BY DALE BUDGE
England knocked Australia out on their way to winning the 2019 Cricket World Cup and now they will look to take back cricket’s other great prize – the Ashes – from them as the two great foes do battle in the longer form of the game.
The Ashes are test cricket’s most revered prize.
Contests between the two cricketing powerhouses have been fiercely fought for well over a century.
England currently possess a superb test team well-suited to their home conditions. Skipper Joe Root is one of the finest batsmen on the planet and he will have plenty of help from his supporting cast on wickets that should prove fruitful once they settle down.
England’s bowling attack, led by veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad, have had the wood over Australia’s batsmen for more than a decade on their home wickets. Anderson may be in the twilight of his outstanding career but he will be hoping for one more inspired Ashes series before he retires.
New Zealand-born allrounder Ben Stokes looms as a key figure as well with his match-winning abilities with bat, ball and in the field.
Australia have welcomed back David Warner and Steve Smith, who served lengthy bans over a ball-tampering saga that nearly destroyed their reputations. While they will no doubt be on the receiving end of much banter from the boisterous English crowds, they possess world-class skills.
Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc was the leading wicket-taker at the World Cup and Australia will need him at his best again if they are to win the Ashes.
Very little separates these two nations in Ashes contests across the course of history. Australia have won 33 of the 70 series played while England have won 32, with five series drawn.
Of the past nine Ashes series, all but one has been won by the home team – England’s success in Australia during the 2010-11 summer being the exception. The last time Australia won on English soil was 2001.
The Ashes begin at Edgbaston in Birmingham, before heading to Lord’s (pictured) in London.
The third test will be staged at Headingley in Leeds with the fourth at Old Trafford in Manchester.
The series returns to London in September with the final match being played at The Oval, watched over as ever by the giant circular skeleton of the Oval gasometer, a ghostly relic of Victorian industrialisation.
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