Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Who will win the Ashes – a Ratings view

With the battle for The Ashes about to get underway in Cardiff, what better way to analyse who might come out on top than to use the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. We can compare each team piece by piece to try to ascertain which of them will end up holding the urn come the end of August by summing the total Ratings for the players in each department of the game:

Opening batsmen: England 1372, Australia 1249. Edge – England

Phillip Hughes has made an astonishing start to his Test career, and Simon Katich is enjoying a second lease of life after his disappointments of the last Ashes tour to England. However, England’s pair of Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss are about to surpass Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan as the most used opening pair in England’s Test history. Cook is just a few points short of his career-best Rating and Strauss will be looking to rediscover his 2005 form when he was the only batsman on either side to score two centuries in the Ashes series.

Middle order: England 2399, Australia 2654. Edge – Australia

The Australian middle-order consists of a legend of the game, two excellent players and an experienced newcomer. Ricky Ponting has spent 76 matches on top of the batting tree and Michael Hussey has also enjoyed looking down at the rest of the world even if his current form mirrors the global economic downturn. Add Michael Clarke to the mix who achieved his career-best Rating earlier this year, and Marcus North who made a debut century and has extensive experience of English conditions, and you have a pretty formidable line-up.

For England, Kevin Pietersen appears to be the class act even if his current Rating of 768 is a good deal short of his career-best 909 set two years ago. Paul Collingwood is steady rather than spectacular but he does boast an Ashes double-century – a claim to fame only seven other England batsman can share. Ravi Bopara has hit centuries in three consecutive Tests but has struggled against top-flight bowling. Matt Prior is sitting pretty at his career-best Rating but can he produce substance as well as style?

Wicket-keeper: England 530, Australia 550. Even

There is nothing much to choose between the keepers and both are capable of changing matches with the bat. However, they are also both liable to change them with the gloves too!

All-rounder: England 269, Australia 375. Edge – Australia

Andrew Flintoff’s all-rounder Rating is very much a product of the fact that he has only played in eight of England’s 21 Tests since the last Ashes series. A good, injury-free start could help level the scores in the all-rounder category. However, Mitchell Johnson is very much on the rise. His maiden century and four wickets at Cape Town sent him to his career-best Rating and he will be trying to become the first Australian to top the all-rounder charts since Alan Davidson in 1962.

Pace bowling: England 2060, Australia 2046. Even

The difference may only be fourteen points, but England’s points come from four bowlers (Anderson, Flintoff, Broad, Onions) whereas the Australian points come from three (Johnson, Clark, Siddle). Anderson, Broad and Onions are all at their career-best Ratings and will be brimming with confidence after the West Indies series. Johnson and Siddle are only just short of their peaks, but Clark has been injured of late and – although he is currently rated number four – he is a long way short of the 863 points he reached just over twelve months ago.

Spin bowling: England 598, Australia 495. Edge – England

Graeme Swann has had a meteoric rise and now stands at number 23 in the bowling charts after just seven Tests which have brought him 34 wickets. In the wings they also have Monty Panesar who – despite not being in the best form of late – is still in the world’s top 25 and was as high as number six just two years ago. Australia’s spin is in the hands of Nathan Hauritz who has played just four Tests in five years and the back-up of Katich, Clarke and North. Definitely advantage England.

So – what are the totals? England 7228 and Australia 7369, or in other words – too close to call. So the series really is anyone’s for the taking and it is also a real chance for some of the key names to make a big impression on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings.