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Thursday, 23 December 2010

England aim to wrestle back momentum

The roller-coaster of emotions that England fans experience while watching their nation do battle with their fiercest rivals in order to win back a small Urn can be compared to any of the biggest rides on the planet.

After giving the Australians a thumping in Adelaide, England fans were so confident of victory that we started to sympathise with fans down under and it seemed almost certain that the Ashes would be retained. England outplayed their Australian counterparts in every department and with the home side completely demoralised, there seemed no way back for a team that was once the most feared anywhere in the World.

But that's what they do best, isn't it? Always being able to produce the unexpected and refusing to lie down even when all seems lost. In perth they did just that. Having being bowled out for a modest 268, Mitchell Johnson showcased a mesmeric spell of swing bowling, causing havoc to England's batsmen and hauling his side right back into Ashes contention.

Two days later Australia wrapped up a thumping of their own to level the series at 1-1 and leave the fate of the Ashes right in the balance.

And now all the momentum is now with the home side. After being written off before Perth, they will be the confident of regaining the Ashes back despite being, in my opinion, the weaker team.

The key to the boxing day test at the MCG may rest upon England's ability to remain focus and truly believe that they have the stronger team. Their victory in Adelaide showed that they have the better all round side and signs of that were even evident in the defeat at Perth.

Australia have issues in almost every area. The top six is probably the worst ever in their history. Phil Hughes at the top of the order has a list of technical frailties, Shane Watson seemed inept of going onto to get a century while Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke are more out-of-form then they've probably ever been in their illustrious careers.

Steve Smith is vulnerable but if Mike Hussey continues to perform at the top of his game and the bowlers hit their marks then England will have to be wary.

Mike Hussey has proven a difficult obstacle for England to remove by scoring 517 runs in just three matches.

The tourists themselves have worries with their first XI. Fitness concerns over key bowlers James Anderson and Steve Finn may force Andy Flower into making a change that will allow either Tim Bresnan or Ajmal Shahzad make their Ashes debut.

Both from Yorkshire but are very different in what they would bring to England. Bresnan is physically strong and can bowl economically as well as bring what may prove valuable batting experience. But his lack of pace and skill to take a wicket would be a concern.

In contrast, Shahzad has shown the ability to reverse swing the ball at a brisk pace while he tends to attack the stumps more in search bowled or lbw. However, he is liable to be erratic but Shahzad would certainly be my choice as he would provide England with an extra dimension, something which would trouble the already brittle Australian batting.

Ajmal Shahzad will bring an extra spark to England's attack with raw pace and the unique ability to swing the old ball.

The form of Paul Collingwood also adds to England's problems. It would certainly be harsh to drop the experienced stalwart, who brings vital experience to the team. Not only is he a fantastic fielder, highlighted by a stunning catch at slip to get rid of Ponting, but he also can bowl useful spells with some gentle medium pace which allows the quicker bowlers to take a break in the hot conditions.

Despite his obvious benefits, Collingwood is in the team for runs and he will know better then anyone that he needs a big score to silence the doubters.

With both teams showing glimpses of brilliance and signs of a distinct lack of creativity, it promises to be a thrilling climax to what has already been a tremendous series between two even and passionate sides that are both desperate to lift that precious Urn.

Thanks for reading, please comment below and follow me on twitter at James_Heneghan_ for all the latest Ashes news plus more.

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