking 20 wickets in the same conditions is not quite so clear, with the exception of the Second Test at Adelaide where the combination of pink ball and day/ night floodlights should turn conditions more to their liking. …

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