The Ashes: Player battles to watch out for

There’s something about The Ashes that gets cricket fans excited to another level. There has to be something. Maybe it’s the intensity, maybe the quality of Test cricket on display or maybe the firepower in both teams, or maybe just the history of it. Australia and England have been long involved in this fierce rivalry that revolves around the tiny, infamous urn. Australia haven’t won an Ashes series away from home in the last 14 years, while England’s 2013-14 outing was a complete disaster. Both teams will be eager to compete at their highest level at the 2015 Ashes in England. Whatever be the case, we’re in for another cracking contest between the arch rivals. Though, the contest isn’t just limited to the teams, there’s a mini contest between the players that is expected to up the ante further. Here’s a look at some of them:

1. Alastair Cook vs Michael Clarke:

"There is a lot written about my captaincy and it is important I sometimes get on the front foot. If you look back at previous teams, they were more methodical. Maybe there’s more opportunity to be on the front foot with the players we’ve got now." – Alastair Cook

"We’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of success as a team, winning away from home has been the area we’ve addressed and said we want to be more consistent. Beating teams in their own backyard is always the toughest part of our game and I’m sure this series will be no different." – Michael Clarke

On a personal level, Alastair Cook will be looking to get back in form, whilst also motivating a fairly inexperienced bunch of teammates. On the other hand, Clarke’s primary goal would be to carry all his team’s experience to a foreign land. Will Cook and Co. make the most of home conditions? Or will this be the year of the ‘Dad’s Army’? It’s Cook vs Clarke. It’s Character vs Determination.

2. Joe Root vs Steven Smith

Both England and Australia have had emerging talent in the form of Joe Root and Steven Smith. Root’s position at No.5 means he will be England’s crusader. Smith’s promotion to No.3 will give him a huge platform on one of the biggest stages in world cricket. Both players have had forgettable Ashes outings before, but their recent form shows they’re raring to go. They can bat a lot, they can bowl a bit, and they’re both live wires in the field. It’s Root vs Smith. It’s Talent vs Consistency.

3. James Anderson vs Mitchell Johnson/Starc

There probably isn’t a better exponent of the red cherry than James Anderson in the England side. His experience as the team’s pace spearhead will be more than handy for England. In the opponent camp, the two Mitchells are ready to wreck havoc. Johnson has had a brilliant last Ashes down under, while Starc’s rise to prominence has been phenomenal. But the Aussies will have to tweak their bowling plans, considering the fact that they’re playing in England. Nonetheless, it’s Anderson vs The Mitchells. It’s Inswingers vs Yorkers.

4. Moeen Ali vs Nathan Lyon

©REUTERS/Action Images.

The absence of a specialist spinner is one of the biggest chinks in England’s armor, while Australia’s spin prowess relies on the wily Nathan Lyon. Though, England can bank upon Moeen Ali, their part-time spinner. It’s a gamble that Cook will have to take. A flat pitch at Cardiff will take the spinners out of the equation, but both teams must include one quality spinner in their respective playing XI. It’s Ali vs Lyon. It’s Part Timer vs Specialist.

5. Jos Buttler vs Brad Haddin

One is an upcoming cricketer in England’s ranks, while the other is most likely to play his last Ashes series. With Haddin, Australia’s wicket keeping gloves are in safe hands. On the other hand, England will hope Buttler rises to the challenge. Wicket keeping is a tough job, especially in Test cricket. Haddin has done it on many occasions before, but for Buttler, this will be a litmus test of grit and concentration. It’s Buttler vs Haddin. It’s Nerves vs Temperament.

It’s the new-age England vs the ageing Australia.

It’s The Ashes.

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