By David O’Neill
In the tubes, in the streets and of course in every good watering hole, conversations are turning to the momentous battle that will shortly engulf two nations.
The Australian team is still a long way from being set in stone, with the three bowling spots behind spearhead Mitch Johnson still up for grabs. Only time will tell what impact Sturt Clark and Brett Lee will have, the two fighting Peter Siddle for a spot after the Victorian seized his chance with a strong tour of South Africa.
Debate also continues over the validity of playing off spinner Nathan Hauritz who has yet to set the world alight at international level.
With so many ifs and maybes in regard to our attack and the question of who will grab the all rounder spot still lingering, the only certainty is the line-up of our top five.
Opening pair Simon Katich and Phil Hughes performed brilliantly in South Africa setting the tone at the top of the order. Hughes has already proven that the English conditions will not bother him, notching up four centuries in a short stint with Middlesex earlier this summer. Katich however will be keen to avenge the 2005 Ashes loss after he failed to make a significant impact batting at six, caught too often behind the wicket, dabbing outside off stump.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Clark at three and four look likely to again provide strength and class of our batting line-up. The captain and vice captain have been the pillars of Australian cricket over the last two years and the supremely talented stroke makers will be seen from an English point of view as the biggest dangers to their chances.
The last man, the under pressure Mike Hussey, is thus the key to our chances. Out of sorts for most of the Australian summer he has shown some signs of returning to the form that saw him averaging above 75 for the best part of his first two years in the Australian set up.
When the Australian Times spoke with Hussey on the eve of the World Twenty20, we put it to the man known as Mr Cricket; can he find the form that amazed almost everyone at the start of his international career?
“I know my game so well, I know how I have to prepare to get back to my best and I’ll be trying my best”.
It was just over 18 months ago when the West Australian strode to the crease with pressure mounting, as Australia lost five wickets in chasing down a small total to secure the previous Ashes series at the Adelaide Oval.
He took his mark as if he was born for the moment, steady in his stance, composed and classy he led us to victory, never showing the pressure that must have weighed on his shoulders until finally the chase was complete. I’m certain every person in the magnificent stands that day and most of the millions watching on TV felt, like me, that we were in safe hands with Hussey at the wicket.
Every patriotic Aussie will be hoping he recaptures that reliability. At number five his role this summer is as important as any player in the Baggy Green. The English attack may not belong in the same calibre as South Africa’s, but there is no doubt there will be days that require classic Hussey heroics, moments that will determine if he’s remembered alongside the greats or banished back to domestic cricket. C’mon Aussie C’mon!
,b>The Greatest Ashes Moments
The 2005 Ashes series had more memorable moments than the Olympic games. The English finally found the pluck to take their turn, winning for the first time in 16 years and sending the country into wild celebrations.
With exception to the first test, Andrew Flintoff was heroic with both bat and ball while Kevin Pietersen’s last day hundred in the fifth test had all the hall marks of greatness. This wasn’t typically English mediocrity this was something else entirely. The Poms found confidence when they hung on to win the second test, a remarkable fight back from the Aussie tail falling just three runs short. The ability to close out the game showed the Poms that this great Australian team was beatable and this new found confidence led them to a historic series win.
The moment however belonged not to the supreme talent of a player; rather the sportsmanship and compassion one man can show another. As Brett Lee sat on his haunches, his brave innings not enough to see the Aussies home, England’s hero Flintoff, bent over and with one arm around Lee, shook the fast bowlers hand. The image set amongst the back drop of the rest of the English team celebrating is one that will live on for centuries to come.