It’s hard to believe that the upcoming Ashes series is the 70th occasion that the old rivals England and Australia will pit their wits against each other for the Ashes urn. This year, the sport’s oldest rivalry will lock horns down under at five separate venues with the first test beginning on November 23rd and the last starting on January 4th. There will, of course, be the traditional tour matches in between tests and an ODI series featuring New Zealand that will begin once the Ashes series is decided.
The England squad is in a bit of turmoil at the moment with Ben Stokes out of contention for the time being. He won’t travel with the squad for the moment but he remains an option for the England selectors who are waiting to see how this situation develops. Middlesex fast bowler Steve Finn will take his place for now, but that could change in the coming weeks, pending the selector’s final decision. It’s a terrible start for England, and the players haven’t even stepped off the plane, but hopefully, it won’t affect the other squad members.
As for Australia, they’re without fast bowler James Pattinson who has been forced to take an indefinite break from the game. The 27-year-old pulled out of a recent tour to Bangladesh after aggravating a stress fracture in his back. He’s been told to stop bowling and get back to his rehabilitation, which is unfortunate for both Pattinson and Australia. Other than that, the Australian selectors had a full panel to choose from and have gone with a squad that includes very few surprises.
BetStars currently has Australia as the favorite with 8/15 odds, but that could change considerably before the first ball is bowled in November, especially given the confidence running through the England camp (Ben Stokes investigation aside).
Having won the Test series against South Africa and the West Indies, selector James Whitaker found himself in an enviable position. Their summer success and the outstanding form of many players this season meant that Whitaker and his co-selectors could pick a squad of unrivaled quality. But will it be enough to beat Australia in their own backyard? We’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s a look at the schedule (not including tour matches).
November 23-27 – 1st Test in Brisbane (12 a.m. GMT)
December 2-6 – 2nd Test in Adelaide (4 a.m. GMT)
December 14-18 – 3rd Test in Perth (2:30 a.m. GMT)
December 26-30 – 4th Test in Melbourne (11:30 p.m. GMT)
January 4-8 – 5th Test in Sydney (11:30 p.m. GMT)
If you want to watch the Tests in the U.K., then you’ll have to tune in to BT Sport. They won the exclusive rights to show each of the five Tests live, so if you don’t have a package, then you might have to get on the phone. We can’t imagine too many clubs or pubs opening at 2:30 a.m. for the cricket, Ashes or no Ashes.
So, will England come home victorious? Can they avenge the 5-0 defeat of their last tour? Many seem to think that the series will go down to the wire, but the truth is England is a much better side this year and the selectors have done a good job picking players based on form as opposed to reputation. And with such quality in the squad, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see the whitewash of the last tour. With both teams looking strong, we could have a classic series on the cards. Who will win? It’s a tough one to call, and the truth is, it’s anyone’s series.