If Australia was a racehorse, it would be long odds to win the Ashes.
It has lost the last three series, hasn’t been in the placings from its last nine starts and, statistically, is vastly inferior.
The team named by John Inverarity and co. includes one player averaging more than 40; England has six (five batsmen and wicketkeeper Prior).
Australia has one bowler who has taken more than 200 Test wickets (Mitchell Johnson); England has three (Anderson, Broad and Swann).
But if you have got any spare hard-earned, I would seriously consider putting it on Australia as a great value outside bet.
Bowlers win games and the Australian trio of Harris, Johnson and Siddle are cherry ripe.
Harris is a Rolls Royce and the English batsmen could not handle him once he broke into the side during the last series. I expect Johnson to have a standout series and to stick it up both the public, which does not like him, and the Poms, several of whom have already been unsettled by him this summer. Siddle is a captain’s dream who never lets you down.
This is also a more settled Australian side than the one that toured England, when the coach was sacked, Warner was sidelined after a punch up and no one knew where they were batting. That was hardly a recipe for success
The weakness is obviously the batting. The selectors did not have much choice other than pick George Bailey for the No. 6 spot, although fellow Tasmanian Alex Doolan is clearly the heir apparent. Usman Khawaja has had his chances and Phil Hughes has got to learn how to handle Swann.
I am not a huge Bailey fan. He averages 38 in first-class cricket, which is not enough for a 31-year-old. Ryan Harris has got him out for fun in Shield cricket.
Bailey’s selection is a sign our standards have dropped. Unlike previous “mature age” selections Michael Hussey and Marcus North, he has not forced his way into the side by sheer weight of runs – at least not against the red ball.
Bailey got the nod because John Inverarity loves him, he is a fine young man with leadership qualities and he plays very well against the white ball. He is not going to get flustered. I just hope he takes another notch up as a first-class cricketer.
There is room for hope. His one-day form has been extraordinary. He averages 55 for Australia in one-day cricket, an elite average in that form of the game. In the end, I just hope that the selectors have got it right and that he is able to repeat that form at the highest level.
RODNEY HOGG’S GUIDE TO THE FIRST TEST SIDE
David Warner 22 Tests. 1401 runs @ 37. 4 wickets @ 51.
Hoggy likes: Capable of as good an innings as any anyone who has played the game.
Hoggy dislikes: Inconsistent. Still has not cemented his place in Test cricket.
Chris Rogers 6 Tests. 386 runs @ 35.
Hoggy likes: Bank your house on him. Won’t let you down.
Hoggy dislikes: Nothing.
Shane Watson 46 Tests. 2998 runs @ 36. 64 wickets @ 32.
Hoggy likes: Shows great promise.
Hoggy dislikes: Shows great promise.
Michael Clarke 97 Tests. 7656 runs @ 52. 30 wickets @ 38.
Hoggy likes: Best batsman on either side. Most runs, best average.
Hoggy dislikes: Vulnerability against short-pitched bowling. He will get plenty.
Steven Smith 12 Tests. 765 runs @ 35. 8 wickets @ 49.
Hoggy likes: Took another step to being a good Test cricketer in England.
Hoggy likes: A bit of a one-day technique. Sometimes wants to score too quickly.
Hoggy likes: Unflustered, strong leadership.
Hoggy dislikes: Performances against the red ball simply not good enough.
Brad Haddin 49 Tests. 2514 runs @ 34. 193 catches, five stumpings.
Hoggy likes: Solid Test cricketer. Bats well, not a bad ‘keeper.
Hoggy dislikes: Prone to occasional rash shots.
Peter Siddle 46 Tests. 167 wickets @ 29. 872 runs @ 15.
Hoggy likes: Never lets Australia down.
Hoggy dislikes: Nothing.
Mitchell Johnson 51 Tests. 205 wickets @ 31. 1406 runs @ 22.
Hoggy likes: Best delivery capable of dismissing anyone who has played the game, including Bradman.
Hoggy dislikes: Inconsistent. Disappointing batting.
Ryan Harris 16 Tests. 71 wickets @ 22. 311 runs @ 18.
Hoggy likes: Absolute quality. A Rolls Royce.
Hoggy dislikes: There is a flat tyre in the boot.
Nathan Lyon 25 Tests. 85 wickets @ 33. 244 runs @ 14
Hoggy likes: Getting better and better. Under-estimated by selectors.
Hoggy dislikes: Doesn’t finish off sides in second innings.
James Faulkner 1 Test. 6 wickets @ 16. 45 runs @ 23.
Hoggy likes: Just about my favourite player. Not scared of anyone. Plays in winning teams. Always contributes.
Hoggy dislikes: Batting needs improvement.