England will look to crown a summer in which they have already lifted the World Cup for the first time by regaining the Ashes from Australia over the course of the next seven weeks.
The first Test gets under way on Thursday at Edgbaston, a venue with a reputation for being the most hostile for touring teams in England and where Australia have not won in any format since 2001.
Australia prevailed 4-0 the last time the urn was up for grabs in 2017/18 and the tourists could potentially field all three of the ball-tampering trio this week.
Patience Jof, only 1 more day...— Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8) July 31, 2019
Jofra Archer’s Twitter account has caused a stir in recent weeks. There really does seem to be a ‘Jofra tweet’ for every occasion and England team-mate Stuart Broad has become the latest to jump on the bandwagon. However, Archer will be kept waiting for his first Test cap after Broad and Chris Woakes were included at the Barbadian-born paceman’s expense.
I could name you 15Tim Paine
Australia’s captain was asked whether there is a more intimidating ground in world cricket than Edgbaston. His withering response may yet come back to haunt him. England have won their last 11 fixtures in Birmingham while their old rivals are in the midst of a wretched run. Steve Smith and David Warner faced opprobrium from the crowds around the country during the World Cup and, along with Cameron Bancroft, are likely to face more of a barracking from a crowd eager to remind them of the ball-tampering scandal.
It is fairly evident a lot of the focus, at least on day one, will fall on the shoulders of Smith and Warner – and Bancroft if he features. The trio’s last outing in a Test led to national disgrace, all three receiving lengthy suspensions for their roles in an attempt to doctor the ball against South Africa in Cape Town in March 2018. The pedigree of Smith and Warner meant they were always likely to come back into the reckoning but Bancroft has earned his opportunity by impressing at Durham, whom he also captained.
England were rolled over for 85 at Lord’s by Ireland last week, heightening concerns about how their top order will cope against Australia’s vaunted bowling attack. Captain Joe Root therefore took the decision to move up one place to three, clearly hoping he can add some much-needed ballast to proceedings. However, James Anderson, Broad and Woakes will fancy their chances at Australia’s batters, most of whom struggled in a tour match against each other at the Ageas Bowl last week.
On August 1, 1989, Australia sealed a convincing nine-wicket victory at Old Trafford to move into an unassailable 3-0 series lead – they would eventually claim a 4-0 win. By prevailing in Manchester, they became the first Australia side to regain the Ashes on English soil since 1934 and they would not relinquish the urn until the famous 2005 series.
The weather in the midlands this week has been unpredictable to say the least but, thankfully, Thursday’s forecast is for minimal interruption. Cloudy skies for the first few hours could make matters interesting and any showers should be brief before giving way to sunny skies towards the end of the day.
August 1: England v Australia, day one of the first Ashes Test.