Where the Ashes can be won or lost

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With Cricket Australia coming to the conclusion that ‘bowler friendly’ wickets are the cause for their batsmen failing to score heavily in both the Sheffield Shield and international matches, what can we expect of the pitches come the Ashes? Here I look at the five Ashes grounds, and what impact the conditions will have on the individual games.

First Test, 21-25 November: The Gabba, Brisbane. (Capacity 42,000).

Since 1988 Australia have played 24 tests in Brisbane, winning 17 and losing 0. ‘The Gabbatoir’ as it has become known for touring sides, is a fortress for Australia. When England last came over to Australia (winning 3-1), they secured a draw in Brisbane due to a mammoth second innings total of 517-1 (after initially being behind by 221 runs) which went on to set the tone for the series. Probably the best balanced pitch England will come across, it is both flat and bouncy. Traditionally the pitch flattens out by day 4, so Graeme Swann will struggle to find prodigious turn, however the ground was a favourite of Shane Warne’s due to the bounce bowlers can extract. Alistair Cook will hope he can lead from the front again, after scoring 235 not out last time in Brisbane.

Likely Outcome: Draw.

Second Test: 5-9 December: The Adelaide Oval, Adelaide. (Capacity 35,000).

England fans will have fond memories of Adelaide with Kevin Pietersen hitting a magnificent double century here on the last Ashes tour. However, England will not forget when they declared 551-6 back in 2006 and then went onto collapse in their second innings and give Australia a 2-0 lead. Not much can be said about how the pitch will play, as it is a drop-in pitch being used (drop-in pitches are used when the ground is used for another sporting event – in this case AFL). England can hope to expect a batting wicket, with the ground fast square of the wicket. Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen shone here in 2010, and will hope to do so again.

Likely Outcome: England win.

Third Test: 13-17 December: The WACA. Perth. (Capacity 24,500).

Once the quickest cricket pitch in the world, The WACA has everything a fast bowler could wish for: pace, bounce and the infamous ‘Fremantle Doctor’; a stiff sea breeze which flows through the ground assisting swing bowlers. England have a disastrous record here, losing their last 6 test matches, including the third test in the last Ashes series, which they triumphed in. Expect seam bowlers to be at their best here; low first and second innings scores are not uncommon. England will hope their batsmen can stand up and rise to the challenge, especially since in 2010 they failed to pass 200 in both innings.

Likely Outcome: Australia Win.

Fourth Test: 26-30 December: The MCG. Melbourne. (Capacity 100,000).

The Boxing day test is part of Australian life, and it is always held at the magnificent MCG. Despite the hostile arena, England fans will remember James Anderson and Chris Tremlett tearing through a fragile Australian batting line up to dismiss the hosts for just 98 on day one in 2010. England have a decent record here (four wins, four losses), and despite a drop-in pitch being used, the track can keep low and will change the most over five days.

Likely Outcome: England/Australia Win.

Fifth Test: 3-7 January: The SCG. Sydney. (Capacity 46,000).

The unofficial home of Australian cricket, the SCG is the most ‘spin friendly’ of the Australian pitches, so Gramme Swann can expect to find some decent purchase here in Sydney. England wrapped up their 3-1 series win with an emphatic innings victory back in 2011, but Australia completed a 5-0 whitewash here in 2007 with an effortless ten wicket win, so the ground has both good and bad memories for England fans. Australian captain Michael Clarke hit a sublime 329 not out against India here last year and Australian fans will hope that their captain can triumph here again. Batting is better on days 2 and 3, so don’t be surprised if Cook wins the toss and bowls first here.

Likely Outcome: England Win.

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