One of the most intense rivalries in the world of cricket is set to resume today as England face the Aussies for the Ashes. The Test series begins today (July 8) and will run until the 12th. The matches take place at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, Wales – neutral territory for these two intense rivals and cricketing champions. Australia is the 2013-14 champion of the tournament, which began in 1883, and where these two teams vie to take the Ashes, a small urn from the 19th century said to contain the ashes of a wicket.
The Australia team, captained by Michael Clarke, is eager to reverse a bad run of fortune in the last few Test matches, and call a halt to a long 14-year stretch without a series win in England, while the home team have their sights set on taking back the prized urn and restoring English cricketing, and national, pride.
Australia won 5-0 at home in the last ashes two years previously. However, the Aussies’ series tally has been less impressive on UK soil. It won its last series in 2001, more than a decade ago, and crashed out of the record in 2005, 2009 and 2013, according to the International Cricket Council (ICC), making the 2015 series a highly anticipated and even contest.
The Australian captain Clarke was part of those three defeats and is eager to save face both for himself and the Aussies by securing the Ashes this time round. He has already a very established and successful leadership career, the ICC states.
England will be headed by accomplished captain Alastair Cook and will also be managed by new coach Trevor Bayliss. England made an exceptional performance in recent One-Day International and Test games against New Zealand, playing an aggressive brand of cricket that promised results and entertainment. Andrew Strauss, a former England captain and current director of cricket, was positive that England would be no pushover. “I think if Australia do win, they’ll have to play some outstanding cricket to do so,” he said.
The last Ashes to be held in England was a positive one for the Three Lions, who secured a comfortable 3-0 victory, although close performances on both sides made this a far from easy victory. Australia soon acquired a new leader, Darren Lehmann, who inspired the team from Down Under to a stirring victory against the motherland of cricket, and earned that spectacular 5-0 usurping that brought smiles on faces from Perth to Sydney and a drubbing for the beleaguered England outfit. Things have changed for the Aussies since that glorious match in 2013-2014. The team will be missing their sting in the attack. Ryan Harris recently retired from the international game, after wowing audiences with his ingenious bowling in the England series of 2013, as well as the return leg in Australia in that season’s Ashes. Australia’s pace attack now will be mainly reliant on remaining international team members Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who performed well in a series win against the West Indies. Starc, the Man of the Tournament during Australia’s ICC World Cup 2015 win, has been helping demolish wickets with that famed hard red ball, and he says that it was his consistency in play that helped him to that glory. “I have worked a long time for my stock delivery being at a left-hander,” said Starc. “The consistency is getting to where it needs to be and I’m starting to see results.”
England’s counter attack against a notoriously challenging team could well rest with County Durham ‘pacer’ Mark Wood. Fresh to the international pitches, Wood has already done well for himself and justified the selector’s pick for England. He recently picked up nine wickets in the two Tests against New Zealand in his debut series. The spinning contingent will be supported by Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, both very meticulous in their department, and will be useful tools in England’s pace attack assault against Australia.
In other Ashes news, former captain of England, Kevin Pietersen has urged his old team to be like the Australians and go for more sledging, writing in The Telegraph that “this is sporting war” and that he did not want to see “people laughing and joking with each other”. England has won the toss to bat first today. Meanwhile, media giants Sky Sports are already offering up their predictions for the outcome of this year’s Ashes.
With both sides keyed up to win a series that has held a special place in the hearts of players and fans for more than a century, the action promises to be enthralling from start to finish.
England: Alastair Cook (Captain), Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wicket keeper), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Adil Rashid.
Australia: David Warner, Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke (Captain), Adam Voges, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wicket keeper), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Fawad Ahmed, Peter Nevill.