The 2009 edition of the oldest rivalry in world cricket is about to begin.
Australia versus England is known as "The Ashes," in memory of the day when the tea lady at the Earl of Wessex Hotel burned the English Breakfast that was being made for the Aussie team. The remains were put in a little urn and are housed at Lords.
The English brought cricket to the poor colonists of Australia in the mid-1800's and have regretted it ever since. They have tried everything from Bodyline to stealing our coaches and players and even tried adopting South Africans and Indians to beat Australia, but to no avail.
So this year, Australia has decided to go easy on them. They told Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Langer, and Hayden "thanks for your service, you can go have a rest."
Now they have rocked up to the first test with the most inexperienced lineup since they sent a bunch of random aboriginal guys to go play the first series.
The bowling attack has such luminaries of the game as Siddle, Hilfenhaus, McDonald, and Hauritz supporting new star Mitchell Johnson and ailing stars Lee and Clark.
The batting is not much better with a new opening pair in Simon "I'm lucky there is no-one else" Katich and Phil "I have the weirdest batting style ever" Hughes leading the charge.
Captain Ricky Ponting heads a fairly experienced, yet horribly out-of-form middle order with Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey trying to shake off the cobwebs of Twenty/20 games and Marcus North making up the numbers.
Brad Haddin has the unenviable task of replacing Adam Gilchrist, although he did a reasonable job in the South African series.
But is England really in that good of a position either? They have injuries and rookies all over the place as well.
The hero of 2005, Andrew Flintoff, has been struggling with injuries for a few years now, and his latest one may slow him down some in this series.
Even Kevin Pietersen has been having his own injury and form issues. However, Bopara, Cook, and Bell have been brought back with fairly good results.
They may have found the secret batting formula, but the bowling attack looks thin.
Anderson, Broad, and Panesar have some history, but the hilariously named Graham Onions and Ryan Sidebottom are thin on experience. Even new (but old) spin king Graeme Swann can be flaky at times.
Maybe the biggest advantage the English have is the ability to use the conditions and their own specially made pitches.
The First Test pitch at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff is shrouded in secrecy like there is buried treasure under it or something (maybe there is a fourth Pirates movie in the works).
If England are to have a big shot at winning the series, then they are going to have to win the First Test and win it well. If they can beat the bravado out of Johnson and work out how to get Hughes out early, then they just might have a chance.
But if Australia can bully the English around like they did in the last Ashes series, then they will be terribly difficult to beat. This looks like an Australian win, but the English have a really good chance if they get on top early.
Should be an exciting series.
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