It is that time again, time for the oldest rivalry in Test Cricket, the Ashes.
Ever since I was a child, the Ashes always had a sense of anticipation about it, it was the biggest series in World Cricket, it was something to watch and amaze over.
It seemed for a long time though, that the only Test Cricket I saw, was England playing Australia, and it’s always a five-Test series. That sense of wonder and amazement had diminished.
Having said that, this year’s Ashes campaign is a little different.
It is the first Test series that David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft are going to play since their bans over “Sandpaper Gate” ended, and it marks the beginning of the hugely anticipated World Test Championship.
Here are some key players to look at:
Warner has been in prolific form since returning to cricket. In the IPL earlier this year, he scored 692 runs at an average of 69, and scored eight half-centuries and 1 ton.
His form in the recently completed Cricket World Cup, which was only the 2nd time in 6 editions Australia did not win, Warner scored 647 runs at an average of 72, with three centuries and 3 half-centuries.
He will want to translate this form into Test Cricket and look to get Australia off to a solid start.
Former captain, Steve Smith’s Cricket World Cup saw him score 379 runs, which included four half-centuries. He led from the front on more than one occasion and showed why he is one of the best in the world.
Warner and Smith were not part of Australia’s Test team that lost their 1st home series to a subcontinent team earlier this year, to India, and they will want to prove just how valuable they are, and how much of a difference their presence makes to the team.
Peter Siddle thought his Test career was over.
He suffered a serious back injury that took over 12 months to regain fitness and form.
He then took up a contract to play for English county side Essex, and gained experience and skill in bowling in English conditions which is always extremely valuable.
He is a cricketer that plays with extreme heart and never gives up.
Archer’s rise to International Cricket has been enormous.
He has quickly developed a reputation of bowling fast, accurately and aggressively. His skill to bowl yorkers is a real asset to any team he plays for, be it in the IPL or for England, and his ability to absorb pressure, as was seen in the Cricket World Cup final SuperOver, is brilliant.
Sam Curran is rapidly turning into a quality Test all-rounder.
After 10 Tests, he already has a batting average of over 31, with three half-centuries to his name, often scoring them when England have been in serious trouble, and when he’s been under immense pressure. He has also taken 18 Test wickets at just over 30.
He is a very special cricketer and one that I think will play a key role for England.
Roy had a good lesson in Test Cricket last week against Ireland, having one failure before scoring his maiden Test half-century.
Test Cricket is not meant to be easy and Roy will have to quickly adapt to this new format if he wants to succeed. It will be interesting to see how he fares against Australia’s fast bowling.
The 1st Test starts in Birmingham on Thursday 1st August at 12pm SA time.
Let the battle begin!
England’s 1st Test squad:
Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Joss Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone & Chris Woakes
Australia’s Test squad:
Tim Paine(c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser James Pattinson, Peter Siddle Steve Smith, Mitch Starc, Matthew Wade & David Warner