Mark Ramprakash and Jason Gillespie trade views on England's back-to-back Ashes series with Australia
Mark Ramprakash and Jason Gillespie trade views on a colossal year in the history of the Ashes.
Last Updated: 08/01/13 8:24am
It's a colossal year in cricket, as holders England aim to retain their grip on the urn across a total of 10 Tests against Australia in back-to-back series, home and away, starting at Trent Bridge in July.
To set the scene, Sky Sports News summoned up former England batsman Mark Ramprakash and former Australia seamer Jason 'Dizzy' Gillespie - now first team coach at Yorkshire - to stand toe-to-toe and explain why their respective nations will be tasting Ashes glory as the year unfolds...
Watch the video above or read on for their thoughts on...
The continuing appeal of the Ashes...
RAMPS: To have two Test series in such close proximity will keep the cricketing public entertained - there's no question about it. With such a good bowling attack, you'd have to fancy England's chances at home. Who knows, we might prepare turning pitches for the Aussies now that Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar are doing so well!
DIZZY: I've got absolutely no doubt that Test cricket [is still a strong product]. In some quarters people were questioning 10 Test matches against the same opposition in a row - is it overkill? I don't think so. I think Australia v England is the ultimate in Test cricket, it's as simple as that. The crowds will come out and support it and just show why Test cricket is the number one form of the game.
Who will come out on top in England...
RAMPS: England's bowlers will really enjoy playing in England. James Anderson is so adept at playing in England - he will lead the attack but there is plenty to back it up. Steven Finn is emerging and getting better all of the time. I'm sure Stuart Broad will come back with a bang this coming year and there's plenty of bowlers to back them up. Stuart Meaker's is a name that may feature; he shows plenty of promise, bowls the ball at 90mph with a bit of swing. He's a good young bowler as well. So I think the attack will make it very, very tough for Australia's players in England.
DIZZY: I don't agree with that. I certainly think that Jimmy Anderson is at the top of his game: he's a wonderful fast bowler who has adapted. He's learnt through playing a lot of international cricket. He's comfortably one of the best bowlers going around in world cricket. I don't necessarily agree that England have the edge over Australia with conditions. I think a lot of people over here are going to be surprised at just how good a pace battery Australia is creating. There has been a lot of criticism, a lot of talk about Australia's selectors rotation policy but what we're finding is that there are a lot of young fast bowlers, who all bowl close to 90mph, all getting opportunities to play international cricket and that's going to hold them in good stead for the next couple of years. You certainly won't see the same Australian bowling line-up in each and every Test match, but what you will see is young fresh bowlers ready to come hard at England's batting order.
I'd be very surprised if England come out and produce big turning wickets. Their best cricket in the UK is when they play three frontline fast bowlers and Graeme Swann, who is a very important member of the England side. He can play that holding role when there is not much for the spinners in first innings and as the game wears on and the wicket starts to deteriorate he comes into his own and England rotate the fast bowlers at the other end. I think that's the game-plan that England will go in with. If there is a wicket that will take some extra turn, then I think England will look to play Monty Panesar, but I can't see them straying too far from playing three frontline fast bowlers and one specialist spinner.
Whether the Australian team is on the rise...
DIZZY: Australia has done pretty well in 2012 although they lost 1-0 to South Africa. They've won eight Test matches and only lost the one in 2012, so they are in some pretty decent form. There are probably two areas that Australia are not 100 per cent certain about. I think Nathan Lyon, their spin bowling option, is a wonderful, young bowler and I'm pleased that Australia are giving him a good run but they will be a little bit concerned that he hasn't been able to impact as much late on in Test matches. The other concern, especially with the retirement of two legends in Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, is their top-order batting. They are still not sure about Ed Cowan at the top of the order. David Warner is proving to be a very good opening batsman in Test cricket but they are still unsure about Ed Cowan; Phil Hughes has come back to the Test side for the third time and we might see someone like Usman Khawaja come in. Shane Watson has been injured - we don't know if he is going to be able to take part of if he's going to be able to bowl. The word is he's going to be selected on merit as a batsman. So it's interesting times; Australia's batting order certainly isn't settled.
RAMPS: I think Jason's just answered why I think England have the edge. I'm not convinced that Australia have any sort of threat or depth in the spin bowling department but also when you look at their batting it's not going to be able for their stroke-players, Warner and Hughes at the top of the innings, to play in English conditions with the ball swinging around. Then, of course, they have lost those two big names in Ponting and Hussey. That position at No 6 is a very important one and Mike Hussey has been prolific there for Australia. So I think there are plenty of areas that England can exploit. For me England have all bases covered.
Make sure you catch the first Ashes Test on Sky Sports - live from Trent Bridge on July 10 - and stick with Sky Sports and skysports.com throughout 2013 and 2013/14 for the very best interactive coverage of the Ashes.