Blog/The Ashes 2017-2018
 
Ashes 2017-18: Cricket predictions from 17 experts
Geoffrey Boycott, Jonathan Agnew, Phil Tufnell and more  
 

Being an avid England cricket fan is no picnic. It was ‘look away now’ time on the last morning at the Adelaide Oval, and the 120-run defeat was a real body blow, particularly after a famous England victory had seemed to be on the cards at the end of day 4. The evening before start of play, I was at Devon Malcolm’s Caribbean Christmas Party in aid of Chance To Shine, and the mood was really positive. We were all convinced that the boys were about to square the series. A few hours later and the air was heavy with the mutterings of weary English folk who had set their alarm clocks to watch the action. 

But hope springs eternal in cricket fans’ breasts and, as the third Test gets under way at the WACA in Perth, it is too early to give up hopes of a turnaround in the series. Perth has not traditionally been a happy hunting ground for England. They have not won here since 1978. But there are plenty of weak links in this Australian team and, even if the same is true of England, there is not the same aura of invincibility around Steve Smith and his players that surrounded the great Australian teams of twenty years ago.

Positives for England to take from the first two Tests include the continuing excellence of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, better-than expected showings from Ashes debutants Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan and a couple of well-constructed fifties from Joe Root. He will need to start converting them to hundreds or we can kiss goodbye to Ashes, but he is well capable of doing that. The same is true of Alastair Cook, from whom more can reasonably be expected.

One of the biggest differences between the teams in the first two Tests has been the gulf in class between the two off-spinners. Nathan Lyon is in his pomp, and the leading world wicket-taker in Tests in 2017. Moeen Ali has seemed toothless in comparison. But the good news for England is that the Perth wicket traditionally favours the quicks rather than the spinners. The Australian pacemen have so far hunted as a pack better than their English counterparts, but they are not supermen and they have had injury problems in the past. Both Tim Munton and Ed Giddins predict that Pat Cummins will break down before the end of the series. It would, of course, just not be cricket to hope for that….

So what can we expect at Perth and at the remaining two Tests, in Melbourne and Sydney?

Ahead of the Ashes series, we asked nine former England cricketers*, as well as Indian great Sunil Gavaskar, for their predictions for the series. We also canvassed the views of broadcasters Jim Maxwell, Ali Mitchell and Eleanor Oldroyd and three notable armchair cricket fans – funny men Rory Bremner and Nick Hancock and ex-Scotland international footballer and Premier League manager Alex McLeish. And, of course, I had to join in the crystal ball-gazing myself!

As things stand, Tim Munton, Gladstone Small, Phil Tufnell and Ed Giddins look most likely to end up with egg on their faces, all having predicted that England would win three Tests and take the series. At the other end of the scale, Jim Maxwell, who predicted a 4-1 series win for Australia, must be smiling smugly. Well, he is an Aussie…

But it is the pre-series predictions of how individual players will perform that make the most interesting reading today. I would not like to be Phil Tufnell, who predicted that James Vince would be England’s top run-scorer and Chris Woakes the man of the series. Let’s just call those eccentric calls! Gladstone Small’s prediction that Johnny Bairstow would be man of the series also looks like pie in the sky, with the Yorkshire keeper experiencing problems both on the field and off.

There was near unanimity among the pundits that Joe Root would be the leading run-scorer for England in the series. He still might be, and is just ahead of Mark Stoneman at this stage, but it is by no means a racing certainty. Pundits were split fairly evenly on whether Stuart Broad or Jimmy Anderson would take more wickets for England. Well, Jimmy is well ahead in that one, by 8 wickets to 5.

On the Australian side, everyone expected Steve Smith to have a big series with the bat, and he has obliged, with a masterly ton at Brisbane. But Shaun Marsh has actually scored more runs than his captain at this point, which nobody saw coming. Of the bowlers, Mitchell Starc is currently the leading wicket-taker, with 14 to Nathan Lyon’s 11. Several of our experts plumped for Starc, including Eleanor Oldroyd and Ali Mitchell. But having predicted that Lyon would be not just Australia’s leading wicket-taker, but man of the series, I am not tearing up that betting slip just yet.

So, as this fascinating series unfolds, here our team of experts nail their colours to the mast and come up with their Ashes predictions. How they thought the series would go, who would be the heroes for each side and who the overall victors.
 

1. Jonathan Agnew
Most wickets for England? Anderson
Most runs for England? Root
Most wickets for Australia? Lyon
Most runs for Australia? Smith
Player of the Series? Lyon
Series Win? 4-1 Australia
2. Phil Tufnell
Who is going to take the Ashes?
England of course!
Most wickets for England? Woakes
Most runs for England? Vince!
Most wickets for Australia? Lyon
Most runs for Australia? Warner
Player of the Series? Woakes
Series Win? 3-1 England
3. Alex Mcleish
Series Win? 3-2 Aussies
4. Gladstone Small
Most wickets for England? Broad
Most runs for England? Bairstow
Most wickets for Australia? Lyons
Most runs for Australia? Smith
Player of the Series? Bairstow
Series score prediction?
Aust 2 - Eng 3
 
5. Alex Tudor
Most wickets for England? Anderson
Most runs for England? Root
Most wickets for Australia? Starc
Most runs for Australia? Smith
Player of the Series? Smith
Series score prediction?
Aust 3 - Eng 1
6. Paul Nixon
Most wickets for England? Broad
Most runs for England? M Stoneman
Most wickets for Australia? N Lyon
Most runs for Australia? S Smith
Player of the Series? S Smith
Series score prediction? 3-1 Auz
7. Rory Bremner
Most wickets for England?  Jimmy Anderson
Most runs for England? Joe Root
Most wickets for Australia?  Josh Hazelwood
Most runs for Australia? Steve Smith
Player of the Series? Steve Smith
Series score prediction? Australia 3-1
8. Eleanor Oldroyd 
Most wickets for England?  Jimmy Anderson
Most runs for England? Joe Root (am praying for a double hundred here!)
Most wickets for Australia? Mitchell Starc
Most runs for Australia? Steve Smith
Player of the Series? Steve Smith
Series score prediction? 3-2 Australia
9. Simon Fielder 
Most wickets for England? Anderson
Most runs for England? Root
Most wickets for Australia? Lyon
Most runs for Australia? Smith
Player of the Series? Lyon
Series Win? 3-2 Australia
10. Ali Mitchell 
Most Wickets for England? Broad  
Most Runs for England? Root 
Most Wickets for Australia? Starc 
Most Runs for Australia? Smith  
Player of the Series? Smith 
Series score prediction? 3-1 Aus
11. Sunil Gavaskar 
Most Wickets for England? Anderson 
Most Runs for England? Root 
Most Wickets for Australia? Hazelwood 
Most Runs for Australia? Smith 
Player of the Series? Smith 
Series score prediction? 4-1 Aus
12. Jim Maxwell 
Most wickets for England?  Stuart Broad 
Most runs for England? Joe Root 
Most wickets for Australia?  Pat Cummins 
Most runs for Australia? Steve Smith 
Player of the Series? Steve Smith 
Series score prediction?  Australia 4 England 1 Just to stir the poms!!
13. Nick Hancock 
Most wickets for England?  Stuart Broad 
Most runs for England? Joe Root 
Most wickets for Australia?  Pat Cummins 
Most runs for Australia?  Steve Smith 
Player of the Series? Joe Root 
Series score prediction? 2-2
14. Devon Malcolm 
Most wickets for England? Broad 
Most runs for England? Root 
Most wickets for Australia? Starc 
Most runs for Australia? Smith 
Player of the Series? Starc 
Series Win? 3-2 Australia 
15. Tim Munton 
Most wickets for England? Anderson 
Most runs for England? Root 
Most wickets for Australia? Starc 
Most runs for Australia? Smith 
Player of the Series? Woakes
Series Win? 3-2 England
Most wickets would have been Cummins, but he'll break down before the end of the series!
16. Ed Giddins 
Most wickets for England? Woakes
Most runs for England? Root 
Most wickets for Australia? Lyon
Most runs for Australia? Smith 
Player of the Series? Woakes 
Series Win? 3-2 England
17. And finally… Geoffrey Boycott 

Australia are favourites because of home advantage and they do have a more impressive bowling unit. In recent times very, few teams in World cricket are winning Test series abroad. If you have genuine pace, then history shows fast bowlers are the aces in winning Test Matches.
Mitchell Starc has the ability to bowl fast swinging magic balls and Pat Cummins has raw pace but little experience behind him. Both have had injuries and there is a question mark as to whether they will last five Tests in seven weeks!  
Josh Hazlewood is a tall clever fast medium bowler who bowls the corridor repeatedly. Batsmen tend to relax against him after the fast bowlers are rested, but he has an excellent record.
Both teams have two high quality batsmen. David Warner and Steve Smith, Alastair Cook and Joe Root. The rest on both teams are average. So nothing to choose between the two sets of batsmen. 
Can England win at the Gabba?  Yes. In a two horse race the odds are shorter. Anything can happen?  
It will be tough and difficult as England have only won 4 times in 20 starts in Brisbane.
In modern times, teams go on tour and play relatively a limited amount of warm up matches. If it rains and spoils practice match time or some pitches are poor, then teams come into the first Test underdone and get overwhelmed.
Series Win: Doesn’t bear thinking about!

  • Thank you to everyone who helped with our first cricket predictions round-up.  

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