The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of England cricket
England meet in Spaghetti Western country to prepare for the Ashes shootout.
There has been much to admire about England's cricket this summer. There is a positivity flowing through the team, aggressive batting and attacking fielding positions have revolutionised how England play cricket.
Broad and Cook have rediscovered their form of old and Root and Stokes are the playing the best cricket of their careers. Recent additions to the squad such as Wood and Lyth have also shown they have potential as Test players. After a drawn Test series and a winning ODI camapign against New Zealand, England are a team on the rise and are full of confidence.
There are still three major problems with the England team. Firstly Ballance and to some extent Bell are out of form. Both have Test pedigree but have struggled to score runs since their centuries in the Caribbean. Going into a Test series with numbers 3 and 4 batsmen so out of form, will mean that any breakthrough with the new ball has real potential to leave England 3 down to the opening bowlers.
Neither Ali nor Rashid look like they can offer control or penetration. Spin bowlers not only take wickets and give a rest to the seamers. Australia know that if they hit an England spinner out of the attack, the host attack is in trouble. Finally, the English pace attack lacks variety. Footit the Derbyshire left hander has been included in the squad, but the rookie's inclusion would be a gamble in such a tough series. The brilliant but occasionally erratic 29 year old offers pace and movement but also a high economy rate.
The ugly side of English cricket has been two-fold this summer. The fielding particularly in the slips has been awful. England simply cannot give Australian batsmen second chances like those given to the New Zealand batting order. England need to organise their slip cordon based on ability nor seniority.
The really ugly start to this summer was the protracted Pietersen saga. Whether you agree with the decision or not, the whole process was undeniably badly handled. Whilst the good start to the summer has put the KP story onto the back burner, should England falter, both the Australians and the media will be quick to suggest the Surrey batsmen's omission was a folly.
What of Australia? They certainly aren't one of the legendary Australian sides of old. England won't be facing the near invincible foes of 2005. The Aussies crushed the West Indies a month after England sleepwalked to a draw, but a narrow home series win over India and a loss away in Pakistan certainly suggests they have vulnerabilities. They will be certainly be tough and combative.
If England are to be successful this summer not only do they have to find their best side, they have to find their good side.
How will England do in the Ashes?