The Ashes 2013 series is finally upon us as England host Australia in the first Test match starting on Wednesday at Trent Bridge.
We’ll have live scores and commentary of the opener from Trent Bridge starting at 8pm AEST.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Australia last played a Test. For starters, they went winless in the Champions Trophy and crashed out early as defending champions.
Captain Michael Clarke continued to miss games because of his back-related issues – pulling out of the final Test in India, the IPL and then the Champions Trophy – before featuring in a couple of warm-up games.
Dave Warner brought a couple of fines and a suspension upon himself which eventually also led to the ousting Mickey Arthur as the coach of the side, just a few short weeks before the start of this Test match.
Since then, things have cooled off a little off the field while their performances on the field against Somerset and Worcestershire have given their fans something to smile about.
Of course it’s easy to credit the new coach Darren Lehmann for this minor turnaround but his true test will come first at Trent Bridge and subsequently over the period of the series.
Lehmann was quick to propel Shane Watson back to the top of the innings while Chris Rogers has been chosen to partner him – and although Clarke has not given up on Warner, it’s difficult to see him displace either of the two as an opener.
The Roar understands Warner may not make the squad, with Steve Smith to bat at 6.
On field, the focus has been on Australia’s batting given how poorly they batted in India. The conditions in England have been said to be dry, with a wicket short on much to offer the fast men. This puts the onus on the spinners: Ashton Agar for Australia, and Graeme Swann for the English.
Agar, the 19-year-old left arm orthodox, has sensationally been chosen after just ten first class games, with 31 wickets at 29.38.
As much as the team tries to put the onus off captain Clarke’s one-man batting displays in recent times, it could well boil down to how the skipper goes about with the bat.
Watson’s form in the lead-up has been encouraging, as is Phil Hughes’ run-making but Australia need partnerships, and centuries, and the pressure will be on them to get going. Chris Rogers will get his chance as opener.
England have made a couple of changes to a fairly stable side – necessitated by the return of Kevin Pietersen and the form of Joe Root. A Pietersen-Root swap would have been par for the course had it not been for Nick Compton’s poor form in the New Zealand series.
What that has ensured is that Root will now open the innings with captain Alastair Cook while Pietersen will slot in back to the middle-order.
It’s a solid batting line-up with batsmen who can accumulate the runs and those who can smash the ball to all parts of the ground and take the game away from the opposition. How Peter Siddle and co. adapt to these vagaries will be interesting.
All said, England start favourites with Australia needing to dig deep into their bag of goodies to spring a surprise.
Live coverage of the game begins from 8pm AEST on Wednesday and you can join me for this live blog on the first day of the Test match.