The Ashes: Six key players

Sports Mole highlights three players each from England and Australia who may have a big impact on The Ashes.

Tomorrow morning at Trent Bridge, England and Australia will begin their five-match Test series for the right to lift The Ashes.

Here, Sports Mole has picked out three men from each side who have been tipped to have a big say on the outcome.

England

Alastair Cook

He may have guided England to success in India late last year, but this will be Cook's biggest challenge to date. As captain, there is no better prize than picking up the urn at the end of the series.

Not only does Cook have to contend with helping to pick the team, set fields and rotate the bowling attack, he also has to open the batting.

Since taking over the responsibility from Andrew Strauss he has scored well and also heads into the series with an impressive record from the last Ashes in Australia two years ago. There, he scored 766 runs in total, including an unbeaten 235 in Brisbane.

Kevin Pietersen

Quite simply, England are not the same side without the number four batsman. On the face of it, everything seems harmonious among the playing squad now following the disputes that surrounded the disappointing home series with South Africa.

He made a name for himself when the Aussies toured back in 2005, scoring 64 and 71 at Lord's and Edgbaston respectively before that impressive 158 at The Oval.

While his style does carry an element of risk, he is a batsman who gets bums off seats and at the same time he can take a game away from the opposition.

Kevin Pietersen© PA Photos

James Anderson

Graeme Swann recently described Anderson as the best swing bowler in world cricket right now and it is hard to argue with that viewpoint.

He goes into The Ashes 19 wickets short of Bob Willis, who is second in England's all-time list with 325 dismissals to his name. He may have to go some way to beat Willis over the next six weeks, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

The 30-year-old has taken important wickets during the last two Ashes series and is the favourite to be England's main bowler overall.

At times Stuart Broad and Steven Finn can be expensive, but it is rarely an accusation that can be aimed at Anderson.

Australia

Shane Watson

There are not many openers in world cricket who have dealt with Anderson in the way that Watson has. In fact, the battle between those two has been predicted to be one of major contests throughout the series.

It's only right that he opens, having spent time in the Test side lower down the order in recent years.

In eight Ashes Tests, the all-rounder has scored an impressive 675 runs and taken three wickets.

Australia's Shane Watson in action against West Indies on February 6, 2013© AP Photos

Michael Clarke

The 32-year-old is by far and away Australia's most important player. It's well known that he is struggling with a back problem, but he showed during a recent warm-up match against Worcestershire that he is still able to score runs.

England will no doubt target him with the short ball, so it is essential that his footwork is the best that it can be.

Like Cook, he is also the skipper. In all honesty, he is probably more pro-active than his opposite number and the tactical battle between the two will be vitally important.

James Pattinson

He may only be 23 and an Ashes debutant, but Pattinson has shown enough during his 10 Test outings to prove that he can have a big say in proceedings over the coming weeks.

From his 10 matches he has managed to claim 40 wickets at an average of 23.37.

England will have no doubt down their research on him, but he possesses pace and in the heat of the battle, he may be able to get the better of some of the home batsmen.

Due to his age and lack of experience he is likely to be a bowler that the hosts look to attack, but if he can overcome that, he could prove to be Australia's best bowler.

Alastair Cook on October 24, 2012
Read Next:
No shocks in England squad
>
You May Like
Recomended from Sports Mole