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14 Reasons To Watch The Ashes
05 Oct 2006
By: Liam Camps


What a time for cricket. Over the course of the next few months, fans of the sport should be constantly and thoroughly entertained, given the packed schedule entailed. A Champions Trophy tournament in India and a World Cup in the Caribbean await, yet it is Test match cricket that bears the greatest anticipation.

One series has captured the imagination of the cricketing world, as we prepare to relive the drama all over again. The Ashes has always been a significant event, but this time even more so than most, because for the first time in 17 years, England enter an Ashes series as defending champions. Rarely have expectations been so high for these, the originators of cricket.

Everything that England and Australia have done over the past year seems to have centred all but entirely around this one series.

Australia will undoubtedly be keen to win back what once seemed their right, and England approach the series with a view as another key challenge in the long struggle toward world cricket supremacy.

With such passion and vigilance attached to one series, it relieves so much emphasis from the other aspects of the cricketing world. It begs the question, how are neutral viewers to approach this series?

Through careful thought and detailed analysis and using an exorbitant research budget, Cricket Web has developed a solution to the obvious dilemma.

Fourteen Reasons To Watch The Ashes
The definitive guide for the neutral cricket fan

Five Reasons to support Australia:
1.Witness the curtain call of the legends.
It will almost certainly be the final Ashes appearances for two of the greatest bowlers the game has seen. In Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, Australia possess two living legends, at 37 and 36 years of age respectively. And with 1227 Test wickets between them, you would be quite certain that they would make some impact on the series.

Love or hate them as people, there surely must be some appreciation and respect for Messrs McGrath and Warne as sportsmen.

2.You like winners.
England may hold the Ashes, but given that at least two key players of the victorious 2005 side will miss the upcoming series through injury, Australia start as favourites. That one of those players is inspirational captain and arch-nemesis of Australia ? Michael Vaughan ? is an even greater blow.

It is a theme of sport that many original neutrals are ultimately swayed toward either the underdog or the champion. Adhering the trend, we can expect several non-Australian Australia fans to appear for this series, most of whom will not be able to state names of any of the Australian players, outside of Brett Lee.

3.No Simon Jones.
This one is more for the women perhaps, given that Simon Jones is widely acknowledged as the sex appeal of English cricket. Without him the team seems far less attractive in more than cricketing means. Austraia by default.

4.You're (not) a Ponting fan.
In an age when the Australian captain is quickly losing supporters, Ponting faces another test of his leadership skills. Having conquered all in his path outside of England, it will probably be his second most difficult challenge thus far ? behind the 2005 edition, of course.

Should Australia regain the Ashes, Ponting would be greatly relieved of pressure and his job will be safe until he decides to resign. The added bonus of a winning Australia is that Ponting less likely to throw another annoying hissy fit. And that would be welcomed by fans of the man and the rest of the world alike.

That said, and given that Gary Pratt has narrowly missed out on the English touring party, it would be interesting to see what the Australian captain whines about this time, should England win the series.

5.Michael Hussey.
Overlooked for so long, Hussey is one of the working class players of the Australian side. For all the time he was made to wait to play international cricket, Hussey has developed into a batsman becoming of the tag ?awesome?. To his credit and general appeal, he still operates with a level of humility.

His selfless gameplay and penchant for the rescue mission are assets that attract fans. Now prepared for his Ashes debut, Hussey starts the series with a Test average of 75.93 and the claim of being the fastest player to reach 1000 Test runs
.

Five Reasons to support England:
1.Australia has whitewashed your national team every time since you discovered cricket.
It's highly likely and a grudge is always a viable reason for the detached supporter.

Yes, England may also have thrashed your team just as harshly, but it always seems a little more tolerable than an Aussie hiding. England remains the lesser of the evils.

2.Flintoff is your hero.
Not only will Andrew Flintoff bear the task of repeating his 2005 heroics in the upcoming Ashes rematch, but he will do so with the added burden of captaincy. He can bat, he can bowl, he can catch, and now he must also be just clever enough to lead his country tactically, while leading from the front on the pitch. It is the most important series of Flintoff's career to date.

3.You like the underdog.
It does not matter how successful this England team is in the lead-up to an Ashes series. When facing Australia, they will always be seen as underdogs in some light. Now they head to Australian territory, lacking the option of reverse swing, their captain, and Simon Jones. The task is immense.

4.You watched the 2005 series.
Hailed as the greatest series of all time, the 2005 Ashes battle sold cricket to the masses. Suddenly, the world was watching cricket, and people who never seemed interested in the sport at all were caught up in the moment and emotion. In that light, it is hard to imagine any self-proclaimed neutral not leaning toward England in this year's rematch.

Indeed, it is not just that England won last year, but it is the way in which they won. For those who need a casual reminder, a look at ?THAT over? that Andrew Flintoff bowled at Edgbaston is surely enough.

5.Monty Panesar.
Another chapter in the Panesar fairytale is due to be written.

England's spin discovery has already attained legendary status, with a mere 32 Test wickets to his name. Alas, the role of Ashley Giles (should he truly be fit) in Australia will determine the fate of Panesar in the series.


Still not swayed toward either of the teams?
Five reasons to watch the Ashes as a neutral:

1.You love cricket.
Simple. With more hype surrounding it than the debut of Lost, one would hope the Ashes to live up to its top billing. On evidence of last year's edition, expectations for another cracking series seem far short of overdone.

2.Fancy sharpening up on your sledging?
The words will fly. The 2005 series was noted for the pleasant sportsmanship of the affair, but it is impossible for a series between England and Australia to go by without some keen sledging in the mix.

Tune in and learn new words, phrases, and totally inappropriate ?banter?.

3.Stress fractures excite you.
The odds of a key bowler getting injured over the course of such an intense series are staggeringly high. Andrew Flintoff will be saying his prayers.

4.Monty Panesar.
The man, the myth, the legend. It can not be overstated.

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