Jim Maxwell previews the first Test

20 November 2013 1:06 PM

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Jim Maxwell previews the first Test

In the shadow boxing nonsense that is no better than pub talk, Australia's punditry and a few current and ex players have been quite belligerent. This will get hosed down by Brisbane's weather from the look of the forecast, but if speculation is to be believed then Australia is on the up and England has probably plateaued.

Mitchell Johnson is going to bruise bodies with his rejuvenated pace, Steve Smith is going to biff Graeme Swann and David Warner won't be "holding back" against Anderson and Broad.

Ryan Harris is also going to 'get up' Cook and Trott with some rockets, and Stuart Broad will get a good old Aussie welcome of invective when he walks out to bat.

So when the hubbub settles (and we all love the theatre of bristle, eyeballing and a few chirps) who will be dominant and influential in this anticipated event?

Most Test series are decided by the battle of the new ball. Which is why Michael Carberry is opening with Alastair Cook. Two lefties to combat Harris and Johnson, because right handed Root was mainly stuffed by the new ball outside his 180 at Lord's, where he was dropped in the slips early on.

Australia's left-handed love affair persists at the top of the order with the resilient Rogers and the inconsistent Warner. No lefties after that with Cowan, Hughes and Khawaja purged, and much faith in the Watson, Clarke, Smith, Bailey quartet scoring freely in Tim Bresnan's absence.

Watson is an enigma as a Test cricketer. In 2006-7 Ricky Ponting touted him as a significant player. Watson didn't play a match.

He's still missed more Tests than he's played since his debut, but has looked more resilient in the last twelve months. His inability to bowl for this game could swing Faulkner into the team, if the damp forecast persists.

As a batsman it's time, overdue, for Watson to show that his 176 at the Oval was no more than an aberration at the end of a series.

Taking a form line through Australia's best batting of the most recent series at Old Trafford, where Bresnan was playing, it's easy to forecast some solid Australian scores with Haddin clearly out-batting Prior as well.

Watson needs to become the big match batsman that has made Kevin Pietersen one of the most influential ball-beaters of the day. A dodgy knee and some well directed bowling could curb his penchant for attack, and he hates being becalmed.

On good pitches I can see plenty of high scoring, so which attack is more likely to get 20 wickets faster than the opposition?

I'm backing England overall to do that, but without Tim Bresnan, replaced by an out of form Chris Tremlett, and Prior's calf muscle disturbance, Australia has a great chance to nick the opening game.

The two what-ifs are Mitchell Johnson's red ball strike power, and can Australia's batsmen blunt Anderson and Broad?

Source: abc.net.au

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