The Ashes 2021/22 Preview
Well, it’s back. The cricket series that grips two nations will return on December 8th 2021. And boy, are we more than ready for it. With five Ashes Tests between England and Australia to enjoy, loyalties could be divided for any Aussie or Brit living abroad when the first ball is bowled.
The Ashes is a sacred Test match cricket series that takes place on either English or Australian soil every two years. Five Test matches are played at different stadiums across country hosting the series. The side that wins the most Test matches either retains or collects the Ashes trophy, depending on the previous result two years ago. If the series remains a draw, then the country that currently holds the Ashes will keep the trophy.
The Ashes is the name of the tiny, prized urn that contains, well, ashes. The first England vs. Australia Ashes series took place from 1882 to 1833 in Australia, in which England won. The story is that Australia gave England a small terracotta urn (10.5cm tall) containing the ashes of a burnt bail taken from the wickets used in the series. The real urn is kept behind glass at the Lord’s cricket ground in London, although players are given a replica trophy to hold up after the series is over and the winner decided.
In total there have been 71 Ashes series, in which Australia won 33, England 32, and just six drawn matches. With such a close win total between the two nations, it’s England’s best chance to at least level the series. England has not brought the Ashes home since 2015, when captain Alistair Cook defeated the Aussies in a thrilling 3-2 series.
England vs. Australia
England remains confident in the squad being sent to Australia, although the side will certainly need more than self-assurance when it comes to winning the Ashes in 2021/22 on Aussie grounds. England has won 56 out of 167 Test matches played Down Under, making that a 33.5% win percentage. Australia has won 86 Test matches on home soil with a win percentage of 51.5%.
England’s captain, Joe Root, is not just an inspiring leader but also genuinely one of the best batsmen in the world right now. Root currently has a solid Test batting average of 50.15 and 9,278 total Test runs, and moreover, is looking great to lead one of the better English sides we’ve seen in a while.
Root is actually excited for the Aussie crowds in Brisbane to provide a challenging experience. “It’s an opportunity for us to get really tight and stand up to that,” said Root. “We’ll just embrace it, enjoy the atmosphere and try to thrive off that sort of arena as much as we can.”
England has got to feel great that all-rounder Ben Stokes has been confirmed to join the squad. There was a slight worry that Stokes wouldn’t join England due to a finger injury he sustained when playing in the Indian Premier League in April.
Stokes took a four-month break from cricket, where he also confessed doubts about playing again due to mental health concerns. Thankfully, Stokes says he’s feeling better than ever and is excited to take on Australia. English fans can’t help but recall Stokes’ brilliant 135 not out and last-second heroics to single-handedly win the third Test and eventually draw the series in 2019. Stokes’ total of 441 runs was second only to Australia’s Steve Smith with 774.
England won’t be looking forward to the moment when Australia’s star batsmen come to the crease, as Smith, David Warner, and Marnus Labuschagne are typically a tough challenge when playing at home and certainly appear in form. Still, England’s bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad are always trustworthy to bring the pace and make life difficult for batters. While both are towards the end of their career and might have lost a bit of firepower, that experience is desperately what England needs to grab the first Test win.
What might prove most interesting is Chris Woakes’ swing attack and spin bowlers Jack Leach and Dom Bess to provide some much-needed variety to keep Australia on their toes.
Meanwhile… there’s also controversy in the Australian side that has overshadowed the upcoming series. Captain Tim Paine has stepped down from the role and will not even remain in the squad as wicketkeeper for the Ashes series or the foreseeable future. Paine was involved in a messaging scandal, in which he sent sexual texts to a female colleague back in 2017.
This isn’t the first time an Aussie cricket captain has been involved in a scandal, as former skipper Steve Smith was ousted as part of a ball-tampering plot in 2018 against South Africa. The idea was to “rough up” one side of the cricket ball to help achieve better swing when bowled.
Once the incident was discovered, Smith was removed of his captaincy and banned from all cricket matches for one year. Surprisingly, Smith is now vice-captain of the Australian Test squad, while bowler Pat Cummins will lead the team as captain for the first time. Alex Carey will be the new wicketkeeper for Australia.
The addition of Australian batter Usman Khawaja raised a few eyebrows, especially as he hasn’t played any Test match cricket since August 2019. Still, if he’s good enough to get on the squad then his form indicates he’s nowhere near rusty. First-time bowlers such as Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Swepson and Michael Neser are all making their Test debuts, so English fans will definitely hope the rookies will feel the pressure of England vs. Australia and perform a few errors.
England squad: Joe Root, 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.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins, 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, Alex Carey
When and where is the first Ashes Test?
There is a small amount of concern that the first Ashes Test in Brisbane could actually be washed out. Storms in the area have already disrupted both teams’ practice sessions, and it is feared that scattered thunderstorms could stick around for the first few days of the Test match. Unlike most sports, cricket games are immediately halted or called off if heavy rains arrive, as the pitch needs to be dry for players to bat and bowl. Still, weather is often unpredictable, so as it stands now, the first Test is still scheduled to go ahead.
If the weather turns out to be nothing but blue skies and sunshine, then the team who wins the coin toss should look to bowl first to make use of the conditions. The swing at the Gabba pitch in Brisbane offers a lot of fantastic opportunities for fast bowlers. In particular, Anderson and Broad will be very comfortable here, as will Australia’s always-dangerous Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Any side with a brand new ball and dry settings could potentially rip through the starting batsmen early on and make things tough for those lower in the batting order.
If Australia can win the toss and bowl, then things look very likely for a first Test win for the home side. England will certainly have a chance if the toss goes their way, but it will still be hard to imagine Australia losing the Gabba Test on home soil. The later matches could certainly benefit an English side getting used to Aussie conditions, but we think Australia grabs the first match… that’s if the weather allows the players to get on the ground at all.
First Test: 8th-12th December – Gabba, Brisbane (00:00 GMT)
Second Test: 16th-20th December – Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (d/n – 04:00 GMT)
Third Test: 26th-30th December – MCG, Melbourne (23:30 GMT, 25 December)
Fourth Test: 5th-9th January – SCG, Sydney (23:30 GMT, 4 January)
Fifth Test: 14th-18th January – Unknown (02:30 GMT) Recent news has emerged that Perth will not be hosting the fifth Test due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state of Western Australia. A new venue is yet to be announced at the time of writing.
How to watch the Ashes on TV in the UK
Fans wanting to watch cricket on TV should be aware that the Ashes will be exclusively aired live on BT Sport in the UK for the entire series.
If you already own BT Broadband, then you’ll be happy to know that you can add BT TV and Sport to your current contract from £15 per month to watch the Ashes in 2021 and 2022. You can also check out the Ashes on TV with a BT Sport monthly pass without the need of joining up to a contract. Subscribers can also stream the Test matches through the BT Sport website or even the BT sport app on laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
Author: Joe Garland