“CRICKET, LOVELY CRICKET” – By Des Kelly
And so, it is on again. Cricket, lovely Cricket, the Ashes Series, between the two arch-rivals of the game, England versus Australia. Coming to us via “The Guardian”, and Frank Bennett, this interesting little article gives us 19 things to look out for, in the Series, and, let me add the 20th, which is my prediction for the result of this “test series”.
Ashes 2019: 19 things to look out for in the England v Australia series
From shirt numbers to the Test Championship, via concussion substitutes, bantermime booing and much more
The Ashes. It is on! Photograph: Getty Images
1) At Edgbaston on Thursday, Test cricket will be dragged kicking and screaming into the early 1990s. For the first time, players with have their name and number on the back of their shirts: as in white-ball cricket, Joe Root will wear No 66, proving that the responsibility of captaincy need not get in the way of a popular pun.
2) After years of vetoes and false starts, the all-singing, all-dancing, all-context-providing Test Championship will begin this week. Teams collect points over a two-year cycle, with the top two playing in the final in June 2021. There are 120 points available in each series, so winning a match in a two-Test series is worth more (60 points) than if there are five matches (24 points). But you can lose points as well …
3) The ICC has changed its approach to slow over-rates. Instead of suspending the captain, they will now hit all 11 players where it really hurts: in the Test Championship. If a team wins any points during the match, they will lose two for each over they were short of the required rate.
4) Once upon a time, Ashes series in England began in June and ended in August. The modern schedule is designed to squeeze as much as possible from the lemon, so since 2001 the series have started in July. This year, for the first time in Ashes history, the series will start in August, one day before the start of the Football League season. The latest ever start goes hand in hand with the latest ever finish …
5) There has only ever been one Ashes Test in September, a long-forgotten match at the Oval in 2005. This year there will be two, with the series ending on 16 September. Given the eccentricities of the English weather, neither side will want to be behind going into the final Test at the Oval.
6) If you use a little selective accounting, Australia are on their worst Ashes run since the 19th century. Never mind the fact they won the last series 4-0; they have lost their last four series in England, the first time that has happened since the 1890s. Their last win was in 2001, when Steve Waugh’s awesome team brutalised England 4-1.
7) Trevor Bayliss’s legacy was secured on the bal/rmy evening of Sunday 14 July 2019. His record with the Test team has been mixed, and Bayliss will leave England’s Test team pretty much where he found them: as mid-table mavericks. He’d love to end as he started, too: Bayliss’s first series was the 3-2 victory over Australia in 2015.
8) The inclusion of the Cape Town Three – David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft – in Australia’s Ashes squad should ensure a summer of bantermime booing and sandpaper-based props. Although Warner and Smith played at the World Cup, this is the first time they have been available in Test cricket since their world collapsed in March 2018.
Australia’s David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft during a nets session at Edgbaston. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters
9) The increase in T20 leagues means this will be the first Ashes with multiple franchise friendships, which may take the edge off the traditional enmity. To take a small example: Jason Roy has played with Pat Cummins, who has played with Jos Buttler, who has played with Steve Smith, who has played with Jofra Archer, who has played with Tim Paine, who has played with Stuart Broad. And, after their IPL performances for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Warner and Jonny Bairstow are still favourites for the imaginary award for Most Unlikely Bromance of 2019.
10) The back page has never been held for the announcement of a vice-captain, yet this year’s are more noteworthy than usual. Ben Stokes will be Joe Root’s deputy for the first time since Bristol, while Australia’s quest for elite vice-captaincy has led them to appoint two: Pat Cummins and Travis Head. Not that this a guarantee of selection. Mitchell Marsh was joint vice-captain when he was dropped during the Australian summer.
11) After a successful trial in domestic cricket, concussion substitutes will be used in Test cricket for the first time. There are still some grey areas, but if a player is concussed his team will be allowed a like-for-like replacement that is approved by the match referee.
12) Diversity was a theme of England’s World Cup win, and the Ashes will also reflect the multiculturalism of the modern world. The squads for the first Test include players born or raised in Barbados (Jofra Archer), New Zealand (Ben Stokes), Pakistan (Usman Khawaja), South Africa (Marnus Labuschagne, Michael Neser, Jason Roy) and Zimbabwe (Sam Curran).
Jofra Archer signs autographs for fans during England’s World Cup victory celebration. Photograph: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images for Surrey CCC
13) The second day of the second Test at Lord’s will be the first Ruth Strauss Foundation Day. Both teams will wear red caps, while there will also be red stumps and special shirts in support of the Foundation that was set up after the death of Andrew Strauss’s wife last December. The idea is based on the Jane McGrath Day, which has become a highlight of the Australian summer.
14) Kumar Dharmasena, the umpire whose decisions caused such controversy in the World Cup semi-final and final, will be back in England for the first two Tests. He’s not the only one who may find the past being discussed: Aleem Dar, umpire for the final Test, was in charge when Stuart Broad was infamously given not out at Trent Bridge in 2013.
15) The Ashes may be won in a factory in Walthamstow. In May, after a run-laden start to the county season, the ECB asked for a new batch of Duke balls to be made for the Ashes, similar to those used in 2017 and 2018. They have a bigger seam and a heavier lacquer, which England hope will allow their seamers to expose Australia’s fragility against the moving ball.
The Duke ball. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
16) The 2015 Ashes, which lasted 18 days, equalled the shortest five-Test series of all time. It might seem like a never-ending boreathon in comparison to 2019, which has all the necessary ingredients – fragile batting, high-class bowling, lively pitches, a ball that never stops talking – to be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair.
17) Headingley is indelibly associated with the Ashes, scene of immortal performances from Bradman, Boycott, Botham (and Willis) and Butcher. It used to stage a Test in every Ashes series – but has hosted only one in the last four series, so there will be almost an air of novelty when the teams line up for the third Test.
18) England are not the only team who may play a wicketkeeper as a specialist batsman. Matthew Wade has played 141 of his 142 international games as a keeper, including all 22 of his Tests. But Tim Paine’s presence as captain and wicketkeeper means that door is closed, so Wade – who has been in extraordinary form with the bat for the last year or so – seems likely to take his place as a top-six batsman.
19) Ashes series define some careers – but they end a lot more. There is usually at least one emotional farewell, and the 2013-14 and 2015 series ended multiple careers at a stroke. The squads for the first Test include 14 thirtysomethings – the oldest is Jimmy Anderson, who turned 37 on Tuesday. If England regain the Ashes, and especially if he gets the 25 wickets he needed to reach 600, he may find the fairytale exit too hard to resist.
Quote of the week
“It was his time to pay back to Pakistan cricket. He should have carried on and helped Pakistan win Tests, a format in which the team is struggling” – Shoaib Akhtar is unimpressed by Mohammad Amir’s retirement from Test cricket at the age of 27. The Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur added: “He had five years out of the game, we mustn’t forget that. He didn’t do anything. He could have managed those five years better.”
Still want more?
Edgbaston is England’s answer to the Gabba – an intimidating cauldron for visiting teams, writes Ali Martin.
To Edgbaston! Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters
Australia’s reformed tampering trio of Warner, Smith and Bancroft returned to find a good-tempered Ashes set-up, reports Geoff Lemon.
Pat Cummins is backing the English conditions to suit him: “In England you can always sense a wicket coming.”
Fit-again paceman James Pattinson is raring to go too: “Every wicket is like a release … I need that feeling.”
The true effect of sledging on performance is nothing to shout about – there’s no evidence that it works, finds Sean Ingle.
Before Wednesday’s final Women’s Ashes T20, Meg Lanning is still unfathomable to England bowlers – as Geoff notes, they haven’t got her out since 2015.
And Jimmy Neesham reflects on New Zealand’s heartbreaking World Cup final loss: “The cards didn’t fall our way that day.”
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