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The Betfair Contrarian: Why Kevin Pietersen will lead England to Ashes glory

England Cricket RSS / / 06 August 2008 /

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The media knives are already out for England's new captain (even on this site!). Step forth the Betfair Contrarian, who reveals that the omens could be good for our adopted countryman going into next year's Ashes series.

Allan Lamb, the last South African to captain England against Australia, was only given the privilege of leading his adopted country three times and lost them all. If you then consider that the last Ashes series ended in a 5-0 whitewash victory for Australia then Betfair's [3.5] on England winning the series appears to include one decimal point too many.

But the Contrarian loves a David and Goliath match-up - don't forget who told you the so-called "best team ever" New England Patriots were going down in the Superbowl earlier this year - and believes KP is the man to lead England to victory next summer. Here's why:


It was the right time to make the change

Michael Vaughan may have led England to their first Ashes win since 1987 and ended a run of eight straight defeats, but since 1945 only two men have captained England to victory in multiple Ashes series. The first, Len Hutton, did it way back in 1953 and 1954-55 and the most recent, Mike Brearley, captained England to victory three times between 1977 and 1981. Leaving Vaughan in charge would have therefore invited failure in through the front door.
Australia are going to be without their traditional executioners...

Shane Warne, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and Glenn McGrath all retired at the end of the 2006-07 Ashes. New opening batsman Phil Jaques' batting average is an impressive 47. 47 overall, that is, but against his toughest opponent so far, South Africa, he averaged 15, which pales in comparison with former opener Langer's 42.66 against the same opposition. Coach John Buchanan has also retired and been replaced by former assistant Tim Nielsen and his contract is due to expire after the Ashes, so the pressure will be intense on him to deliver.


...and are really going to miss their tormentor-in-chief

In the last Ashes series in England, Shane Warne took 40 wickets, twice as many as the next most successful Australian bowler (Brett Lee). Since then, spinner Stuart MacGill has also retired and been replaced by the inexperienced Beau Casson. Warne and McGrath were also the second and third top wicket takers in the last series against England, with 44 between them.


Changes have proven successful before

England have a better record at winning consecutive home Ashes series when they change captains than when they stick with the same one. Of the three occasions it has happened since 1945, Peter May (1956) followed Len Hutton's 1953 series win, and David Gower (1985) followed Mike Brearley's 1981 win.

It's a myth that the captaincy affects a player's performance

Kevin Pietersen was England's top run scorer in his two previous Ashes series, but some critics point to Michael Vaughan's dismal batting average as evidence that the captaincy can cripple a player's individual performance. Pietersen's opposite number in the Australian team, Ricky Ponting, proves that isn't the case.

Ponting was Australia's third highest scorer in the 2002-03 home Ashes success with 417 runs and assumed the role of captain shortly afterwards. By the time the next home series took place in 2006-07 he led Australia to their first whitewash victory since 1920-21 whilst finishing as the top run scorer with 576 runs.

Making the best batsman captain worked before

The last time England lost in Australia Michael Vaughan was by far their top run scorer - more than any of the dominant Australian team. Vaughan recovered from that thrashing to lead England to the 2005 Ashes victory, so Pietersen, the top scorer from the 2006-07 humiliation, will be hoping to repeat the pattern.

England have a history of doing the double

While Pietersen's abilities as captain have yet to be tested, England have won consecutive home Ashes series on eight separate occasions in the past, and haven't failed to follow up a home Ashes series win with at least one more since 1926.

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