England’s victory in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff has certainly raised the stakes in the current Ashes series. Before the first Test England were written off by many cricket critics and experts and given no chance. This included axed England batsman Kevin Pietersen who predicted a 5/0 whitewash of England.
England showed at Cardiff that they have found exciting new players in fast bowler Mark Wood, all-rounder Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper Jos Butler. Also, the performances of newer members of the team like Joe Roodt and Gary Balance are showing signs that they have taken to international cricket and belong there.
There are probably two positions that England need to resolve long term. The first being if Adam Lyth, in spite of his century against New Zealand is the correct opening partner for Alistair Cook. Also, if Moeen Ali can be more than a holding spinner who supports the fast bowlers but one who can win England Test matches on the fifth day.
England looks a much better team than the one that lost the Ashes in Australia. In fact they are regrouped into a well balanced and settled Test team that will be very competitive in the long term.
After Cardiff the Australian team looked the more vulnerable, especially, their batting. Except for David Warner and Steve Smith there must be some concerns around their batting. The captain Michael Clarke was seriously roughed up by the English fast bowlers and it will be interesting to see how he fares in the rest of the series. Also, they have now dropped the experienced Shane Watson for the Lords Test which shows that they are not entirely convinced with their batting.
However, Australia remains a good and competitive team at all times that plays with passion and old fashion guts. If Mitchell Johnson can find his consistency and form together with Mitchell Starc they could be match winners for Australia.
The rest of the series will once again be an enthralling contest between the two oldest countries playing Test cricket. England has once again shown that they are a difficult side to beat in English conditions.