5 talking points ahead of the first Ashes Test
The 2019 Ashes begins at Edgbaston on Thursday, with England looking to regain the urn after a 4-0 defeat Down Under last time out.
Here, PA looks at the key issues heading into the opener.
What shadow will the World Cup cast?
Seven of the England side who will take the field in Birmingham were involved in their country’s first World Cup winning squad just a couple of weeks ago. Asking them to go to the well again so soon after a draining, dramatic tournament ended in such a release of emotion puts England in untested waters. Will they come out like the champions they now are or be stretched too thin by the demands of them?
Conversely, a handful of Australia’s key men were part of the side thrashed by their hosts in the semi-finals. An already long tour is barely halfway done and they have nothing to show for it.
The grand old Dukes
After watching the first few rounds of the County Championship, England’s managing director of men’s cricket – 2005 Ashes winner Ashley Giles – made a bold call. He effectively junked this year’s design of Dukes balls, deeming them to be too batsman-friendly, and ordered a new batch made to 2018 specifications. That means a prouder seam and more movement off the pitch – basically a bowler’s
charter. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are known to be delighted, but Australia’s pace attack is also their strong suit and it could be a low-scoring six weeks if the standalone Ireland Test is a guide.
Banned trio back together
The international futures of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were called into question after they were banned for their part in the sandpaper ball-tampering conspiracy. Now, bans served, the three are reunited in a Test squad at the first possible opportunity. Smith and Warner have already been on the receiving end from unimpressed English crowds during the World Cup, but the addition of Bancroft – the stooge who actually scratched the surface of the ball then lied about it – will only up the ante. Will the jeers inspire them to greater heights or wear them down?
After four-successive series wins on English soil (1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001), Australia have entered a long period of away day blues. England have won the last four editions in front of their own fans, triumphing in 10 Tests while losing just four in that time. Tim Paine’s side will be eager to end a streak that started in the watershed 2005 campaign as well as robbing England of the bragging rights. Andrew Strauss’ class of 2010-11 are currently the only team to win the Ashes away from home in the past nine series.
England’s leading wicket-taker at the World Cup was Jofra Archer with 20 and when Eoin Morgan needed to cope with the strain of a super over, it was the 24-year-old he turned to. He will have to wait for his Test debut, though, with lingering concerns over a side strain and competition for seam bowling spots incredibly high? An attack featuring the country’s record wicket-taker (Anderson) and two men who have just bowled out Ireland for 38 between them (Broad and Chris Woakes) is hardly lacking but Archer’s absence still looms large. Australia, meanwhile, appear set to leave Mitchell Starc – who topped the World Cup bowling charts with 27 – on the sidelines. As with Archer, those who take up the workload in his absence will have to turn in fine performances to prevent envious glances in the paceman’s direction.