In this year of back-to-back Ashes series, we are all preparing for the barrage of mud to be slung from the southern hemisphere. Yet it seems the first salvo has been fired from north of the equator by former England captain Michael Vaughan. Talking with Yorkshire Tea (really) he said that he thinks England have a great chance of winning them both. He went on to say that England are better players from 1 – 11 – “probably one to 20.”
It is a measure of the confidence that pervades English cricket at the moment that such bold statements are being made. Despite the recent ODI defeat in India, English cricket looks to be in rude health, especially given the Test series victory before Christmas in the subcontinent.
Currently in New Zealand where they will expect a Test whitewash, I imagine England are not paying too much attention to Vaughan’s comments. They will be focusing on an opponent who have only ever beaten them 3 times in Test series – the most recent being in 1999 when Stephen Fleming’s men won 2-1 in England.
Against the South Africans last month, the New Zealand batting looked fragile in all but 1 of their four innings. Scores of 45, 275, 121 and 211 give some indication of the disarray within their ranks, caused in no uncertain amount by Ross Taylor’s departure. He is in line to return during the series against England and he needs to, for without him they would be blown away by England’s bowling attack.
Prior to the Ashes, Australia visit India for a four Test series. It will be a tough series for both nations, for India are usually impregnable at home and are looking to bounce back strongly following their humbling at the hands of England.
So far there have been no predictions for the result of the Ashes series coming from Down Under – a first for them in recent times. Glenn McGrath became almost as famous for his 5-0 predictions as he was for his bowling during his stellar career and although in 2005 they proved to be off the mark, in 2006/7 he was spot on.
Last week, former Scottish rugby union coach Jim Telfer called England “arrogant, pretentious and condescending”. A culture of winning and being successful drew scorns from their auld enemy. English cricket could too be in danger of accusations of cockiness and over-confidence, especially with Michael Vaughan taking up McGrath’s previous post as the Ashes Oracle. England do appear quietly confident. Whilst we will have to wait until the 10th of July to see if England can hit the heights that Vaughan is demanding, I do not think we will have to wait long for Australia’s rebuttal to England’s first shot.