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Where the Ashes will be won and lost
With the furore over Cardiff being awarded the first Ashes cricket test still bubbling, here’s a run down on each venue for England v Australia and how the results might pan out.
Cardiff: Starts Wednesday, July 8th
A controversial choice for the first test, given that Trent Bridge and Old Trafford were overlooked entirely, but we’ve been told to expect the wicket to turn sideways. Don’t be surprised to see: England field two spinners, Shane Warne drooling over the pitch … from inside the commentary box, Ricky Ponting cursing the fact his only spin front-line option is Nathan Hauritz and rain.
Result: Draw – it can’t rain all the time. It can in Cardiff.
Lord’s, London: Thursday, July 16th
The home of cricket has been as a dry as a desert and as flat as a pancake in recent years and England haven’t beaten Australia at Lord’s since 1934. Expect a seam bowler, most likely Graham Onions, to replace Monty in England’s attack, but the Aussies will arrive without fear given their history on this ground.
Result: Australia win – history is on their side.
Edgbaston, Birmingham: Thursday, July 30th
In 2005, Edgbaston was a scene of carnage for Ponting’s crew as spectators witnessed one of the greatest test matches of all time. For Australia, Glenn McGrath was crocked in the warm-up, the captain then won the toss and mystifyingly chose to bowl, promptly conceding over 400 runs in under 80 overs, and lost the test that swung the series in England’s favour by 2 runs. Moral: Win the toss and bat then take advantage of the deteriorating pitch.
Result: England win and turn the series again.
Headingley, Leeds: Friday, August 7th
Swing glorious swing. It always swings at Headingley, and we’re not just talking about the boisterous West Stand. Australia should field the fast bowling quartet of Siddle, Lee, Johnson and Clark, providing they’re fit, but don’t be surprised if England opt for a horses-for-courses bowling option and bring Ryan Sidebottom in for one of the other seam bowlers.
Result: England win – Sidebottom could be England’s swing out sister.
The Oval, London: Thursday, August 20th
A batsman’s paradise, which means, if he hasn’t been dropped already, even Paul Collingwood will make a score at the Oval. A sun trap of a venue, the pitch gets baked and dusty but offers good bounce for the fast bowlers and spinners a like. Win the toss, bat first, stick 600 on the board and the urn will be within touching distance.
Result: Draw, England win the series – start the open top bus tour and dig out your MBEs.
PHOTO: Australia’s Mike Hussey and coach Tim Nielsen (L) check out the pitch during a cricket training session before the first Ashes Test against England at Cardiff, Wales July 6, 2009. REUTERS/Philip Brown