England take heart as Aussies toil in UAE


There will have been mixed feelings in the England camp as Pakistan wrapped up a comfortable 2-0 series victory against Australia in the UAE.

There will have been mixed feelings in the England camp as Pakistan wrapped up a comfortable 2-0 series victory against Australia in the UAE.

While the result saw England drop from third to fourth in the ICC Test rankings, the dismal performances from Australia's bowling attack will have given Alastair Cook and his men a huge amount of confidence as they begin to prepare for the next Ashes series.

Australia's bowlers were instrumental in last year's ruthless whitewash which saw Michael Clarke's side reclaim the famous urn thanks to a 5-0 victory, but England Ashes odds with the likes of <a href='http://au.32red.com/' class='instorylink'><b>au.32Red.com</b></a> and bet365.com.au will look a lot better following the Aussies' humbling series loss in the UAE.

With England set to prepare slow green pitches for the upcoming Ashes, the hosts will know that keeping Mitchell Johnson quiet could be all it takes to reclaim the run. Johnson has continued to shine since his return to form last year, climbing up to fourth in the ICC bowling rankings, but the loss in the UAE won't have done anything to stop those who claim the 33-year old is Australia's only real bowling threat at the moment. In the defeat to Pakistan, Johnson had to do without the same support that made Australia's bowling attack so effective in the last Ashes series.

Missing the pin-point accuracy of Ryan Harris and the pressure-bowling of Shane Watson, the left-armer was forced to bowl more over than he would have wanted in the heat of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

While Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon remain in the Australia side from the last Ashes series, neither will be able to take any confidence from their performances against Pakistan. Siddle was given the chance to step up from being first-change bowler to being handed the new ball, but the usually-reliable Victorian seemed to wilt under the pressure, picking up just a single wicket in each Test match.

The 29-year old will have an important role to play in England, if he plays, but the Aussie management will have taken notice from Siddle's failure to handle the responsibility of taking the new ball.

If Siddle was disappointing, Lyon was abysmal. After a mixed time in the first Ashes series of 2013, Lyon really stepped up Down Under and proved his doubters wrong by taking 19 wickets to help Australia reclaim the Ashes. While some felt Australia had finally solved their spin bowling issues, Lyon's doubters remained after a modest return to action against South Africa, and that band of critics may have grown after a shocking showing in the UAE in which he was taken apart by the Pakistan batsman.

As ever with series held in England, spin bowling will have a big say on how the series unfolds. While England appear to have unearthed another spin bowling gem in Moeen Ali, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding just who Australia will have as their spin option next year.

In the first Test in Dubai Lyon could only muster two wickets for a mammoth 220 runs as <a href='http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/australia-thrashed-by-pakistan-in-first-test-humiliation-20141026-11c3pe.html' class='instorylink'><b>Pakistan romped to a 221-run victory</b></a>. Things didn't get better in the second Test, with the spinner finishing with just one wicket while going for 202 runs and going at almost four runs an over, figures that could have been a lot worse had he not been spared much of Misbah ul-Haq's destructive 56-ball century.It was a different game for Lyon last year, coming on after Johnson and Harris had done the damage and getting to work with the fresh batsmen.

But based on the evidence of his display in this series, there is no guarantee Lyon will be on that plane to England next year, although there doesn't seem to be an obvious replacement for the 26-year old.

Australia's troubles with the ball was highlighted by the fact that Pakistan's batsmen scored nine centuries, with Younis scoring three, while David Warner's 133 in Dubai was the sole century scored by the tourists. While the lack of runs is down to the Australian batsmen, the lacklustre bowling display kept the top order standing around in the field for a lot longer than planned.

With a home series against India before the Ashes, not to mention hosting the World Cup at the start of the year, Australia have enough chance to test out some more bowling options. The likes of James Pattinson and Pat Cummins have both spent significant periods sidelined with injury after breaking into the Test side, but the duo should be back in action well in time to be blooded in the series against India and the youngsters could have roles to play against England.

One thing is for sure, though, despite England's obvious and embarrassing issues, there are plenty of weaknesses in this Australia side for Alastair Cook and his men to feel as though they have every chance of reclaiming cricket's most iconic accolade when they welcome their bitter rivals next July for a series that many fans of 32Red and Bet365 are struggling to predict the outcome of.