Fantasy Cricket – The Ashes

The History

The seven week long battle, for what must be the smallest trophy in sport, starts again on 23rd November in Brisbane. Australia play host to England down under for the five Test series. The contest dates all the way back to 1882, when England lost to the Australians at the Oval, and the Sporting Times printed an obituary announcing the death of English cricket. Since then the two sides have been competing about once every two years for a 15cm high terracotta urn, which is believed to contain the ashes of a burnt cricket bail.

The Rivalry

England hold the Ashes going into the forthcoming series, having won 3-2 at home in 2015. This means that they only need to draw this time around to ‘retain’ the urn, whereas the Aussies have to beat the old enemy to ‘regain’ the Ashes. However, the last time the two teams met down under in the 2013-14 series, Australia trounced ‘the Poms’ 5-0. So there’s all to play for as the teams travel around Australia, taking in Brisbane, Adelaide (for the first ever day/night Ashes Test), Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

The Teams & Players to Watch

So what of the two teams lining up for this latest contest. The batting line-ups are a concern for both sides, each having a couple of proven world-class performers alongside those looking to make their way at Test level. For Australia Steve Smith and David Warner have both scored over 5000 runs for their country at a healthy average (almost 60 in Smith’s case). While other Aussie batsmen to look out for are Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb, both of whom have made impressive starts to their Test careers.

For England, Alastair Cook could possibly end his career as the highest run-scorer ever in Test history, while captain Joe Root’s figures almost match those of his counterpart Smith. Mark Stoneman made a promising start in Test cricket in the summer, without making a big score, while the recalled pair of James Vince and Gary Ballance are looking to revive their careers.

Both sides have fairly strong bowling attacks. Australia’s pacemen include the always impressive left-armer Mitchell Starc, alongside the naggingly accurate Josh Hazelwood and the seriously fast Pat Cummins. Supporting them will be the ever reliable and often under-estimated offspinner Nathan Lyon.

England’s opening attack of James Anderson and Stuart Broad have almost 900 Test wickets between them, and are sure to figure prominently, whilst the return from injury of Chris Woakes is very welcome. Moeen Ali has established himself as England’s number 1 spinner, and his runs, along with Woakes’, will bolster the team’s lower order.

If he manages to join the tour at any stage, Ben Stokes is sure to have an impact with both bat and ball. In his absence, Jonny Bairstow will hopefully continue his recent good form in the middle order, while his wicket-keeping has improved immeasurably. And for the Aussies, look out for the self-titled ‘Big Show’, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who could have a big impact on the series.

So, pick your team, sit back and enjoy a feast of cricket, in what is always a hard fought, and potentially explosive, Test series.