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Grab a seat, it’s Ashes time!

Timothy Morgan

Wed Nov 20 2013

Matt Prior bats away a ball by nic_r

WITH exams winding up, students crave something exciting to replace the endless hours of cramming that plagued their final study weeks. Thankfully the cricket is here and Tim Morgan lets you know why you should park yourself on the couch from this Thursday onwards.

If you have heard any news reports in the past few weeks, it would be extremely surprising if you haven’t come across mentions of the “The Ashes,” or “cricket.”

Soon, your TV screens will be filled with white dressed men chasing a red ball around a field to the raptures of packed stadiums.

Every year cricketing nations visit Australian shores, yet none bring the same hype and excitement as a visit from the English team.

Why is that? And why should you commit to five days in front of the TV to watch this great rivalry unfold? Read on to find out.

What is The Ashes?

The Ashes is the name given to a test match series between Australia and England that began in 1882 after Australia first won a test on English soil.

After the victory, Australia posted a fake obituary in The Sporting Times that read –

“In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET, which died at the Oval on 29 August 1882, Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances R.I.P. N.B. – The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”

Since then, it has been test cricket’s most storied rivalry and is watched all around the world every two years.

What is test cricket?

If you’ve read Meld’s article in February on one day cricket then you will already have a fair idea on how cricket is played. If not, no worries – here’s a quick rundown:

A team of 11 players on each side competes to score more runs than their opponents. Runs are gathered by either running from one end of the pitch to the other or by hitting the ball all the way to the oval’s boundary.

The ways of being dismissed are again the same as one day cricket – where a player is out if they are bowled, run out, caught or given out LBW.

The fundamental difference between test cricket and one day cricket is the fact that simply scoring more runs than your opponent doesn’t win you the game.

A test match goes for five days where both teams will have the opportunity to bat twice. Their innings doesn’t end unless 10 players go out or they voluntarily choose to stop batting (called a declaration).

That means a match is called a draw unless one side scores more runs and takes all 20 wickets.

It may seem like a strange rule but over the course of a five match series if a side is able to save a draw it can almost be as pivotal as a win in deciding the series.

Who won last time?

Due to a little-known event called the Olympics hosted in London last year, The Ashes – that are usually hosted every two years – had to be played this June during the English summer.

That means the 3-0 English victory is still way too fresh in Australian minds than we would like to admit.

It was the first time Australia hadn’t won a match against England since 1977 and was the continuation of a winless streak that has been going since January.

If Australia is so bad why should we watch?

Whoa, slow down! While many experts (and armchair experts) have already written Australia off, this series is not even close to a forgone conclusion.

Much credit must be given to England, who has won the past three series and looks more united and prepared than any tour group before them.

The Australian side however looks more like a garage sale – a collection of odds and bits that have been cobbled together to resemble some type of order.

When the first ball is bowled in Brisbane, the Australian side will consist of men returning from cricketing exile, injury or players whose potential vastly outweigh their reputation.

Many of the players who front up this series won’t just be fighting for The Ashes but also their career.

The advantage of playing in Australia at venues like the Gabba (the Brisbane Cricket Ground) – where they have only lost once since WWII when at full strength – should not be underestimated.

With all that on the line, along with the questions over the head of the Australian team, this is sure to be a compelling series.

Who should we watch out for?

If you’re a first time watcher of the game of cricket, here are the four players you should really watch out for:

Michael Clarke. In cricket, the top six to seven players are the team’s best batters before you get into the teams bowlers (otherwise called the tail). In a conventional side, each of the batters at times would lend a hand in contributing to putting up a winning score. In recent times however, the Australian approach has been to collapse and hope Captain Michael Clarke can do the rest. He is easily Australia’s best batter and averages 86.15 runs in Australian wins and draws and averages 36.5 in losses during his stint as captain. Clearly Clarke needs to fire for Australia has a chance to win.

Stuart Broad. Australian coach Darren Lehmann has already called on spectators to “make Broad cry,” but if Broad emulates his performance earlier this year it will certainly be the Australians in tears. Broad refused to walk and concede after he was out during the first test in England, leaving him to be labelled a “cheat” by the Australian public. He responded perfectly by taking 22 wickets and dismissing Clarke five times, and was also handy with the bat.

Ryan Harris. He is the leading wicket taker in the past Ashes and seems to hold much of the bowling attack in his hands. At 34, Harris has managed only 16 tests due to countless injuries that have plagued his career. His ability to keep fit may be what decides this series.

Kevin Pieterson. This player could put any number of English batsmen in this spot due to the way they have performed in the past two series. At his best Pieterson though is easily the best to watch as he has the ability to score runs quickly and often. His duel with Australian spinner Nathan Lyon is also one you should try to watch as Pieterson showed Lyon very little respect during the English summer.

The Ashes will start at 11am AEDST on Channel Nine.