'Five points' special - Spurs fan and Surrey star Rikki Clarke's guide to the Ashes
22 November 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
The Ashes starts in Brisbane at midnight UK time and in this ‘five points’ special, Rikki Clarke, Spurs fan, Surrey cricketer and a former England Test and ODI all-rounder with almost 20 years’ experience at the top of the game gives Spurs fans the lowdown on one of sport’s great rivalries.
This is the 70th renewal of a contest that began - just like Spurs - back in 1882.
England are the holders of the famous Ashes Urn, the iconic trophy the teams do battle for, after a 3-2 victory on home soil in the summer of 2015. However, the last series Down Under saw the Aussies triumph 5-0.
Now 36, Rikki began his first class career at Surrey back in 2001 and has won the lot in county cricket at spells at Surrey, Derbyshire, Warwickshire and now he’s back where it all began having re-joined Surrey from Warwickshire in August.
Below: Rikki on England duty with Andrew Flintoff, 2004
Just as importantly for us, he’s Spurs through and through, following the family footsteps of his father, Bob, who first stepped foot in White Hart Lane in the 1960s.
Rikki’s early memories come from the late 1980s and onto Gazza’s and Gary Lineker’s heroics in 1991. He was even mascot at the Lane in 1993!
A Season Ticket holder an regular both home and away- when cricket allows - Rikki was at the Bernabeu with Bob and friends to witness our fine performance against Real Madrid, but now pre-season training with Surrey for the 2018 campaign is well and truly underway!
Here’s what Rikki had to say on the Ashes, a five-Test series taking in Brisbane (November 23-27), Adelaide (December 2-6), Perth (December 14-18), Melbourne (Dec 26-30) and Sydney (January 4-8).
Below: Skippers Steve Smith and Joe Root with the famous Ashes Urn
Point 1 - Ashes - the pinnacle?
Rikki: “This is the pinnacle, definitely. This is the equivalent of the Champions League in cricket. Unfortunately, I’ve never played in an Ashes but every kid who grows up wanting to be a cricketer wants to play for England and wants to feature in an Ashes series. It’s so huge. I’m sure every player will have immense pride at being part of it.”
Below: England train at 'The Gabba', Brisbane, this week
Point 2 - The First Test in Brisbane...
Rikki: “It’s massively important. From my point of view, one, you don’t want to lose. That’s a given. But the question of how you start and how you play could determine how you go on for the remainder of the series. You don’t want to be playing catch up.”
Below: Joe Root in action
Point 3 - Our batsmen, their bowlers...
Rikki: “Going back to the last Ashes series in Australia, 2013-14, it’s a bit different. Yes, there is pace in both attacks, but in my opinion, not the sort of pace Mitchell Johnson delivered in that series. The series he had, the pace, the control and skill…it doesn’t matter who or where you are playing, if a bowler is bowling like that, at that pace, he will be very hard to play. Pat Cummins has pace, Mitchell Starc as well, but it’s I don’t believe it’s Mitchell Johnson pace. We’ve got Alistair Cook, who keeps breaking records, Joe Root, who never fails, Mr Reliable and some really good players around that. It could be down to whoever bats best but there are lots of permutations.”
Below: Aussie pace bowler Mitchell Starc
Point 4 - Talking the talk
Rikki: “There has been a lot of talk this week from the Australians, Nathan Lyon having a dig, a few others getting involved whereas England have been very level-headed and concentrated on what they need to do. Hopefully England will let the cricket do the talking because normally when people start talking, they are worried about something and that’s how they look for a one-up. Hopefully the talk from Australia will be because they are worried and England will do what they need to do. It will be a great series and one that will grip both nations and the world – so many people watch the Ashes.”
Below: Rikki in action for Surrey earlier this year
Point 5 - Verdict
Rikki: “I think it will be very even. I’ve spoken to quite a few people and the feeling from them is that England are up against it, no Ben Stokes, all different scenarios but I think it’s going to be close. You look at the squads, both have amazing players and I don’t think there will be any drawn Tests because both teams have ‘result’ bowlers. Australia have Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, England have Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, plus Moeen Alli, so I think there will be results. I think it will be very close, 3-2 over the series and I can’t call it either way! I can’t see 4-0 or 5-0 and being English, I’ll say an England win!”