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The Ashes 2017 / 2018

By Kevin Cain

Once again the oldest and most competitive cricket series in the world is about to take place, as arch sporting rivals England and Australia come head to head in five test match thrillers.

This 2017 / 18 series will be played in Australia at five different grounds between the 23rd November and the 8th of January. This upcoming Ashes series is eagerly anticipated as it could be the closest fought series in a long time. Both teams have been struggling recently

to find their form, and Australia’s Test Squad is only ranked 5th in the ICC’s rankings, with England two places above them in third.

 

The Schedule

1st Test - 23rd - 27th November 2017 @ The Gabba, Brisbane

2nd Test - 2nd - 6th December 2017 @ Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

3rd Test - 14th - 18th December 2017 @ WACA Ground, Perth

4th Test - 26th - 30th December 2017 @ MCC, Melbourne

5th Test - 4th - 8th January 2018 @ Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

 

The series will broadcast live in Australia by Nine Network and by the BBC in the UK.

Although the Australia squad for the series has not been announced, England’s squad has and will again be captained by Joe Root. The big news is the controversy surrounding Ben Stokes, the feisty all-rounder who is presently dropped from the England squad. Stoke’s cricket world was bowled over, when video footage surfaced of him in an ugly street brawl hitting a poor bloke for six. And his eligibility for this summer’s Ashes series has gone up to the fourth umpire for referral. However, after the incident in the ensuing days, it transpired that Stokes and his team mate Alex Hales were actually coming to the aid of two gay men from homophobic thugs.

Whether the true story of the event can save Stokes’ cricket career is in doubt, but notwithstanding it might be all too late for him to play in this upcoming Ashes Series. At the moment the two players are suspended indefinitely by England, and many debates for and against will wrangle on in the midnight hours at Lords over their predicament.

There has always been a very healthy social side to playing cricket, and those who watch and follow the game know that in the pavilion at the conclusion of the day, all the best and controversial moments of the day’s play are relived over a drink or two. This goes for both the players and spectators, but following the Stokes incident there have been ideas mooted that perhaps the England players should refrain from drinking between matches. England coach has stated that there are no curfews as such, but sensible rulings have been bought in. Team captain Joe Root has denied that there is a drinking culture in the England team and stated that they are preparing well for the series.

As for the Australian squad there is less controversy, being the home team the Australian selectors have the luxury of not having to name a squad yet, and so far are keeping their cards fairly close to their chests. Traditionally the Australian National Selection Panel tend to name their squads on a test by test basis during the Ashes Series. However, it is fairly easy to pick what will most likely be the core of the team. Captain Steve Smith will probably push for an opening partnership of David Warner and Matt Renshaw, with Usman Khawaja staying at number three. And it is Smith and Peter Hanscombe that will play at 4 and 5 respectively.

Two areas for debate are who will be the all-rounder and the wicket-keeper, although Glenn Maxwell is in the box seat for the all-rounder position, the selectors may opt between, Mitchell Marsh, Hilton Cartwright or even Moises Henriques. Matthew Wade could lose out to Peter Nevill behind the stumps.The bowling attack also has some question marks hanging over it, and the Australian selectors might choose a wholly pace attack featuring Patrick Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and James Patterson. If they decide to go with Nathan Lyon for a spinning option then one of the four would have to drop out.

England have already named their squad and there are six positions in the starting eleven firmly nailed down. Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and James Anderson, there is debate over the other five places. The smart pundits and journalists seem to have put forward Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Jos Butler, Chris Woakes and the final selection undecided.England go down under trying to retain the coveted Ashes Urn, but the Australian’s hate losing, especially on their own turf. A peculiar fact has followed the Ashes despite all the meticulous preparation by both teams. In each of the last seven first Ashes Tests, the team who called the toss correctly either won or drew that test and on every occasion they went on to win the whole series.

One big factor of Stokes not playing is that not only will England miss his bowling and batting but the whole balance of the side will be affected. It is also of vital importance that England do not let David Warner settle, Warner is the key for setting a good platform for Australia and is definitely the most prized wicket, he is also the 7/4 favourite to be Australia’s top run scorer in the Series.Looking at who the bookies feel will win the Ashes Series, it is more or less slam dunk for Australia, they are the firm favourites by any stretch of the imagination. However, the South African captain Faf du Plessis firmly believes that England can win the coveted Series. Du Plessis recently faced both teams and truly believes it will all depend on the battle of the fast bowlers. The wickets will be key also, Australia favour flat, bouncy wickets but if England can get the ball to seam, swing and possibly spin then England could do it.

Putting my own neck on the chopping block, I think that Stokes will be missed more than a lot of England supporters think. And with Australia having home advantage I conclude that England have just too much to do.