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England Seek A 'Double' as Australia Eye Ashes History

AFP |August 1, 2019, 7:52 AM IST
England Seek A 'Double' as Australia Eye Ashes History

England return to 'Fortress Edgbaston' for the first Test against Australia on Thursday looking to round off an already memorable season by completing a World Cup and Ashes double.

If the World Cup remains the pinnacle of the 50-over game, for England and Australia there's nothing quite like a renewal of Test cricket's oldest rivalry.

But now there's arguably more at stake for both sides than the series result.

For England, a home season billed as the most important in a generation started brilliantly with their impressive run to a first men's World Cup title that culminated with a Super Over win in a dramatic final against New Zealand at Lord's last month.

Building on that groundswell of support is a key part of the England and Wales Cricket Board's post-tournament strategy, while regaining the Ashes represents an ideal chance to keep new fans on board.

"It's huge. It's a great opportunity," said England captain Joe Root.

"Cricket in this country is probably at an all-time high, it's got interest it probably hasn't had for a long time and we've got an opportunity as a team to make this summer a very memorable one."

For Australia, an Ashes series win under the dignified leadership of Tim Paine would help draw a line under the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa that led to long bans for former captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.

All three batsmen are likely to feature at Edgbaston, with Bancroft set to hear the same booing that greeted Smith and Warner during the World Cup.

Australia have not won an Ashes series in England for 18 years, with their batsmen struggling against the heavily stitched Dukes ball on pitches that offer seam movement.

"Everyone is excited, it's a huge opportunity to come to England and do something even some of our great teams haven't to do in the last 20 years," said Paine. "We've got some self-belief we can do it."

The way an England side featuring several World Cup stars were dismissed for just 85 by Ireland at Lord's last week before winning the first Test between the countries tells its own story of ongoing top-order woes.

"Batting in the top order for England is difficult for anyone," said Paine, with Australia set to put their faith in a four-man pace attack featuring James Pattinson and Pat Cummins but without left-arm quick Mitchell Starc, their World Cup spearhead.

'Lead from the front'

Root plans to move back to number three to help shore up a top order featuring novice Surrey openers Rory Burns and Jason Roy.

"I think it's important to spread the experience out and it gives me an opportunity to lead from the front as well," he said.

Root gave his side an early vote of confidence by naming England's XI on Wednesday rather than waiting for Thursday's toss.

James Anderson, England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker, returns after missing last week's win over Ireland with a calf problem.

But there was no place for World Cup winner Jofra Archer, with the fast bowler's Test debut put on hold while he regains full fitness following a side injury.

Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, another two members of the triumphant World Cup team, return after being rested against Ireland.

Stokes is back as England's vice-captain having lost the role to Buttler following a late night brawl in Bristol that culminated with the star all-rounder's acquittal on a charge of affray last year.

"You know he is going to throw himself into it and he's never going to ask something from you that he wouldn't expect from himself," said Root of Stokes.

Australia have not won at Edgbaston in any format since 2001, a run that includes their recent World Cup semi-final loss to England.

England, by contrast, have won their last 11 internationals at the raucous Birmingham ground.

But a congested schedule, the result of officials cramming an Ashes into the same season as a lengthy World Cup, could have a bigger bearing on the series, the first in the ICC's new World Test Championship.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3778 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 India 8099 261
5 Australia 5471 261
see more
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