World champions England enter the first Ashes Test having been given a scare by Ireland last week on their return to red-ball cricket. However, the return of a few key men could give the home side the edge against an Australia side who haven’t enjoyed recent trips to Edgbaston.
Lord’s might be known as ‘the home of cricket’ but this England team look far more comfortable at Edgbaston, winning six and drawing two of their last eight Test matches in Birmingham.
They have only lost one of the last five Tests against Australia, who saw their Cricket World Cup dreams dashed by England at this venue in July.
That offers a bit of comfort to those England fans who watched last week’s Test against Ireland through their fingers, Root’s men having been embarrassed one day one as they were dismissed for 85 in the first innings before recovering to record a 143-run win.
It was hardly the morale-boosting showing the England batsmen were looking for after a tricky winter, failing to fire in the series loss to the West Indies having struggled against Sri Lanka previously. However, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler return to the line-up having sat out the Ireland game to add a bit of steal lower down the order, while Root moves up to three in the hope of preventing another top order collapse.
As for the attack, Jofra Archer will hope to replicate his Cricket World Cup success on his Test debut, while James Anderson is expected to be fit after a calf injury.
Archer took 2-32 in the Cricket World Cup semi-final against Australia but it was Chris Woakes who played a decisive role on that day with his 3-20 on his home track. Having taken six wickets in Ireland, the Warwickshire all-rounder will surely get the nod as the third seamer and offers value to deliver more wickets.
England should have enough firepower to knock over an Australia side that struggled to score runs the last time the Ashes was contested in the northern hemisphere. The tourists are very reliant on Steve Smith and David Warner, but they could be helped out by the returning Cameron Bancroft, who has spent the summer with Durham and scored 93 in Australia’s warm-up match.
Warner enters the Ashes off the back of an outstanding World Cup, scoring 647 runs with Rohit Sharma beating him by one run to take the top batsman prize. Warner also carded the highest individual score of the tournament and his wicket will be key to England’s chances of victory.
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