Know the enemy: A look at the Australian Ashes squad

June 22, 2009 at 10:00 am 2 comments

The battle commences on July 8 and the Australian’s have named a team with few, if any, surprises. Arguably, this is the weakest team that the Australians have sent over in the modern era but England’s performances over the last year suggests that this is likely to be a close contest. The Australian’s have lost, Langer, Hayden, Martyn, Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist to retirement from the 05 team. England Cricket takes a closer look at the latest Australian Ashes team.

Ricky Ponting (Captain)
Age: 34
Batting: Right Hand Bat
Test average: 56.20 (10960 runs)
Ashes: 26 Tests, average of 48
50s/100s: 46/ 37

England are well aware of the dangers possessed by Ricky Ponting. He has played in 26 Ashes test with an average of 48 and comes with vast experience of English conditions and his opponents. Coming in at number three, he has the ability to play a long innings and is undisputedly one of the greatest batsmen of all time. His captaincy has come under fire in recent years but no one can doubt his batting ability. In the 2006 ashes whitewash, he led from the front scoring 576 runs at an average of 82.28.

Weakness: He doesn’t have too much weaknesses but one well known weakness of Ponting is that he is a slow starter. Despite playing in 131 matches he still struggles early on and is vulnerable to the swinging ball. If England get rid of the openers quickly and bowl at Ponting with the new ball then they could get him cheaply. However, if he gets past the early onslaught then he becomes almost impossible to remove.

Michael Clarke (vice captain)
Age: 28
Batting: Right Hand Bat
Test Average: 47.82 (3204 runs)
Ashes: 10 Tests, Average of 31, no wickets
50s/ 100s: 13/ 10
Bowling: Slow left arm
Wickets: 18 at 37.77

Made his debut in 2004 when he scored 151 in Bangalore against India. That innings and a 141 against New Zealand sealed his place in the 05 Ashes side. He ended up Australia’s third highest run scorer but failed to add much more contribution to the 91 he made at Lords in the second innings. It wasn’t until the 2006 Ashes series where Clarke sealed his place as a consistent performer in the Australian team after scoring two centuries. It is a remarkable rise for a truly talented stroke maker who will possess a challenge for the England bowlers. He also offers a useful off-spin option, that England must be wary of.

Weaknesses: Has previously suffered from various back injuries and is not fully over the injuries. The obvious tactic to claim his wicket will be a barrage of short pitch bowling, step forward Andrew Flintoff.

Stuart Clarke
Age: 33
Bowling: Right arm fast medium
Wickets: 90 at 22.96
Ashes: 26 wickets at 17.03

England’s chief tormenter of the 2006 Ashes series where he claimed 26 wickets. Just when England thought they can relax with McGrath’s retirement, Stuart Clarke in the Glenn McGrath mould appears. He also famously broke Vaughan’s finger while playing for Hampshire that prevented the then skipper to return to the side. He bowls at a lively pace, and swings the ball both ways with great accuracy. Has just recently retuned from a back injury and fortunately he was prevented from turning out in County Cricket before the Ashes.

Weakness: His back injuries have prevented his playing time this year and his failure to secure a county stint puts him under more pressure. He is a difficult bowler to get away that just requires patience.

Brad Haddin (Wicketkeeper)
Age: 31
Bat: Right hand bat
Test Average: 37.54 (901 runs)
50s/ 100s: 2/ 1

This is Brad Haddin’s second Ashes tour to England, although this time he will be able to play. Brad Haddin has excelled domestically in Australia but his natural development to international cricket has long been delayed by the excellence of Adam Gilchrist. He finally gets his chance, clean and tidy behind the stumps. However, his batting ability is one that wouldn’t worry England as his predecessor did. He is an aggressive batmen and a good stroke maker but has often failed under pressure.

Weakness: His relative inexperience of English conditions will be his downfall, his technique leaves him vulnerable to good swing bowling and struggles when under pressure.

Nathan Hauritz
Age: 27
Bowling: Right arm off-break
Wickets: 14 at 32.28

Hauritz joins the long line of spin bowlers who have attempted to proceed Shane Warne. Hauritz is different to Warne in that he is a more defensive spinner compared to his other competitors. Bowls a tidy line and looks to stop the flow of runs at his end and put the batsmen under pressure. Has enjoyed success with this approach against South Africa in the recent test series which sealed his place in the team, for now at least.

Weakness: Doesn’t bowl too many wicket taking deliveries so patience is a must. You have to wait for him to make the mistakes and ensure that you put away any balls that are over pitched.

Ben Hilfenhaus
Age: 26
Bowling: Right arm fast medium
Wickets: 7 at 52.28

Another player with no experience of English conditions and relatively low international experience. Has impressed in the one day format for Australia but doubts remain over his ability in the longest format. Bowls tight spells and swings the ball at speed but doesn’t have enough cutting edge to his bowling to take the wickets. Still inexperienced at this level but could spring a surprise, if he gets into a strong pace attack.

Weaknesses: Another member of the Australian side to suffer from stress fractures in his back. He opted to rest for the last couple of months to be ready for the Ashes series. His fast pace possess a threat but at the same time opens up more scoring chances. If you can get on top of him, the inexperience will show.

Phillip Hughes
Age: 20
Batting: Left hand bat
Test Average: 69.16 (415 runs in 6 innings)
50s/ 100s: 1/ 2

The youngest member of the Australian squad but enters the series with experience of English wickets under his belt. Impressed during his controversial stint with Middlesex in which he made 3 first class hundreds in 5 innings. He is the latest and most successful in the line of cricketers to replace the successful opening duo of Hayden and Langer. His aggressive style of play is likened to Matthew Hayden and he will be hoping to have a similar impact. Started his test career with a 4 ball duck but has since followed it up with successive centuries and has never looked back. Even at the age of 20, he is one of England’s biggest dangers to regaining the Ashes.

Weaknesses: Strong on side player, so bowl around the wicket and hope he edges the swinging ball as he tries to play to leg. Bats with an unorthodox batting stance and has a shaky forward defence. The pressure of an Ashes series could be too much for Hughes.

Mike Hussey
Age: 33
Batting: Left hand bat
Test Average: 55.29 (3041 runs)
Ashes: 5 tests, Average of 92
50s/ 100s: 14/ 9

Mike Hussey was the star of the Australian batsmen in the 2006 Ashes, averaging 92 and pitching in with valuable middle order runs. However, Mr Cricket has been strangely out of form in Test Cricket, failing to hit a century in his last 21 games. His highest score in his last 12 test innings is 50. However, England can’t take him lightly and should be aware of the threat he posses. His knowledge of English conditions will also come in handy, scoring an amazing 7 double hundreds in County Cricket and recorded three Championship triple centuries during seasons with Durham, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire. He is a player who has scored prolifically at domestic level and also at international level. His test average now is 55.29, after 20 test that figure was closer to 85. He is a phenomenal player, and with the selectors opting not to select a back up top order batsmen, they have complete faith in him.

Weaknesses: This is the best time to play against Mike Hussey, with confidence low following his recent struggles in the Test format. Coming around the wicket with a swinging ball troubled him in 2006.

Mitchell Johnson
Age: 27
Bowling: Left arm fast
Wickets: 94 at 28.01
Batting Average: 34.7
50s/ 100s: 3/ 1

Mitchell Johnson has excelled as a cricketer since his test debut in 2007. Spent the entire Ashes series as 12th man but grabbed his chance when presented. Mitchell Johnson bowls at a quick pace and swings it away from right handers. However, he has also added an in-swinger to his arsenal. England’s right handers have previously struggled against left handers, with Zaheer Khan the chief tormenter two years ago. Mitchell Johnson cannot be taken lightly as he possesses the most danger to the England batsmen. England must be careful to not think the Australian innings is over after Brad Haddin. Johnson is a useful batsmen as well and he sees himself as a future number six in the Aussies batting line up.

Weaknesses: Bowls fast and with great accuracy so there is unlikely to be many runs off him. England will need to be patient with him. If England manage to get on top of him, he has the tendency to lose his discipline, instead targeting the batsmen with fast deliveries.

Simon katich
Age: 33
Batting: Left hand bat
Test Average: 43.42
50s/ 100s: 15/ 7
Bowling: Slow left arm chinaman
Wickets: 18 at 29.61
Ashes: 6 Tests, Average 26, 1 Wicket

After a poor 2005 Ashes series, England fans though they had seen the back of Simon katich. However, he has since worked his way back into the team and will take the reigns as an opening partner to Phillip Hughes. This is his third Ashes series in England but has little fond memories to take from it. Dropped on his debut after scoring 15 and 0 against England at Headingly. From there he clawed his way back into the side only for more failures in England. In the 2005 Ashes series he scored 263 runs at 26.30, with only 2 50s to his name. He will be most remembered for his verbal outburst directed at the umpires and England’s dressing room after a poor lbw decision against him. Vaughan had katich figured out from the first test and his innovative fields prevented Katich from displaying the domestic form that keeps earning him a place back into the side.

Weaknesses: Has an unorthodox batting technique that means that he relies heavily on the gaps between third man and cover for his runs. Vaughan had him figured out in 2005 deploying a packed slip cordon and a catcher at short square cover. Has also a tendency to shoulder his arms to deliveries that stay straight and hit the stumps, not the best player of swing.

Brett Lee
Age: 32
Bowling: Right arm fast
Wickets: 310 at 30.81
Ashes: 18 Tests, 62 wickets at 40.61

Has been a regular tormenter for England since his Ashes debut in 2001. A match against his natural enemy brings the best out of him. He enjoys the duels with the England batsmen, especially Flintoff. A lethal bowler when he’s in sync, but when he is not he becomes a juicy target for the batsmen. Bowls fast and hostile spells and recent injuries won’t curb his fiery bowling. However, he is not as fast or as accurate as he was during his prime. Will have memories of the 2005 ashes series, especially when comforted by Andrew Flintoff following a tense 3 run victory.

Weaknesses: His bowling lacks the venom and bite of previous Ashes series and could well be the whipping boy in the Australian attack. The pressure is on Lee after criticism of his selection.

Graham Manou (Wicketkeeper)
Age: 30
Batting: Right hand bat
First Class average: 24.51 (3260 runs)
First class 50s/ 100s: 15/ 5

After years of consistent and reliable performances Graham Manou has been rewarded a contract and a place as Australia’s second keeper. His recognition came after scoring 647 runs at 46.21 last year to beat off competition from a group of glovemen. He takes his place as second choice ahead of the recently deposed Ronchi. He is very unlikely to make his test debut in this ashes series but us a reliable back up with both bat or ball. However, it is difficult to tell how he would react at this level.

Weaknesses: New to the international game and could struggle under the pressure. Unlikely to appear in any warm up games so will be short of experience of English conditions if required later on.

Andrew McDonald
Age: 27
Batting: Right hand bat
Test Average: 21.40 (107 runs)
50s/ 100s: 1/ 0
Bowling: Right arm fast medium
Wickets: 9 at 33.33

Made his test debut in Australia’s last test series against South Africa which allowed him to earn a place ahead of Andrew Symonds for the Ashes series. He has emerged as a useful all-rounder but his selection has been criticised after a decent but not spectacular test debut. Averages 36.85 with the bat in first class cricket in which he also claimed 111 wickets in his 50 matches. However, his selection will be seen as a gamble and the team may decide to go with the experienced players. He bowls accurate medium pacers but has the ability to throw in the quicker delivery. From his showing in his test debut, England wouldn’t mind him in the team at Cardiff.

Weaknesses: Another one who is new to the conditions and to international cricket and so may struggle early on. Batting wise he struggled against Morne Morkel’s short pitch bowling.

Marcus North
Age: 29
Batting: Left hand bat
Test Average: 40.00 (160 runs)
50s/ 100s: 1/ 0
Bowling: Right arm off-break
Wickets: 2 at 49.00

Has been a prolific run scorer in first class cricket on the fringes of selection for many years. Finally, made his test debut against South Africa in which he made a hundred on his debut. However, he followed it up with two second innings failures and a 114 ball 38 in his second match. Averages 43.95 in first class cricket with 23 centuries, including over 3000 runs in County Cricket. Has had stints for Derbyshire, Durham, Gloucestershire, Hampshire and Lancashire, so is familiar with the conditions. He is seen more as a batting all-rounder but bowls useful off-break. He will be required to provide another spin option along side Hauritz.

Weaknesses: The pressures of an Ashes series could be too much for Marcus North. He has previously struggled against the quicker bowlers.

Peter Siddle
Age: 24
Bowling: Right arm fast-medium
Wickets: 29 at 27.65

29 wickets in 11 innings is a good start to a promising international career for Siddle. Has struggled with foot and shoulder injuries but when fit is capable of causing problems. Bowls at a lively pace and has the ability to swing the ball, caused problems for South Africa. With his first ball in test cricket, hit the helmet of Gautam Ghambir with aggressive short pitch bowling. A criticism of his during that South Africa series is that the batsmen got themselves out with poor shot selection rather than him getting them out. Has a reputation of being an aggressive appealer and intimidating umpires. His fiery bowling has been likened to Brett Lee, who he could well replace in the side.

Weaknesses: His aggressive appealing won’t be well received by the opposition or umpires and as Panesar has found out, it could affect the decisions he gets. His inexperience may cause him to get too fired up.

Shane Watson
Age: 27
Batting: Right Hand Bat
Test Average: 19.76 (257 runs)
50s/ 100s: 1/ 0
Bowling: Right arm fast-medium
Wickets: 14 at 35.57

Has a career plagued with injury problems that have prevented him in fulfilling his potential. Restricted to just 8 test matches, Shane Watson’s inclusion can be questioned. Averages 45.00 in first class cricket but has not provided too much indication that he can crack it at this level. Has an injury record worse than Flintoff, but the selectors think highly of him. A clean hitter of the ball but needs to curb his aggressive shots to succeed at this level. Provides a useful 5th bowling option which could well work in his favour.

Weaknesses: Injuries have certainly affected his ability with bat and ball but still seen as a promising player for Australia. His bowling is not up to the standard of a test all-rounder yet. Could look to play the big shots when in, which could make him vulnerable, possibly to a part timer. However, his first task is getting through the warm up games unscathed.

Comment on the Australian team below:


Entry filed under: Cricket.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Morph  |  June 24, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    A good summary of the Aussies, though it is very dangourous to suggest (repeatedley) that certain members of their sqaud may not be able to handle the pressure. Anyone who has watched England play Australia at test cricket, be it at home or abroad, often see that it is the English players who crack under pressure rarther than the Australians! Will the likes of Anderson continue his success against them? What about Bopara at the top of the order? How will Onions do? I would be far more worried about their ability to handle pressure than any Australian (especially Philip Hughes who you cite as a possible candidate!). Remember also the Aussies last outing in test cricket saw them defeat South Africa away, also a high pressure series.

  • 2. Doug Jenner  |  June 29, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    1 guy with a batting average in the high 60s
    2 guys with batting averages over 50
    1 in the high 40s
    Then there’s Katich and North – still in the 40s.

    What can England stack up against that?

    Pietersen 55.5
    and Strauss – Ave 43
    Cook – 45

    That’s it. Numbers never tell the whole story, but England may as well give up now.


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