The fast men will decide the Ashes: Ian Chappell

  • Ian Chappell
  • Updated: Jun 28, 2015 19:45 IST

"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; if Thommo don't get ya, then Lillee must." That witty ditty first appeared during the 1974-75 series but it also serves as a succinct reminder of Ashes history - a tale of terrific, and at times terrifying, fast bowling.

It's a history littered with occasional broken bones and animosity, and highlighted by the colourful nicknames attached to speedsters who dictated the fate of a series. It all began with 'The Demon' Fred Spofforth and has continued with Harold Larwood, the 'Notts Express', Ray 'Killer' Lindwall, Frank 'Typhoon' Tyson, Jeff 'Terror' Thomson and his co-conspirator Dennis 'The Menace' Lillee.

The trend of pace domination surfaced again in the last Ashes series when Mitchell Johnson shattered the English will with a withering burst of pace and steep bounce. Thanks to him, Australia turned a 3-0 deficit in 2013 into a stunning 5-0 surplus in early 2014.

True spearhead

Johnson was complemented by a strong supporting attack and an astute captain. On the early evidence, Johnson's confidence in his ability has risen to a point where he could create similar mayhem, even on the less bouncy English surfaces. Even if he can't, Australia are well placed with the likes of Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

Even with Steve Smith's mercury-like rise to the top of the rankings, Australia's batting is vulnerable. Nevertheless, there's less pressure on a batting line-up whose bowlers keep the opposition tally to a manageable level.

England's chances in the series (starting on July 4) have improved.

They are suddenly playing a much livelier brand of cricket and the best way to beat a strong opponent like Australia is to attack them judiciously.

It's the one non-appointment that may hamper their pursuit of the urn. Alastair Cook remains captain and he's not pro-active enough.

Andrew Strauss was an appropriate leader for a team that contained a few stars but mostly good, hard working cricketers. The current England have the potential to take the game by the scruff of the neck thanks to an aggressive middle-order. Eventually, a vibrant cricketer like Joe Root may be the leader who brings out the best in this team.

Despite England's attack being good, they are out-paced by Australia's fast men and it would be interesting to listen in on the instructions issued to the groundsmen.

England are quick to condemn others but are high on the most wanted list when it comes to countries who prepare pitches that suit the home side.

Hopefully the pitches will provide an even contest. If that's the case, recent history suggests that despite England's changed attitude, Australia will prevail.

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