I know just recently I preached the good word about a resurgent West Indies. Hang the rector! Given their dismal performances in these fifty over matches against South Africa it is difficult to imagine that the subsequent test series will be any more substantial. India will play two test matches against Sri Lanka in July. These are the "number one" nation's only remaining tests for the year and will potentially prove the most interesting matches of 2010 in much the same way as South Africa's brief cameo on the sub-continent back in February. There is a rum justice in this and Greg Chappell's dire prediction of an Indian withdrawal from test match cricket is given weight.
Otherwise like a belated party guest attempting to make amends for their absence, Pakistan dominate the test match scene in what remains of this year. Australia and England will butt heads in a limited overs series later this month, but this is little more than a scrappy friendly in similar manner to the recent final Australia were so effectively demolished in. Both teams will then proceed to use Pakistan as (slightly less shaggy now) guinea pigs. In more creative fixturing Pakistan will then play a series against South Africa in the UAE. Actual test matches this time!
Pakistan are like the spirit of cricket itself. So utterly unpredictable and sweetly romantic and completely incapable of introduction to any sort of decent society. It is futile to speculate whether Pakistan stand to offer any fight in these matches for they will as always defy expectations. Afridi the Great will captain, Salman Butt is a batsman of excellence, Aamer has been fantastic and the Akmals, when not useless, have been breathtaking. They may just as easily triumph as flounder but such cricket is so often frustrating to watch.
So then, let us devote a moment to considering this next Ashes series. Do England stand any chance? Sadly, in all probability not. England have not won a series in this nation for over two decades and when they promised so much in the 2006/2007 summer they were pummeled. England will be sporting a very fine team by the looks of things though. Jonathan Trott is looking fine at number three, Pietersen has romped back into form, and perhaps Morgan can replace the inconsistent Bell. Along with Strauss, Cook, Collingwood, and the oafish Prior, this is a batting line up of great promise. Add to this Graeme Swann, a wonderfully confident strokesman and proven wily crafter of spin. An English success would require an exemplary pace bowling attack though and it is not certain whether they have the stock for this.
Stuart Broad can be an exhilarating performer with both ball and bat but too often he sends down loose deliveries and suffers from ineffective and derailing spells. With the anglic locks shorn he appears to the eye a more credible performer and his man of the match outing at the Oval last year looks lovely in the scrapbook. A five match series in hostile and brutally hot territory is a different ordeal though. James Anderson is also a victim to inconsistency. On song he is an expert practicioner but too often slumps. The pair of them will have to be sharp, focussed and aggressive for England to take wickets and pose a threat in the series.
In the last entry I spoke at length about English arrogance, that most debilitating and obnoxious quality of the nation. What stands the team in good stead is their new coach Andy Flower. A busy man by the sidelines, Flower sits with notepad scribbling away about this and that. The Zimbabwean great seems to be a steady tiller and coupled with the phlegmatic Strauss, the pair may be able to keep the mob in step. We will gain a better understanding with the fifty over matches.
As for the third bowling place- Graham Onions is out with a back injury which will remove him from the northern summer and scupper any chance of an Ashes berth. Tim Bresnan is in contention and so far has done little to commend himself. But the summer has just begun and he has time to prove himself. For the moment, the man of the hour is the 6ft 7", 21 year old Steven Finn who amazed with his ten wickets at Lord's. Granted his prey were Bangladesh, Finn forced a result rather than the otherwise probable draw given the weather. One must not get too far ahead for so often is a stunning debut followed by ignominous mediocrity, there is plenty to like in Finn though. He humbly described his careening trail of destruction, which resulted in a few tumbles following deliveries, as similar to Bambi on ice. Height and pace offers England a very threatening prospect.YOUNG MASTER FINN
It is unlikely that Australia will make any change to their batting assembly. Hussey has dispelled all doubts since the last Ashes and North has done just enough to merit selection, especially if he can produce something in the two tests against Pakistan. The only selection issues Australia faces is who to pick from their fat stocks of pace bowling. Hilfenhaus, the surprise class performer is set to return from injury in these Pakistan tests. One would imagine that Peter Siddle will rear his head at some point too. But in their absence the understudies have proved admirable . Bollinger must have cemented his spot and Johnson will not be questioned. This means Ryan Harris and Hilfenhaus will scramble to make up the team. Though the former is a fine bowler and offers batting, I imagine the Tasmanian's pedigree outclasses him. It is odd to think how much bemoaning and wailing there was at this point a year ago on the dearth of fast bowling in the absence of McGrath and Lee.
JUST IN CASE YOU THOUGHT HIS SHARK/CROCODILE FACE AND SURFER BEADS WEREN'T BAD ENOUGH. THIS IS SIDDLE'S BACK.
There is still seven months until the Ashes and these are but the speculations of a malcontent. Come Brisbane at the end of November we will undoubtedly witness a different dawn. Trumper will remain active through the southern off-season though and with gleanings from internet and Foxtel will attempt to keep its reader's informed as to all I think most pertinent in the cricketing world. Thank you for reading.