The oldest rivalry of cricket is set to unfold in Birmingham as the 71st Ashes is just hours away from its inception. The hosts, England are riding on a high wave after their first ODI World Cup win. While the Australian team will be hoping to make a perfect return to the red ball arena after their impressive performances in the 50 overs championship. The epic battle will also mark the beginning of the maiden Test championship which has been organized to restore the glory of the classic format.
The Brits have enjoyed the English summer as they lifted the most coveted championship at the home of cricket, Lords earlier in the month. Then they came back and crushed their neighbours, Ireland in a one-off Test match. Though Joe Root’s team is high on the confidence they have been inconsistent in this format as they lost against West Indies at the start of the year. Particularly their batting line-up has not looked settled in the last couple of years and it was again on the show when they skittled out for less than 100 against the Irish team.
Still, they can trouble the Kangaroos with their all-rounded side as the visitors have not been in top-notch form in this version. The Australian side will be bolstered by the return of their banned superstars David Warner and Steve Smith. Though the team has been inconsistent after the ball-tampering fiasco they have shown good fight under the leadership of Tim Paine.
He also won his first series as skipper against Sri Lanka and now he will be eager to lead the nation in a historic event. It will be a tough task for the Kangaroos to retain the urn as they have not won the away Ashes since 2001. Their batting unit is vulnerable against moving-ball and they lack balance in the side. In spite of that, it will be a golden opportunity as this English side is even vulnerable in home conditions.
The inexperienced opening pair of Jason Roy and Rory Burns will be put to test and Roy’s approach is a key factor in the game. Skipper, Joe Root will be trying to make telling contributions with the bat and win first Ashes game as the captain of the side. Johnny Bairstow and Ben Stokes will be sharing the middle-order duties along with newfound No.4 of the team, Joe Denly. The former will also be seen behind the wickets.
Jos Buttler will look to continue his good form in the red-ball cricket. Moeen Ali and Sam Curran will be filling up the all-rounder slots along with the World Cup hero, Stokes. More will also be the premier spin option. The pace battery will be run by two of the most decorated fast-bowlers of the country, Stuart Broad and James Anderson. The later will be returning from a calf injury and his spells are again crucial for the side.
Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (c), Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will be feeling the nerves against a hostile English crowd. Their opening partnership will be assisted by Usman Khwaja at No.3 who will be returning from a hamstring injury. Comeback star, Steve Smith will be assisting Travis Head or Marnus Labuschagne in the middle-order with the latter being the frontrunner because of his good form. Tim Paine will be leading the side and will also be carrying out the glovework.
Pat Cummins will be filling up the void of all-rounder after showing his capabilities with the bat in the last couple of series. The new ball will be shared between Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson. Both are capable of scoring useful runs down the order. The veteran, Peter Siddle might get a look-in to reduce the burden of the premier fast-bowlers. Nathan Lyon will be handling the spin duties and will be a trump card if the games go into the 4th and 5th day.
David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith, Usman Khwaja, Marnus Labuschagne/ Travis Head, Tim Paine (C & WK ), Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle.
The focus will be on
James Anderson (England)
Though the speedster is returning from an injury he has been in red hot form in this county season with 26 wickets in 5 games. James Anderson can be a lethal weapon at any stage of the game. He has already taken more than 100 wickets in the most iconic Test series. At 37 he is still leading the bowling unit of England and this might be his last Ashes on the home soil.
Steve Smith (Australia)
The right-hander is back to his favorite format where he averages almost 62. Last time when Steve Smith played on English soil he piled on more than 500 runs including 2 centuries. He is the team’s best bet in swinging conditions and his contributions will determine the fate of the series. He will be itching to give it back to the English crowd who has booed him throughout the 2019 World Cup.
Matches played – 330 / Australia won – 134 / England won – 106 / Draw – 90
0 – Number of games won by Australia in Birmingham since their last win in 2001. Their record in last 14 games ( Lost – 9, No Result – 4, Draw – 1 )
69 – Batting average recorded by Moeen Ali in Test matches at Birmingham
TV – Sky Sports
Online – SkyGo and NOW TV
Match Timings – 15:30 IST, 11:00 local.
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