The Ashes Preview: Edgbaston the scene for anticipated opening encounter
June 15, 2023
The 2023 Ashes series kicks off Friday night (8:00pm AEST) with Pat Cummins’ Australians looking to extend their five-and-a-half-year hold of the urn when they face Ben Stokes’ England at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
These sides last faced off 18 months ago on Australian soil with Cummins’ men coming away with a dominant 4-0 victory to retain the urn.
Travis Head took home the Compton-Miller Medal thanks to series-best 357 runs whilst Cummins finished the series’ leading wicket-taker with 21.
Australia are riding a 15-game unbeaten streak against England on home soil but have not enjoyed the same success in the Northern Hemisphere.
They pulled off a gutsy 2-2 draw the last time that they made the journey to England but have not won an away Ashes series since 2001.
If this year’s showdown even remotely resembles the drama, controversy, and fire of the 2019 Ashes, the cricket world will be in for a treat.
Australia are currently the second-ranked Test team in the world with England hot on their tail at third.
The Australians are coming off a 209-run World Test Championship Final win over India at The Oval with Head earning Player of the Match honours for a 163-run, opening innings knock.
England, meanwhile, are fresh off a 10-wicket win over Ireland at Lord’s in which Ollie Pope smashed a double-ton at close to a-run-a-ball.
Australia’s XI is largely settled heading into the series opener in Birmingham with selectors facing just the one question.
Scott Boland, whose meteoric rise during the 2021-22 Ashes captured the hearts and minds of the cricketing world, helped bowl Australia to victory against India over the weekend but is no guarantee to line-up in the opening Test.
Josh Hazlewood, who has been limited to just four Test match appearances over the past two years due to injury, has been a staple of the Australian attack for several years and is aiming to win his spot back.
Australia have the option of omitting Mitchell Starc and running with a trio of right-armers, however, it is expected that it will come down to Boland vs. Hazlewood for the opening Test.
Hazlewood has taken 36 wickets in eight Tests in England at an average of 23.58.
Boland, meanwhile, has proven a revelation since earning a shock debut in the last Ashes series haven taken 33 wickets in eight total matches at 14.57.
As for England, it will be their first opportunity to face Australia since Brendon McCullum took over as head coach.
Stuart Broad will play alongside Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson after earning the nod ahead Mark Wood, who is expected to come into the attack at some stage throughout the series.
To the surprise of many, an SOS was issued to recently-retired allrounder Moeen Ali after Jack Leach was ruled out for England due to a back injury.
The 35-year-old has not played a Test match since September 2021 but comes into a squad in desperate need of a spinner.
Australia enter the Test and series as slight favourites with bookmakers forecasting Cummins and co. to become the first Australian side in 22 years to taste Ashes victory on English soil.
Possible England XI: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson, Jimmy Anderson
Possible Australia XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland