While many cricketing fans see the World Cup as the pinnacle of the sport, for others, victory in an Ashes series is still the game’s most prestigious achievement. Whichever holds true, England get the chance to enjoy their greatest summer of cricket by holding both trophies concurrently when the first Test begins Thursday at Edgbaston.
For the 71st contest as a series (Australia currently lead 33-32), the two nations take to the field in battle for the coveted urn – the smallest, but one of the most famous trophies in world sport. From the 330 individual contests, Australia have won 134 times, England 106, with 90 draws.
England come into the series as the number four-ranked team in the world having won ten of their last 13 Test matches. That run includes last week’s one off contest against Ireland which saw their bowlers dismiss the ‘Men in Green’ for the lowest Test score ever at Lord’s (38).
Yet while the team’s bowling ranks of Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Olly Stone, James Anderson and the spin of Mooen Ali look primed to take 20 wickets in any match they suit up, the likes of Rory Burns (Test average 22.29), Jason Roy (38.50) and Joe Denly (24.17) do not offer as much confidence in batting terms.
Australia (ranked fifth in Test cricket) have their first taste of red-ball cricket since early February when the team lost to India for the first time on home soil, before clean sweeping a disappointing Sri Lanka.
Like their opponents, the Aussies’ strength undoubtedly rests with the bowling unit of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Jame Pattinson and Nathan Lyon. Four of the five are likely to cause havoc to England’s top order.
The team’s weakness is clearly in the batting department where Marcus Harris (32.70), Cameron Bancroft (30.92) and Marcus Labuschange (26.25) are all yet to prove their standing in the team.
The other key for this match and the series will be how ‘juiced up’ the wickets are. Green pitches are where England have had their most success against the Aussies, winning the last four series at home and not losing to Australia at Edgbaston since 2001.
One side note, should a drawn series be the end result (there has been five drawn series from the 70 played), the Aussies will retain the Ashes having won the last series 4-0 back in 2017/18.
Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
Cameron Bancroft, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Tim Paine (C & WK), Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Jos Hazlewood, Peter Siddle
ENG vs AUS – Players to watch out for
The return that the wicket-keepers Tim Paine (Australia) and Jos Buttler (England) provide batting at number seven will be critical.
Paine and Buttler have virtually identical Test averages (35.14 compared to 35.88) and it will be important for both men to produce some late innings partnerships with the tail.
Steve Smith has batted twice at Edgbaston for a top score of just eight runs. From 14 H2H contests at this ground, England lead 6-3 (with five further draws). Joe Root’s Test average in 2019 is just 26.25, the lowest of his eight-year career.
Australia have failed to win any of their last eight Tests in which they were the outsider (D3, L5).
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