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by Andrew Wood & Cricket World Monday 15 July 2019
With England and Wales hosting the ICC Cricket World Cup, it has meant that most of the attention has been on the limited over game.
But that will all change at the start of August.
There may be new formats of the game being devised all the time, but an Ashes series captures the imagination like nothing else.
Australia is the current holder of the famous urn but will be looking to claim an Ashes series on English soil for the first time since 2001.
Betting on the Ashes is always hugely popular, and this series looks like the most open for quite a while.
Here are the all-important test dates:
First Test Edgbaston 1-5 August
Second Test Lord’s 14-18 August
Third Test Headingly 22-26 August
Fourth Test Old Trafford 4-8 September
Fifth Test The Oval 12-16 September
Due to the Cricket World Cup, it is the most condensed Ashes series ever — something else that adds a little pressure on the players.
With limited overs cricket virtually a different game to test cricket, little can be taken from the summer so far. But whoever comes out on top in the World Cup semi-final between the two nations will take a huge psychological boost going into the Ashes.
England enjoyed a clean sweep in Sri Lanka last winter but was surprised by the West Indies at the start of this year, losing that series 2-1. That defeat showed a number of issues in the England setup that have not really been resolved.
Meanwhile, Australia lost a home test series to India for the first time ever before enjoying its own victory over Sri Lanka.
There seem to be questions surrounding both teams, and that could make the upcoming Ashes series a fascinating encounter.
The fact that England still does not seem to really know its best opening line-up is a major worry for the host nation. The pre-Ashes warm-up game against Ireland may give the selectors and Joe Root more of an idea, but this could be a weak point for England.
Batting performances in all formats of the game have actually been very impressive, however, especially Jonny Bairstow’s collection of top-class innings. But test cricket demands a stable opening pair, and England does not have that at the moment.
Things are looking up with the ball, however. The recent injury picked up by Jimmy Anderson is worrying, but there is still a fearsome attack at England’s disposal. Jofra Archer’s bowling in the one-day internationals over the past couple of months has proved that he can be a very useful weapon in the upcoming Ashes series.
Add his pace and accuracy to Ben Stokes and the ever-reliable Stuart Broad, and the hosts will trouble Australia’s batsmen.
Moeen Ali will provide the slower option, with England unlikely to include two spinners considering the conditions of the five venues.
The main point of interest when it comes to the Aussies is how seamless David Warner and Steve Smith’s return to the test side will be. There has seemed to be no problem — either on the pitch or within the squad — during the World Cup, so that will be a major bonus for the touring side.
These two could really be the difference between winning or losing the Ashes. Their ability to either steady an innings or post big run totals is a major asset to the Australian team. If they can click back into place without too many problems, they could cause some real trouble for the England bowlers.
On the bowling side of the game, Australia seems to be more settled. Mitchell Starc will once again lead the attack and look to enjoy another fine Ashes series. Josh Hazlewood’s omission from the World Cup squad was a big surprise, but it has allowed him to regain full fitness before what promises to be a gruelling Ashes series.
Pat Cummins was impressive against both India and Sri Lanka and could be another option for the Aussies as they look to keep hold of the urn.
The Appeal of the Ashes
Limited overs cricket may be the big money game across the world, but the battle for the Ashes is always keenly contested and is a series that cricket fans all over the world look forward to.
There has been a relatively quick turnaround from the last series in Australia that finished at the start of 2018, so these two teams will largely know what to expect from each other. But newcomers such as Jofra Archer will be looking to stake a claim in Ashes history and will be desperate to make an impression.
David Warner and Steve Smith’s return to the game after their 12-month suspensions for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal will no doubt be a subject for debate and a focal point for the home fans who will attempt to play their part in helping England regain the Ashes.
Summing it Up
This year’s Ashes has the potential to be one of the most exciting for quite a while.
England will go into the series as slight favourites, but it promises to be a close affair with a repeat of England’s 3-2 victory in 2015 entirely possible (as long as the British weather holds).
It may come down to which bowling attack is stronger, but whatever happens, it will surely be a great addition to the summer of cricket as well as to the history of the Ashes.
©Cricket World 2019