Cricket

The Ashes 2019 Preview – Can England reclaim the urn from bitter rivals Australia?

The Ashes is the most famous Test Match cricket series in the world, with England and Australia playing a 5 match series every two years, as alternating hosts. The 71st Ashes series gets underway on Thursday August 1st, with England the host nation and looking to reclaim the urn, currently held by Australia following their 4-0 triumph in 2017/18.

Australia lead the series overall 33-32, with 5 draws (from the days where Ashes series were played over four or six matches). England will need to win the series to level up the series score and take back the title of holding the Ashes.

England will be classed as marginal favourites to win this series. Whilst their recent ODI World Cup success will have little bearing on this test match series, there is no doubt that England will have some momentum and confidence from winning that tournament. They hammered Australia in the process, thrashing them in the Semi Finals – although the Aussies will have a group stage victory to point to over England. But both countries will field differing line ups in these test matches to the ODI sides – and both nations have issues and injuries to deal with going into the series.

Here, we take a look at both sides, and preview the Ashes.

ENGLAND

England will want to get off to a fast and positive start, with the 1st test at Edgbaston – a ground where they have enjoyed much success over the years. Much of the debate going into this series though has been about Captain Joe Root (above) – and where he should bat. The number three position – highly important in Test Match cricket – has long been a problem area, with many people tried but all have failed. Root has traditionally batted at number four in tests – but looks likely to assume the number three position. Whereas the ODI side has a strong, settled batting line up, the longer form of the game causes England problems in this area. Rory Burns and Joe Denly are currently the ones that hold positions in the English batting lineup – but neither are exactly setting the world alight on the international stage. Burns is only averaging 22 runs in his short test career – and at 28 isn’t really a long term solution. Denly is a run machine on the domestic scene – but again, is 33 years old and is averaging just 24 in test cricket. Both will be seen as targets for the Australian bowlers in the heat of the Ashes battle, which brings about its own, unique pressures.

The bowling attack for England looks stronger. Jimmy Anderson remains one of the best test bowlers in the world, despite his advancing years – he may miss the first test, but will be a huge asset in the series overall. As will fellow veteran and Ashes battle hardened bowler Stuart Broad. Add to the mix Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Olly Stone and Moeen Ali, then England will feel confident of taking the wickets needed to give their batsmen every chance of winning games.

All this…and not forgetting the X-Factor that is Ben Stokes. Stokes (above) is the modern day Ian Botham – excellent in all aspects of the game and capable of winning games himself. Stokes missed the last Ashes series – expect him to make up for lost time and bring all the passion and fire to inspire his colleagues as many have done for England in the past.

Overall, our feeling is that Joe Root will have to perform hugely as both Captain and batsman to hold the English batting line up together. There are question marks all around the batting line up – although capable, they will need to show discipline in this test of concentration and patience – crease occupation often as important as runs on the board. The bowlers look a fine, strong unit – but can they defend what could be small totals under pressure? It will be highly interesting to see.

AUSTRALIA

The Australian test squad selected for this Ashes series has an average age of 29.11 years – and again differs hugely from the power packed line up that played the recent ODI World Cup. Aaron Finch, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa all not selected for the Test squad. As always, the batting line up looks to be centred around Steve Smith (above) and David Warner – the duo infamously banned for ball tampering. Its fair to say that cameras will be focused on them whilst in the field – and they will no doubt take some heat from the English spectators – but it is with the bat where they will really look to make their mark, and England will want these gone early. Smith is arguably the best Test Match batsman in the world – averaging 61.37 across 117 innings. Warner will be his aggressive self opening the innings, but will need support from his partner – likely to be Cam Bancroft or Marcus Harris. Usman Khawaja has been around the Australian test squad for a long time now but never really imposed himself, whilst the middle order looks brittle. Wicketkeeper/Captain Tim Payne may have his job cut out to keep the innings together, especially in the face of a hostile English bowling attack.

But the current microscope is on the Australian bowlers, where top wicket taking bowler in the ODI World Cup, Mitchell Starc, looks in danger of being dropped for the first test. With Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood looking certain to play, Starc is now battling fellow veteran Peter Siddle (above) to play at Edgbaston – and considering Starc’s exertions in the World Cup, with four tests to come, it is Siddle who looks likely to get the nod, with swing more likely to be needed than pace at Edgbaston.

The injury situation looks better than it did – with knocks to the likes of Khawaja and Smith having cleared up, although David Warner took a knock in the nets, but is likely to play.

Australia have many questions to answer – and with an aging squad, this could be a long series for them under intense pressure and scrutiny. Many will need to step up and take the fight back to England – but whether they can do this consistently enough remains to be seen.

OVERALL

Whoever plays in Ashes cricket invariably must handle the pressure and occasion as much as whatever the pitch and weather conditions are. There will be a partisan crowd at all five Test matches, and especially at Edgbaston, where England will want a fast start and deliver a statement of intent to the Aussies. Both batting lineups look decidedly frail – and centuries could well be at a premium – but of even more importance to whomever can deliver them. The respective bowling line ups could well be on top more, with the greener pitches and notorious English weather being of far more assistance to them, than the flat, sun baked Aussie pitches that are far more batsman friendly.

We expect results in most of the five matches – though we do expect the rain to play its usual part. Overall, ENGLAND look a shade stronger in most departments than their bitter rivals, and should take the series on home soil and reclaim the Ashes. We will go with a 3-1 final result, but will look forward to what should be another huge, tense battle between the old enemies.

2019 ASHES SERIES – ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA – LIST OF MATCHES

  • 1st Test @ Edgbaston, Birmingham – Thursday August 1 to Monday August 5
  • 2nd Test @ Lords, London – Wednesday August 14 to Sunday August 18
  • 3rd Test @ Headingley, Leeds – Thursday August 22 to Monday August 26
  • 4th Test @ Old Trafford, Manchester – Wednesday September 4 to Sunday September 8
  • 5th Test @ The Oval, London – Thursday September 12 to Monday September 16