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Ashes 2021/22

La Nina, the once in a decade weather phenomenon that could boost England’s Ashes chances

by Seb Evans 3 minute read

England’s preparations for the first Ashes Test at Brisbane have been far from ideal with rain wiping out the majority of their two intra-squad warm-up fixtures pencilled in ahead of the series opener.

Missing out on precious match practice is seemingly an unwanted setback for Joe Root’s men in their preparation for what will undoubtedly be an intense series Down Under. However, the reasons for the heavy downpours in Brisbane may bring hope and happy memories for England.

When recent England teams have travelled to an Ashes series in Australia, comparisons have often been made with Andrew Strauss’ winning team of 2010/11 – the only England side to leave Australia with the urn in the last 35 years.

The problem for England fans is that the similarities between Joe Root’s class of 2021 and Strauss’ world-conquering team of 2010 are limited. Beyond of course the continual presence of the ever-green James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

In 2010, Strauss had Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook in their pomp, as well as the best attacking off-spinner in the world in Graeme Swann. He also had the obdurate Jonathan Trott batting at three. This time around Root is faced with a brittle batting line-up consisting of only two established world-class batters and a bowling attack without two of their out-and-out pace options – Jofra Archer and Olly Stone – due to a pair of longterm injuries.

It seems, then, that if Root is somehow going to bring the urn back to England, he’s going to have to carry on his superb 2021 form. And pray that Mark Wood’s ankle decides to play ball. And pray that Ben Stokes replicates his Headingley heroics despite not playing a Test match since March. And pray that Pat Cummins steps on a cricket ball during the warm-up at the Gabba? The list of prayers could go on and on.

In short, England might just need a miracle to win in Australian conditions against Cummins, Smith and Co.

But what if they didn’t play in Australian conditions after all? What if the Adelaide Oval resembled an overcast Trent Bridge? What if the MCG was turned into a bowl of cloudy gloom à la Headingley in May? That might like pointless fantasising, but if Australian meteorologists are correct, it might become a reality.

This Australian summer is set be cool and wet due to the arrival of the oceanic climate phenomenon La Niña, a climate pattern which brings damp, colder weather to Australia around once a decade.

When were the last times La Niña hit Australia, I hear you ask? The answer is 2010/11 – the winter that James Anderson swung his way to 24 wickets in five matches as England beat Australia 3-1 in their own back-yard – and 2020/21, when a second string India side overcame a full strength Australian outfit. See where this is going?

England have an abysmal record in Australia since the famous tour of 2010/11. They’ve played 10 matches and lost 9 of them. They haven’t got close to competing.

Their record in home Ashes since 2011 is much better, however. They’ve played 15 matches, won 8 of them and drawn three. In English conditions, Anderson and Broad’s new-ball skills and the Aussie batters’ struggles against swing mean England are far more potent a force, and the contest between the two teams is far closer.

If La Niña delivers on its threat and dampens the Australian summer, England’s Ashes chances will be conversely heightened. If La Niña does bring cloud, the Adelaide Oval might just resemble an overcast Trent Bridge after all. England might have been thrown an Ashes lifeline by the most unlikely of sources.

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