The last time the Englishmen visited the Australians, Jonathan Trott’s career all but ended, Graeme Swann had to retire in the middle of the series and Kevin Pietersen never played for England again, before they were whitewashed 5-0. This time they’ve lost star allrounder Ben Stokes even before boarding for the flight down under, as The Gabba prepares for a stern first exam for Joe Root’s men. The 2017-18 Ashes kick off tonight ladies and gents, and here’s all you need to know ahead of it.
Ben Stokes no show
Aussie opener David Warner fired fresh salvo in the war of words as he accused Ben Stokes of letting a lot of people down with his actions. He might not be entirely wrong either. Stokes is under police investigation after getting embroiled in a street brawl. The English selectors refrained from picking him up for the Ashes until the outcome of the investigation is clear.
Many in the travelling English party have zero experience of playing international cricket in Australian conditions. In fact, three of the top five batsman, Mark Stoneman, David Malan and James Vince have played only 15 tests between them — all of them in the UK. Pacer Jake Ball, with three Test caps, has been selected for the playing XI while neither of allrounders Chris Woakes or Moeen Ali have played in the country so far.
Surprising Aussie squad
But the hosts might be equally short on experience. Only three members from the last Ashes have survived for the current edition. The squad for the first Test came in as a huge surprise for many actually. Six changes were made as the popular youngster Matt Renshaw was replaced by Cameron Bancroft. Veteran keeper Tim Paine was brought back into the fray, seven years after playing his last test.
Shaun Marsh’s selection also raised many eyebrows, but he will be the one to fill in for David Warner at the top of the order in case the latter doesn’t recover in time from a knock he took in the nets. The bowling looks in good shape though, much like the visitors.
‘Weak’ warm up
The English top-order enjoyed a decent build up to the series with 223 runs to Stoneman, 177 to Malan, and even 88 to Vince. But the last match, at Townsville, saw two young Aussie batters, with only seven first class matches between the, smash hundreds against an experienced bowling line-up.
Coach Trevor Bayliss though felt that his men faced ‘weak’ practice sides which didn’t help prepare for the stern test ahead. You really expected the Aussies to be helpful, gaf?
“It’s not going to be perfect and nothing compares with the first Test of an Ashes away in Brisbane, where Australia haven’t lost for 30-odd years.”
Bayliss knows what awaits the English team and the Barmy Army at The Gabba. The last time Australia lost here was against the all-conquering Carribean team 29 years ago. England’s previous visit here ended in a 381-run thumping during the 2013/14 Ashes to set the tone for a nightmarish tour that followed. Oh, the terror of Mitchel Johnson!
However, the English would want to recollect the memories from the 2010/11 season when former skipper Alaistar Cook scored a double hundred to draw the match in front of the ominous Brisbane fans. They went on to win the series. And should aim for it again; after all they’ve won four out of the last five.
Image source: Cricket Italia