Cricket’s oldest and fiercest rivalry will restart in Birmingham this week as an England team led by Joe Root takes on Australia under Tim Paine.
England come into the series off the back of a win but the triumph against Ireland was far from convincing and would likely boost the confidence of the Baggy Green.
England vs Australia
The Ashes – First Test
1-5 August 2019
England chose not to blood Jofra Archer in the Test against Ireland and have been cagey on his possible inclusion in the first match of the Ashes. Much has been written and said about Archer with even Australia’s Glenn Maxwell picking him out as a key player.
The hosts will be desperate to reclaim the Ashes urn after a humiliating defeat Down-under in 2017/18.
England still have issues with their top order stemming from a failure to establish a dominant opening pairing but they have kept faith in Rory Burns and brought Jason Roy in for the Ireland Test. The hope is that Roy can translate his ODI success into the Test arena in a fashion similar to Jos Buttler.
All-rounders Moeen Ali and Joe Denly are the only spin options available in the squad. If Archer does play, England will need to decide if he bats at nine with Denly in the middle order, or fellow all-rounder Sam Curran at eight, or if he takes up the batting slot above to accommodate Chris Woakes.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad are expected to lead the England attack.
The lower-middle order remains England’s great strength and it seems as though they will require more heroics from Ben Stokes, Buttler, Ali and the other all-rounders if they are to be successful.
Australia prompted more debate with the selection of Cameron ‘ball-tampering’ Bancroft with many believing he should have been made to prove himself before earning a recall.
The returns of his co-conspirators Steve Smith and David Warner, who were given longer bans, helped Australia make the World Cup semi-finals but their red-ball form is yet to be established. Both have looked in decent nick though and could trouble the England bowlers.
Australia do not have the luxury of a strong spin-bowling all-rounder in their group. Marnus Labuschagne can bowl a few leggies but it seems likely that Nathan Lyon will play all five Tests if fit. Lyon is a useful bowler in all conditions and Australia should have a great deal of confidence in the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Michael Neser, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are unlikely to be in their first Test XI but management seem keen on rotating their quicks.
Matthew Wade has been recalled on the basis of his batting form but faces stiff competition for places in the middle-order.
Warner is likely to partner either Bancroft or Marcus Harris at the top of the order and Usman Khawaja should be a lock at three at least for the first Test.
Verdict: England 1/1
On home soil against a slightly rusty Australia, the Test should be England’s to lose.
Written by James Richardson for Hollywoodbets