England’s key players
Alistair Cook (Captain) Left-hand batsmen Age: 28
Tests: 92 Runs: 7, 524 Batting Average: 49.17
Cook will be leading England out in the Ashes for the very first time after taking over the captaincy from Andrew Strauss in August, 2012. After scoring two hundreds against Bangladesh as stand-in-skipper, Cook has not looked back as he has become the first batsmen in history to score five centuries in his first five matches as captain.
Cook recorded 766 runs during the three Lion’s triumphant Ashes series in Australia during the 2010-11 season. Blessed with incredible mental strength and effective style, he is already England’s leading test century scorer with 25 and he is also the youngest man to score 7, 000 runs putting him on course to become the most prolific England batsmen ever.
Kevin Pietersen Right-hand batsmen Age: 33
Tests: 94 Runs: 7, 499 Batting Average: 49.01
The audacious public character of Pieterson alienates him from most fans in England and he has faced problems with team mates and management since leaving his native South Africa to chase fame and fortune back in 1997.
Pietersen’s ability with the bat was in no doubt when he announced his arrival in the 2005 Ashes series scoring a strong 158 in the final test giving England a draw and sealing their first Ashes win in 16 years.
His brilliant 149 versus South Africa last year at Headingley showed he can make some of the best bowlers in the world helpless at times and he was dropped for the second test for allegedly sending texts to the opposition containing remarks about his colleagues.
After being reinstated to the England ranks, he scored a superb knock of 186 in Mumbai which was described as the best innings by an Englishmen in the sub-continent.
In his best form, Pietersen remains one of the few batsmen in world cricket who can turn the match around in course of a session.
James Anderson Right-Arm pace bowler Age: 30
Tests: 82 Bowling: 307 wickets @ 30.14
The tall Lancashire man is capable of swinging the new ball both ways and showed maturity and skill in India during the winter where he took 12 wickets at 30.25 in conditions which had no help whatsoever for pace bowlers.
One more wicket puts Anderson ahead of Fred Trueman as England’s all-time top wicket taker and alongside Dale Steyn is now the best swing bowler in the world and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the first man to take 300 wickets.
Australia’s key players
Michael Clarke (Captain) Right-hand batsmen Age: 32
Tests: 92 Runs: 7, 275 Batting Average: 52.33
Clarke has arguably established himself as the best batsmen in the world on the back of some outstanding run of form in 2012. He is the only member of the squad who has played in an Ashes-winning team, after being almost rejected by the Australian public as a successor for Ricky Ponting. Clarke has finally won over the doubts with his sheer class with the bat going to new levels.
He has also gained a new level of respect, he is getting close to batsmen such as Steve Waugh, Ponting and Mathew Hayden who had unbelievable batting statistics in the Test arena.
Shane Watson All Rounder (Right-hand batsmen and Right-arm fast medium bowler) Age: 32
Tests: 41 Runs: 2, 2580 Batting Average: 35.34
Bowling: 62 @ 30.06
Technically strong and correct and plays beautifully through the off-side also scores at a brisk rate when on his best form. The influential Aussie all-rounder has a better average against England more than any other team at 48.21.
Despite injuries playing a key-part throughout his career, Watson’s commitment has also been highly questionable at times and his nagging medium pace is a very useful tool.
Probably Australia’s key-man this summer as they need him to score runs and take wickets just like Andrew Flintoff did in the 2005 Ashes.
Peter Siddle Right-arm fast medium Age: 28
Tests: 41 Bowling: 150 wickets @ 28.84
Capable of swinging the ball at pace and with aggression, he can be relied on bowling very long spells through the five-test match series of the 2013 Ashes. Siddle is Australia’s most experienced bowler, most memorably claiming a hat-trick in the opening Ashes Test of the 2010-11 series.
A strong workhorse who can bowl all-day for the skipper, the bowling attack leader and the likes of youngsters James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc will be looking up to him for help and advice.