Nothing gets the blood of diehard Test match fans going quite like an Ashes contest, and why not? Some of the greatest tests of all time have been played during these series, which began in 1877 (the term ‘The Ashes’ became associated with England-Australia test matches only from the 1882-83 series, however). Australia has generally had the upper hand, thrashing England 5-0 during the previous series, but England has had its moments too in the recent past, with four series wins in the last decade. Here’s why you should tune in to the forthcoming series, beginning
1. It’s the old enemies – expect fireworks
Whatever they might say about having a beer together after play, the Aussies and the Poms have a prickly relationship. Sledging, mind-games and even fisticuffs are commonplace (Aussie David Warner punched England’s Joe Root in a bar, the last time around), and it all makes for an entertaining spectacle. The English, long considered soft, have begun matching Australia on the verbals front, so expect no quarter (and very few fucks) to be given on the field.
2.The quality of cricket will be high
With pride and bragging rights at stake, every last man on the field will be giving it his all, leading to some great test matches. Some simply incredible Ashes matches have taken place in the last decade, and it’s almost a dead cert guarantee that this series will produce a cracker or two. Australia stand to return to the top of the ICC Test rankings if they win (they haven’t won an Ashes series in England in 15 years) and England, licking their wounds from the previous series, will want to restore their honour.
3. England is in excellent form
Drawing 1-1 with New Zealand in the recent test series and then beating the World Cup finalists 3-2 in the subsequent ODI series, England seems to have rediscovered its cricketing mojo. They’re finally playing an exciting, attacking brand of cricket, and some fresh talent has come through the ranks. Watch out in particular for Jos Buttler, a dashing wicketkeeper-batsman, Ben Stokes, an all-rounder who could be the next big thing after Botham and Adil Rashid, an attacking legspinner. The old guard of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are all in decent nick, too.
4. So is Australia
The Aussies have swept all before them in the warm-up games before the tests, and in Steven Smith, they have the world’s highest-ranked test batsman, not to mention David Warner, possibly the most explosive opening batsman in test cricket today. Michael Clark is still world class, Brad Haddin is a man who will fight till the last and the Mitchell duo (Starc and Johnson) are the most feared left-arm fast bowlers in the world. A third Mitchell (Marsh) is an exciting all-round prospect, and old warhorse Peter Siddle can never be underestimated. All in, Australia appear to have the bowling edge, while England just about take the batting honours.
5. Some of the Aussies may not play the next series
Some of the Aussies may not play the next series. Men like Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Chris Rogers are all in their mid-to-late 30s, and in the life of a modern cricketer, that qualifies as ‘ripe old’. Each of them (especially Clarke, Watson and Haddin) have served Australian cricket brilliantly, and this may well be the last time you’ll see them play in an Ashes contest.