Australia v England
Five Test Series – The Ashes
23 November to 8 January
The Ashes are upon us and this is the battle that all cricket lovers wait for.
Two arch-enemies going head to head in front of a parochial, largely Australian, crowd. However, there will no doubt be a large number of travelling tourists and, of course, the boisterous Barmy Army amongst them.
Further intrigue has surrounded the 2017-18 Ashes edition with the police investigation and subsequent absence of star English all-rounder Ben Stokes.
The first of five Tests starts at the Gabba on November 23, where Australia has not lost a Test since 1988.
David Warner sets the tone at the top of the innings. He is one of the most damaging batsmen in the world. His ability to bat for long periods of time and make big hundreds is most impressive, considering his constant aggression. He averages mid-forties against the Poms, with most of those matches in England. His two Ashes centuries were both in Australia, four seasons ago.
Captain Steve Smith controls the middle order and he found form against Western Australia where he made 76 and 127 a few weeks ago. His unique style works because he knows his own game so well. Smith is a fantastic player of spin and will look to use his feet against Moeen Ali. His 215 in Lord’s last Ashes was of the highest quality.
Mitchell Starc is back to full fitness and will lead Australia’s bowling attack. He sent an ominous warning with two hat-tricks in a Sheffield game against Western Australia. His height and pace will trouble England and he can move the new and old ball. He could be at his most potent in the day/night Test in Adelaide.
The rest of the attack is well balanced. Josh Hazlewood has accuracy and an ability to move the ball off the seam. Pat Cummins’ pace and bounce might remind the Englishmen of Mitchell Johnson, while Nathan Lyon’s accuracy with his finger-spin won’t relieve the pressure. Australia’s bowling unit will focus on bowling in partnerships and not individual brilliance.
Alastair Cook’s overall record is imposing. He’s yielded over eleven and half thousand Test runs at the top of the order. The patient left-hander hasn’t been as prolific the last few years, but has still averaged over forty runs per innings in three of the last five years. His experience is crucial, considering England’s top order is not settled, and that they will be confronted by a barrage of pace on Australia’s bouncing pitches.
Joe Root is England’s premier batsman. He took over the captaincy before the English summer and the extra responsibility was no burden. He started with 190 against South Africa and finished the English summer of cricket averaging over sixty against South Africa and the West Indies. His record against Australia is not as good as other countries, and he has only played four Tests on Australian soil, so he will be looking to make his mark.
Jonny Bairstow is the pick of the wicket-keepers between the two sides. His glove-work is solid and he has batted as high as four for his country. He averages just under forty and likes to keep the scoreboard ticking over. He has only scored two half-centuries from fifteen Ashes’ innings and during some of those matches he was selected as a batsman only.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have led the English attack for the best part of a decade. Anderson has the ability to swing the ball both ways, new and old, while Broad can also get the ball hopping. Broad’s height will suit Australian conditions, while Anderson’s swing could be more prevalent with the old ball as the coarse pitches rough up the ball.
Since last summer, where Australia lost to South Africa and then clean swept Pakistan after major on and off-field changes, they have lost to India in India and drew with Bangladesh, away. Even though they didn’t win either of the series, the performances in Asia were encouraging. England defeated South Africa 3-1 at home in August and then followed that up with a hard-fought 2-1 Test series win over the West Indies. Anderson was the main performer across both series, claiming 39 wickets in the seven Tests.
Australia has won 22 of their last 31 home Tests. The other results were six draws and three losses. Those losses were all against South Africa.
Last time England visited Australian shores, they arrived with the urn and left demoralised. Mitchell Johnson led the aggression and Australia won the series 5-0.
The last ten Ashes Tests have seen seven Australian victories and three English wins. England’s lack of draws is not confined to Australia, as they have only had two draws in their last 23 Tests.