Ashes 2021–22: The return of sports’ greatest rivalry
The series gets underway on tonight, but it came so close to not happening at all just a matter of weeks ago…
It’s freezing cold outside, it’s been dark for what feels like 90 per cent of the day and your mind is still frazzled by the bombardment it has received from the TV and internet about how the countdown to Christmas is on, but the countdown you’ve been focusing on is almost at an end.
This is because in just a matter of hours, when the clock strikes midnight, the first ball of the 2021–22 Ashes series will be bowled.
This is a day which is one of the most highly anticipated days in the international cricket calendar, and you might be hard pressed to find an Ashes series which has had less controversy in the build up.
Taking the controversy over former Australian captain Tim Paine out of the equation, this was a series which was always going to get people excited.
Whether or not the series would even go ahead given the lockdown restrictions in Australia was a question that was only firmly answered in October. Once the green light was given, however, the countdown began.
The England squad tasked to bring the Ashes back from Down Under is arguably the strongest possible given the players who are available.
The pace of Jofra Archer will be a miss in our bowling line-up, but we have the options there to suggest we won’t just need to be relying on the old guard of Broad and Anderson.
Ollie Robinson has enjoyed a strong start to his test career and will no doubt relish the opportunity to get stuck into what looks to be a pretty talented Australian top order.
Australia: Pat Cummins (capt), Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Steve Smith, David Warner
England: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
The tantalizing prospect of the number one bowler in the world (Pat Cummins) facing up to the top test match batter (Joe Root) is enough to whet even the driest of appetites; having them face off as captains is just that bit more special.
The Australian squad is a blend of old hands and new blood. The call up of Alex Carey behind the stumps as Tim Paine’s replacement was one thrust upon selectors, but the top order, with Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner all likely to play, will be faces familiar to England players and fans alike.
The experience of watching an Ashes test in Australia is always one of the dates of any cricket fan’s diary.
From an English perspective, getting up/ staying up late to catch live coverage can be a challenge in itself; actually watching England play red ball cricket in Australia in the last decade has been a whole other test…
Sports’ greatest rivalry is about to get underway once again, and we have all seen the reruns of Ashes heroes from yesteryear from Bradman to Shane Warne and Ian Botham to Ben Stokes.
Yet once the players take to the field in Brisbane on Thursday, none of this will matter. It will be down to the 22 players in the two line-ups to make sure there are new heroes in the 2021–22 installment of the Ashes.