The England squad was announced for the Ashes last week. It is two months before the tour starts and already I'm filled with dread. This shouldn't be, England are in fine form and the Convicts are a shadow of their former self. That is what the media want us to think anyway. I still think that in Australia taking 20 wickets may be a lot harder than just getting Ricky 'Punter' Ponting out twice as some pundits would have you think.
I look at our batting line up and on paper it's really strong, however in reality it is a collapse waiting to happen.
Strauss - Finally found some form in the ODI series just gone, before that he had a very frustrating habit of reaching 20/30 and giving his wicket away.
Cook - Has looked like a walking wicket for a while now. Once again did the absolute minimum to keep his place by getting a century against Pakistan, but then did what he always does and got out without turning it into a big big score. With any luck though that century may have given him the confidence he needs - in theory could be the most important runs scored for this Ashes series, here's hoping!
Trott - Okay well he looks settled at the moment, however he goes through that agonising routine before each delivery and I can't help but think the Aussies will get under his skin.
KP - Finally the ECB have shown Kev that he isn't undroppable, unfortunately he is, despite looking a shadow of his former self. Hopefully he can pick up some form in South Africa before the tour.
Collingwood - He was even worse than KP against Pakistan, didn't look like playing well. I've never been a big fan but he like Cook has an annoying habit of getting one score when under pressure to keep his place.
Bell - I reckon he will start ahead of Morgan. He has more experience and has been playing better in the longer formats. He also missed a large portion of the summer so should be fresher. The only worry I have with him is his poor record against the Aussies but I am hoping that this is the tour that finally shows Bell as the quality player we all know he could be.
Prior - easily the batsman of the series against Pakistan. I fear we would have lost at least one more test without his contribution. I was against his initial inclusion but he has proven me wrong.
Broad - finally produced the performance with the bat we were all hoping for in that controversial test and has given an important knock against the Aussies before. However he lacks consistency and will probably only provide one or two contributions of note over 5 tests. With the ball he is a worry, I doubt he will be able to keep his head during a frustrating day in the field. He is capable of coming up with magic spells but doesn't quite have the consistency.
Swann - England's best bowler at the moment, but didn't do it against the Aussies last year. Hopefully though he will have learned from that experience and will cause them some problems this time round. Although he has batted above Broad he wont offer anything more than a bit of a dart down the order.
Anderson - will be expected to spearhead the attack, however without getting the ball to swing I don't know if he can take wickets.
Finn - has been very impressive so far in his test career, however he has yet to be really tested, I'm sure the Aussies will get after him and put him under pressure from the very start.
The other players in the squad are:
Morgan - unlikely to play to begin with though may come in if one of the batsmen is really struggling, has the big game temperament but not the endurance that would be necessary.
Davies - is just there as a back up to Prior, he does deserve that place in the line though and I reckon he'll do well given the chance
Bresnan - is pure and simple not good enough at this level. It's harsh to do this comparison but he can't bowl or bat better than Freddie could. He wont scare any opposition let alone the Aussies.
Tremlett - I would like to see him get a chance ahead of Bresnan should they be needed. He is tall and quick and could do well on Aussie wickets. I haven't seen enough of him to really judge though.
Panesar - the best criticism I heard of Monty was that he played his 30th text like he played his first. He played his first pretty well but didn't learn and teams worked him out quickly. I hear he's improved but I think he's been proven to not be good enough at this level.
I would have had Hildreth, Shahzad and Tredwell in there instead of Collywobble, Bresnan and Panesar. I think Rashid is the best back up spinner but I don't think he'd benefit from being taken along and carrying the drinks again.
Overall I think we don't look good enough but we should be better than last time round. I'm going for a 3-1 win to the convicts and hoping to be proven wrong!