As Australia look to win back the most coveted trophy in world cricket, there has been subplot after subplot with the touring England team undergoing significant off-field issues. With the Aussies holding a commanding series lead and an exemplary record at the WACA, many punters are expecting Steve Smith’s team wrap up their first Ashes win since Mitchell Johnson sent the Poms scattering four years ago.
The build-up to this Test match has all the hallmarks of another intense clash between the fiercely competitive rivals. While England has been engulfed in high drama both on and off the pitch, Australia have not had their smoothest build-up with allegations of bullying some of England’s less experienced players however both camps deny that the sledging back and forth has taken a turn to the more personal side.
Saturday, December 14-18, 2:30pm (AEST) @ WACA
The Ashes typically throws up all sorts of interesting banter between the rival camps and this series is no different to the past. Despite winning the first two matches, Australia has swung the axe with relative newcomer Peter Handscomb the unlucky victim in preference to the maligned Mitchell Marsh. Handscomb has not dealt with the seam movement that the England fast bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad have been able to extract in Brisbane and Adelaide; and with Perth traditionally conducive to fast bowling, it does make sense to include Marsh over Handscomb considering his form in Shield cricket and his ability to bowl up to 140 kilometres per hour. The English team have resisted the temptation to hit the panic button by making wholesale changes.
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell.
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!