Five players who could decide the Ashes

With the Ashes due to start tonight, we look at the five players who could decide the fate of the famous urn.

It is without doubt the biggest, most historical and well known of all crickets series, and tonight fans both here and down under will witness the start of yet another Ashes series as England take on Australia in the first test.

For England it will be another chance to show their skills and add to the three consecutive series that they have won whilst for Australia it will be a chance for them to display the kind of rebuilding undertaken since the retirement of so many great players.

Many have suggested that England will walk away with the series, indeed at the start of the last series, staged here in the UK over the summer, England legend Sir Ian Botham was quoted as saying: "England will do the double whitewash, they'll win all 10 tests such is the gap between the sides."

Now whilst that didn't happen, mainly due to some spirited performances by the visitors and the of course the untrustworthy nature of the British weather, I don't think the latter will play a part in the Southern Hemisphere.

What could make the difference in the contest are individual performances and below I'll run down the five players to watch.

Alistair Cook (Eng) - Well what can we say about captain Cook, one of the standout performers last time the series was held down under, notching up xx runs and forging a strong partnership at the top of the order with then captain Andrew Strauss.

Since Strauss retired before the last series and handed over the captaincy to Cook the Essex opener has faced a few test many of which he has flown through, he has won his first Ashes series as a captain but the real test comes when you are playing away and that is next on his agenda, he must also lead the attack from the front, building a better partnership with Michael Carberry than he did with Joe Root at the top of the order. The nation expects of Cook but I'm sure he can deliver a big performance.

Michael Clarke (Aus) - The Australian captain is in a position that not many others have been in, he is leading the underdogs and his main aim will be to wrestle back the urn and restore some pride in Australian cricket. In terms of his own performance he will want to get some big scores and make sure his team bat down the order, he will also be wary of fielding positions which in the past have cost his side.

Michael Carberry (Eng) - Well what can you say about Carberry, the man must be in dreamland, having been previously selected and dropped from the test side the Hampshire batsman must have thought that his chances of playing at the highest level had all but gone but the resilience of the man and a sting of impressive performances at county level have seen him earn his second coming, during the warm up matches, Carberry has excelled rising to the challenge of opening the order but now is the real test, if he can keep his cool and use all his experience then maybe this will be the moment the fairytale is realised.

Carberry can dig in and get a big score, he can be both attacking and defensive and will compliment the other batsmen so in theory he could be the ideal test player, I just hope he starts well because his first innings will be the catalyst for all he done in the series.

Peter Siddle (Aus) - Australia's top wicket-taker when the sides last met in the summer, Siddle will hope to lead the line and repeat his standout performances of earlier in the year.

He is more than capable of mixing both line and length and there is a noticeable pace change meaning that every ball could produce a wicket, he will take a few scalps this series but can he do it when the game is in the balance?

Siddle's other attribute is his batting, when you play in the .ashes or indeed test match cricket the quality is so high so it is vital to bat all the way down the order, if your side needs 50 runs to win then you'd have to say he could chip in and get the job done, all in all an exciting and dangerous prospect.

Joe Root (Eng) - The talent of Joe Root is an exciting prospect and during the home series over the summer there was the added pressure of replacing Andrew Strauss, one of England's finest batsmen and captains, if I'm honest Root did ok and England won the series 3-0 so it's very hard to criticise but far too often Root got his eye in then went for a ball that wasn't there, it meant that some of his scores weren't as high as he would have liked and as a result the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell had to steady the ship. If his mental strength and concentration hold up and his move down the order go well then this could be a series to remember for the young man.

image: © gareth1953