There is plenty of excitement surrounding English cricket here in the UK at the moment. This is largely due to the great attacking cricket which was played by both England and New Zealand in the first summer series. It was in some ways the perfect build up to the upcoming Ashes series. As with all series there will be key battles that will have a large say in who wins this summers Ashes series. The one that I am looking forward to most is Steve Smith v Joe Root.
Joe Root v Steve Smith
These two players have much so much in common, they are both the vice captain of their countries, both are the form batsman in their sides and both are the back up option if the front line spinner fails. Both Root and Smith were involved in the last Ashes series but were not really established fully in the test sides at the time. Root even was dropped for the last match of the series somewhat surprisingly. This is just the start of this rivalry, surely the next time these two sides meet in England these will be the captains. I feel that home conditions will mean that Root will win this battle this time, although Smith can change games with his fielding and his bowling is slightly more reliable if needed.
Alistair Cook v Michael Clarke
The two captains are the highest run scorers in both sides. Clarke is the key wicket for the English bowlers, knocking off his wicket quickly will be a huge psychological blow for Australia. On batting ability there is not much separating these two players, although I much prefer watching Clarke bat over Cook. In terms of captaincy they are polar opposites too, Cook is over cautious while Clarke is very attacking. He is very similar to McCullum in the fact that his sides will play hard and aggressive. If Alistair Cook wants to regain the Ashes he will have to change his ways slightly.
James Anderson/Stuart Broad v Mitchell Jonhson/Starc
Another good battle a few of the worlds best bowlers. Although Anderson is not the player he was about 2/3 years back he still can turn it on, especially on home soil. Traditionally English pitches have helped bowlers that swing the bowl more (hence why Anderson has always done better in English conditions) which swings the balance a little bit back to Anderson. Broad is still a handy bowler to have too. His batting has now dropped below that of Starc and Johnson though (lower order runs will be vital). On the other side to that the two Mitchell’s are tall and quick. Its a hard one to call, it may actually come down to which of the other bowlers perform. This could be a Stokes v Watson or Wood v Siddle battle also.
In my opinion those are the key battles which will decide which ways the Ashes will go. I predict Australia to slightly edge this series, although England will most defiantly step up their game from the New Zealand test series.