England, Australia evenly matched for Ashes combat
Former Australian opener and now batting coach of the current side Justin Langer believes that both England and Australia are evenly matched going into the first Ashes Test to be played at the Gabba here from November 25.
Rubbishing all the opinions, predictions and speculation as a bit over the top to crass and laughable, but admitting that some of the analysis has been quite astute, Langer writes in an article that: "Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but it is my feeling that the two teams look evenly matched on paper and we can expect a closely-fought encounter."
"Looking closely at the combined batting statistics of both teams, Australia have more Test match experience (388 to 371 caps), more Test runs (29,155 to 26,537), more first-class runs (93,134 to 79,196) and more first-class centuries (266 to 203) than England`s top seven," he adds.
In the article, Langer describes Ricky Ponting as "one of the greatest warriors of the modern game who is determined to wrestle back the Ashes on home soil."
"His performance this series will be vital to Australia`s chances of success," he adds.
Accepting that England is confident and ready to take on Australia, he says: "Their preparation looks similar to England`s 2003 Rugby World campaign where Clive Woodward left no stone unturned to ensure a momentous and much celebrated victory."
"A big part of their confidence, and a worrying sign for Australia, is Andrew Strauss`s form with the bat. A confident leader is always powerful. When the captain is on top of his game, he can concentrate on the big picture of leading his troops without the distraction of worrying about wayward footwork or self-doubt caused by a few failures," Langer says.
He says that in the last Ashes series, Strauss was outstanding, and there is no doubt Australia will want to stem his flow of runs as early as possible in this series.
He also says that from the outside it looks as if Strauss and coach Andy Flower have formed a strong leadership bond - which is another crucial factor in the success of any team.
England, he says, is talking about becoming the number one team in the world and using this Ashes series as a platform for their ambition.
Australia, too, has exactly the same goal, "and as admirable as this may be for both teams, all the talk in the world counts for nothing when the action begins," he adds.
He concludes by saying that from Thursday morning until 7 January, it will not be the team which talks the best game that will win the series. The team that wins will be the one that can sustain the pressure and deal best with the many distractions associated with Ashes cricket.