Ashes: The key contests

Australian left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson has said that he will look to knock off England skipper Andrew Strauss.

updated: November 24, 2010 17:46 IST
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Andrew Strauss v Mitchell Johnson

Australia's quicks invariably target the captain of a visiting side, so there's nothing remarkable about Mitchell Johnson's declaration that he intends to knock Andrew Strauss's block off.

He's the quickest of the Aussie attack, and if he gets it right (which can be an 'if' of Harmison-esque proportions) he can be lethal, as another left-handed captain and opener, Graeme Smith, can testify, after having the same hand broken twice in quick succession during Johnson's coming-of-age tour of South Africa in 2008-09.

However, in the one true confrontation that the two men have had to date, Strauss won the bout by a knockout. A nervous Johnson sprayed 11 overs for 77 runs on the first morning of the Lord's Test, and a 75-year winning streak was ended there and then.

James Anderson v Shane Watson

A week of constant cloud cover and intermittent showers is in prospect for the first Test, which will embolden James Anderson as he seeks to dispel the notion that, for all his excellence in English swinging conditions, he'll struggle to replicate such riches in Australia.

If he can find the sort of movement with the new ball that eluded him during his forlorn 1 for 195 performance on his last visit to the Gabba, he'll set himself up nicely for tougher tests to come in Adelaide and Perth.

And one of the first men in his sights will be Shane Watson, whose critics claim he is not a natural opener, even though his tally of 12 half-centuries in 14 Tests in the role suggest he's settled in well.

Nevertheless, in four of his five innings in England last summer, he was extracted lbw, which suggests the full delivery with a bit of lateral movement could yet cause him problems.

Steven Finn v Ricky Ponting

The suspicion in Australia is that Steven Finn is a bit wet behind the ears. He's got all the attributes to be a fine fast bowler, but 32 wickets in eight Tests against Bangladesh and a supine Pakistan batting side is no way to prepare for the heat, intensity and cut-throat challenge of the Gabbatoir.

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