Opinion: Seven near certainties for the Ashes

Australia

The Ashes are upon us once again, as Peter Miller predicts what might happen, from Stuart Broad enjoying infamy to England not actually winning the series.

You may not have heard, but the Ashes are upon us again. With that in mind it is time to make some predictions. Cricket predictions need to treated like being dared to grasp an electric fence, you do it quickly and unthinkingly and then pretend it never happened. So with that in mind here are the things that will happen during the 2013/14 Ashes.

<b>1. Mitchell Johnson will win a Test match for Australia</b>

Mitchell Johnson is going to play in this Ashes series. This will mean the standard pattern will be followed for MiJo in all Ashes contests. He will be picked for the first game, he will bowl terribly and then he will be dropped. He will then become a brilliant bowler as a result of not playing. He will be recalled in time for Perth (it would be Headingley if it was an away series) and he will tear England apart like a kid with Christmas wrapping paper. He will then return to his scatter gun best. This isn't even really a prediction, rather just what will inevitably occur.

<b>2. Alastair Cook will bat forever</b>

Captain Cooks have a unique relationship with Australia. James found the place, Alastair likes batting there, a lot. He has played in 10 Test matches in Australia and has scored over 1000 runs at an average of 65. As a result we will see him 'eat, sleep, bat, repeat' for this entire series. England fans will be praying for a James Faulkner five wicket haul just to break the monotony of Cook and Trott scoring at 2.5 runs an over.

<b>3. Michael Clarke will declare while behind on first innings</b>

As we have discovered during the phoney war of words that has led up to this series the true sign of a brilliant captain is not Test match wins. The way you judge someone's leadership skills is with innovative field placings, the use of a part time bowler at a crucial moment and, most importantly, brave declarations. If you do not spend an entire Test match on the brink of a heroic loss you are not doing it right. Bad light prevented Michael Clarke losing the Ashes 4-0 at the Oval, but his declaration meant that England lost the series in spirit. During this Ashes we will see at least one brilliant declaration from Clarke, and this time it might actually result in a win.

<b>4. Steve Smith will come of age, again</b>

The journey from leg spinner to top order batsman is not more travelled than the M25 on a Friday night. Cameron White and Chris Schofield were the pioneers, but the man that has reached the summit is the ever improving Steve Smith. You can't blame them, leg spin is ridiculously hard, and Smith is now an automatic selection at number 5. He scored his first Test hundred at the Oval, and a fine innings it was too. But this series will be the one where people stop making porcine jokes and start realising that Smith has become a world class batsman.

<b>5. Stuart Broad will relish his villianhood</b>

You can be sure that Stuart Broad will get some jeers from the Australian public. His role as L'enfant terrible of English cricket is one he suits well and if anyone will enjoy the booing it is Broad. He is petulant, prone to dissent and driven to win at all costs. While this may be ugly to watch, he is also a match winner. Just as MiJo may flit in and out of a series so does Broad, but as with Mitchell, when Stuart gets it to all click he can run through a batting line up like Mo Farah on the last lap of the 10,000 metres.

<b>6. Nathan Lyon will get a run in the side</b>

The person who felt the impact of the failed Ashton Agar gamble the most in the last Ashes was poor Nathan Lyon. Of the conveyor belt of spinners that have played for Australia since the departure of Warne he has been the most consistent. He is effective rather than remarkable, but given a consistent place in the side he can make a difference. We are told that the random number generator that was selecting Australian sides in the Mickey Arthur era has been decommissioned, and Lyon could well be the first to benefit.

<b>7. England will retain the Ashes, but they might not win them</b>

Australia are an improving side. It has been a while since a win, but the bowling attack of Harris, Siddle, Johnson and Lyon can take 20 wickets. The batting backbone of Rogers, Clarke and Smith will score runs. Those that will make up the rest of the top six have the talent to score runs in Test cricket, they just need to ask themselves if they have the temperament. England have a settled side, but they are still short a consistent number six and the third seamer is the subject of much debate. This will be no walkover for England and a drawn series is a distinct possibility, and England may well have to fight to get one.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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