The long anticipated Ashes series between traditional foes Australia and England is finally upon us again and in early betting, Australia is favoured to claim back the urn after surrendering it in England two years ago. It has been a long time since the Aussies have lost a Test match at the Gabba and early money suggests that streak won’t be broken this time summer.
Both Australia and England have a number of selection headaches ahead of the First Test in Brisbane. The early rounds of the Sheffield Shield season have seen a number of players throw their hat in the ring for a place in coach Darren Lehmann’s squad; including his son Jake who put in a powerful performance with the bat against Victoria a couple of weeks out from the first Test.
Thursday, November 23, 10:30am (AEST) @ The Gabba
The Aussies have plenty of players putting their hand up to play in the opening Test but it will ultimately come down to form and what sort of pitch Brisbane dishes up. There are a few selection certainties in skipper Steve Smith, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and vice-captain David Warner but there are a lot of other spots up for grabs after a pretty ordinary tour of Bangladesh where the Aussies lost their first ever Test to the Tigers.
England’s preparations for the tour of Australia hit a bit of a hurdle just weeks before the First Test when gun all-rounder Ben Stokes was caught on CCTV punching another man, which led to his exclusion from the touring party. So far this year the English team, under skipper Joe Root, have been in ominous form this year as they search for their first Ashes win in Australia since the 2009/2010 series.
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers.
ENGLAND SQUAD: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alistair Cook, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, George Garton, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.
The Ashes is a five-match test cricket series contested by Australia and England. It’s one of the greatest and longest running rivalries in cricket, dating back to 1882. Since its inauguration, 68 series have been played, with Australia shading England 32-31 in wins. Five Ashes series have ended in draws, with the holders taking the honours. The name of the event came after a British newspaper claimed that cricket had died, and ‘the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia’. The mythical ashes immediately became associated with the 1882–83 series played in Australia, when English captain Ivo Bligh vowed to "regain those ashes".
Some of the greatest cricketers of all-time have played in The Ashes, including arguably the greatest ever Batsman Sir Donald Bradman. The Don holds the record for most overall runs in the competition’s history, racking up a total of 5028 in his time at the crease. Another Aussie legend in Shane Warne also dominates in the bowling department. The leg spinner has 195 Ashes wickets to his name, with none more memorable than his first. In fact it was his first ball in Ashes cricket in June of 1993 at Old Trafford in Manchester. Warne dismissed key Englishman Mike Gatting with what has been dubbed the ‘Ball of the Century’. With a ball that pitched outside leg stump, Warnie produced some wicked drift and spin which caught Gatting off-guard and the ball clipped the top of off-stump. It left the bemused batter in sheer disbelief and the crowd stunned.
The Ashes alternates between the United Kingdom and Australia, and when each nation plays host to the event, the five matches are usually played at various cricket grounds. In Australia, the grounds used include the Gabba, Adelaide Oval, WACA, MCG and SCG. The grounds used in the UK are generally swapped between The Oval in Kennington, Old Trafford in Manchester, Lord’s in North London, Trent Bridge at West Bridgford, Headlingly in Leeds, Edgbaston in Birmingham, Sophia Gardens in Cardiff and the Riverside Ground in Country Durham.
There is no doubt that the Ashes rivalry between Australia and England is the most intense in world cricket and it is The Old Enemy that has the upper hand over the Aussies in recent series. Last time these two nations met Down Under, a fiery Mitchell Johnson catapulted the host nation to a resounding 5-0 series whitewash. In fact two of England's last three visits have resulted in 5-0 demolition jobs!