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Everything you need to know about The Ashes

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England will begin their defence of The Ashes at 0:00 GMT on Thursday when they take on Australia in the first test in Brisbane.

England won the previous series 3-2 in 2015, levelling the total number of Ashes victories to 32 wins for each team.

Australia will start the series as overriding favourites to win. The Ashes and a victory would see the nation do a double after their Women’s team retained The Women’s Ashes by drawing with England Women 8-8 in the multi-format series.

The History

Following England's first defeat by Australia on home soil at The Oval in August 1882, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary of English cricket, which concluded that: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia."

A sporting obsession was born and Ivo Bligh, England captain at the time, pledged to win back "the Ashes" on the return tour to Australia a few weeks later.

England won the return series and Bligh was given a small terracotta urn as a symbol of the Ashes that he had travelled to Australia to regain.

The two countries have competed for the symbolic urn ever since. Currently, both sides have 32 Ashes series wins each and will compete for the outright lead this winter.

The Rivalry

The Ashes is now a five-Test series hosted alternately in England and Australia at least once every four years. England have won four out of the last five series, although, were victims of a 5-0 whitewash the last time the series was held in Australia.

During the 1932-33 tour, England captain Douglas Jardine told his bowlers to bowl fast and into the body of their opponents largely as a ploy to restrict legendary Australian Donald Bradman, widely regarded as the game's greatest ever batsman.

The series was nicknamed "Bodyline" with tensions only increasing when Australian batsman Bert Oldfield collapsed with his skull fractured by a lightning-fast delivery. England won the series 4-1, but relations between cricket administrators in both countries became strained.

The rivalry continues to this day with a war of words already accompanying this series. Australian pace bowler Josh Hazlewood spoke of opening the "scars" from the tourists' 2013-14 whitewash whilst England batsman James Vince warned Australia “To back up their chat."

Who’s going to win?

On paper - Australia. England have won just one of their previous seven Ashes series in Australia. And most experts are unanimously predicting an Australian victory.

Despite winning their last two home Test series, against South Africa and The West Indies, England’s away form has been substandard. Since 2013 England have won just one away Test series with losses to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka over the last four years.

Optimists, however, can point to England’s successful recent form as well as the team ranking higher than Australia according to the ICC, positioned as the third best Test nation in the world, two places above Australia.

The England team

England travel to Australia still unsure of their best XI. All-rounder Ben Stokes remains at home as he awaits the outcome of a police investigation into an incident outside a Bristol nightclub.

England do boast genuine world-class talent through Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and James Anderson but the side do not have a settled batsman at number three or five, and nine members of the 16-man squad have not played a Test in Australia.

England captain Joe Root remains optimistic. "(The whitewash in 2013-14) that happened four years ago," said Root. "England have won four of the past five Ashes series. We have a lot of guys that won in England in 2015 and have very fond memories of that."

Speaking about Ben Stokes’ absence Root added: "It's very difficult to replace him, he is a big presence and brings a lot to the table. If you ask any captain in the world they would want him in their squad. (We should view it as) an opportunity for someone to do the special things like Ben can do."

What about Australia?

Australian captain Steve Smith is the number one ranked Test batsman in international cricket and will be joined in the crease by explosive opener David Warner.

With the ball, Josh Hazlewood will be part of a three-man pace attack alongside Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, both of whom are capable of bowling well in excess of 90mph.

However, Australia do have some areas of weakness, most notably in the wicket-keeper position. After Brad Haddin’s retirement at the end of the 2015 Ashes, the Aussies have failed to find a long-term successor.

The role now falls to Tim Paine, a wicketkeeper who played his most recent Test seven years ago and has not even been taking the gloves for his state side, Tasmania.

How do I watch The Ashes?

Every ball will be broadcast live on BT Sport with a free highlights show on the BT Sport website at around 19:00.

The BBC have exclusive radio rights with the Test Match Special team, who turned 60 this year, available on BBC Radio 5 Live Extra. The BBC will also upload online video highlights to the BBC Sport website.

November 23rd-27th: 1st Test - The Gabba, Brisbane

December 2nd-6th: 2nd Test - Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (day/night test)

December 14th-18th: 3rd Test - Waca, Perth

December 26th-30th: 4th Test - MCG, Melbourne

January 4th-8th: 5th Test – SCG, Sydney

 

Creative Commons,  Airwolfhound. Wikimedia Commons




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