England rightly head downunder with high expectations. This confidence is not entirely due to their own form, as Australia’s limitations provide nearly as much encouragement. The Baggy Greens have just lost three successive Tests for the first time since 1988, which suggests England should be less daunted ahead of an away Ashes series than they have been for some time.
Many cricket betting observers suggest recent results should not have too much emphasis placed upon them. This is partially true – England’s regular batting collapses have not been reflected by their results against South Africa and Pakistan this year, just as losing in India is no disgrace for any visiting team – but the recent form of players cannot be ignored.
Both teams are keen to give the incumbents as much time as possible to return to form. There are plenty of batsmen living off past records and whilst Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen in particular deserve the chance to rediscover the form that served them well downunder in 2006/07, the selectors cannot afford to place blind faith in them.
Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior and Ian Bell are the only batsmen to have good figures behind them over the last few months, although Andrew Strauss is playing well without proper reward. The captain remains the most important batsmen in the team according to the latest cricket odds.
Eoin Morgan’s runs dried up after a dazzling century in his third Test, but if he, the only batting reserve, is thought to be a better prospect for runs than Pietersen, Collingwood or Alastair Cook, then he must be selected promptly.
It might seem harsh to discard a batsman after twin failures at Brisbane, but England so often start slowly downunder that that they must be proactive this time around. Similarly, an out-of-form bowler cannot be carried through the series.
Chris Tremlett has been recalled to pose a different threat and it should not be ignored until it is too late, especially as three proper warm-up matches prevent the excuse of lack of preparation being used.