Mitchell Johnson vs Jonathan Trott
“I’m ganna bowl at their fackin’ Pommy throats” squeaked Mitch. Mitch loves a bit of hyperbole, whilst Trott loved facing him last time Down Under. Looking admittedly fearsome in Australia’s recent one day series’, Mitch hasn’t played any Test cricket since what feels like the 1980s and his longevity of threat will be Australia’s most pressing concern with him. If England let Australia get control then Clarke can use Johnson as an impact bowler and he can be very dangerous. If England and Trott can bat long and force him into third and fourth spells then they will back his inate waywardness to come to the fore.
Ryan Harris vs the Treatment Table
He is the bowler with the best Test average, is the most consistently threatening and he is by far and away the most in control. Harris took the most English wickets (25) in the Ashes series just gone and probably would have also surpassed Graeme Swann (29) had he featured in all 5 Tests. If history repeats itself there will be more wickets and pressure applied from Harris’ end, usually followed by some form of series-ending injury, while if Harris plays all five Tests niggle-free then Australia have a great chance.
Chris Tremlett vs Australia’s Middle Order
Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Watson, Haddin and Johnson all fell twice to Chris Tremlett in the 3 Tests in which he played in 2010-11, and as a result the genuinely massive right-armer has been tipped to start the First Test at the Gabba. If he is picked it will defy form (1 wicket in 37 overs on this tour), fitness (as a percentage of of Tests since debut he even fares worse than Ryan Harris!) and England’s fabled ‘next in line’ policy which would usually see in this case Steven Finn selected. If the ability to generate extra bounce covers the years’ since his last decent international performance the fact that he has barely played for his county over the past two years, one dryly wonders why Steve Harmison wasn’t on the plane! Mind you if Tremlett (or Rankin or Finn) can manage to repeat his feats of the last tour Down Under, it will dramatically reduce the pressure on Graeme Swann who is going to be shorn of opposition left handers to bowl to this time around.
Stuart Broad vs Alastair Cook
This could have been just about Stuart Broad vs Anyone, but with Jonny Bairstow potentially taking the gloves for the First Test England will miss injured Matt Prior’s experienced calls of potential reviews from behind the stumps, and Alastair Cook will be more than aware that Broad is the man in his side most likely to attempt to force the issue with a more than optimistic review. He needs to trust Broad to reign in his natural instincts and also trust his own instinct from first slip. Use of DRS can decide Test matches, and Broad’s pushing of the boundaries with both leather and willow could be fascinating in deciding the series.
James Anderson vs Michael Clarke
There is no stand out reason why this should be such an appetising match-up in particular, but this is the sort of contest which explains what we watch sport for. From Michael Clarke’s elegant straight drives to Anderson’s control of swinging the ball both ways, these two epitomise the top class of the sport and proven performance. Anderson has been England’s go-to man across all conditions and bowled Clarke with an absolute peach in the summer series, whilst Clarke has been nothing short of phenomenal in Australia in recent years including nearly batting Australia to a series win against South Africa in 2012. Drool inducing.