Duncan Fletcher is not shy of putting the journalistic boot into England, but it is safe to assume that he will endorse one aspect of England’s Ashes line-up this summer: their long batting line-up.
With Andrew Flintoff at number seven and perhaps Adil Rashid at 10 for the first Test (bear this possibility in mind for First Test betting), not to mention Jimmy ‘no duck’ Anderson at 11, the home side has plenty of batting depth.
The same is true of Australia. Mitchell Johnson will one day be considered a genuine allrounder, whilst plenty is known of Brett Lee’s lower order skill with the bat. Lee emphasised the point in scoring an unbeaten 47 against Sussex in the Aussies’ opening tour match after the tourists had slipped to 228-6.
Nathan Hauritz played freely at number nine, racing to 65 not out at the close on day one, doing his chances of inclusion for the series opener no harm at all. Australia’s lower order recovery, albeit against a slightly weakened county attack, has set the tone for the Ashes.
The tension and drama of 2005 is unlikely to be matched, but two long batting line-ups will add to the cat-and-mouse nature of the series. Neither side will rip through the other’s tail and there could well be some more tense run chases and final day finishes.
Fletcher was ultimately vindicated in his demand for multi-dimensional cricketers. England fans shudder at the memory of a tail in August 1999 that comprised Andrew Caddick, Alan Mullally, Phil Tufnell and Ed Giddins.
Rashid and Graeme Swann’s elevation above Panesar in the spin-bowling pecking order is purely due to their better bowling form. Their superior batting ability is a bonus, one which could be decisive in the forthcoming series.
In the meantime, keep up to date with the Ashes odds and, if you need to get in the betting mood, check out Betfair's fanvfan site.