Ashes 1st Test preview: can Jimmy Anderson make the difference at Edgbaston?
England take on Australia in the first match of the five-Test series
Ashes 1st Test: England vs. Australia
- When: 1-5 August 2019
- Where: Edgbaston, Birmingham
- Daily start time: 11am (BST)
- TV coverage: live on Sky Sports, highlights on Channel 5
- Radio coverage: ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
- Ashes news
The Ashes starts at Edgbaston on Thursday with Australia looking to defend the legendary little urn that they took from England in a 4-0 series thrashing in 2017-2018.
That victory was Down Under, however, and the Aussies haven’t won an Ashes series in England since 2001.
This year’s contest is being tipped as a close one, with both teams boasting strong bowling attacks but having weaknesses in their batting line-up.
Trouble at the top
England haven’t had a world-class double act opening the batting since Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook formed a formidable partnership a decade ago.
Cook went through 12 opening partners in the six years after Strauss’s retirement, and with the Essex batsman also now gone from Test cricket, England are worryingly weak at the top of the order.
Jason Roy is being asked to reproduce his one-day international (ODI) form in the Test arena, but England have been here before, giving Alex Hales 11 Tests between 2015 and 2016, only to see the white ball big-hitter average just 27.
Roy will be partnered by Rory Burns, who is undoubtedly talented, but has managed just 312 runs in 14 previous Test innings. Captain Joe Root bats at No.3 and Joe Denly is No.4.
In contrast Australia have the vastly experienced David Warner opening their innings. The 32-year-old averages 48 in his 74 Tests, and the tourists announced on Wednesday that he is fit to play at Edgbaston after recovering from a knock in training earlier in the week.
Cameron Bancroft will partner Warner in opening the batting while Usman Khawaja is at No.3.
Middle order mastery
If Australia have the edge up the order, with Steve Smith averaging 61 in 64 Tests at No.4, they aren’t as strong as their hosts in the middle of the innings.
Coach Justin Langer has picked Travis Head at No.5, Matthew Wade at six and captain Tim Paine at seven, none of whom have played in an away Ashes series
England, on the other hand, have selected the proven Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow.
Pace and power
Both sides are spoilt for choice with their bowlers. Jofra Archer misses out as he recovers from injury, so spinner Moeen Ali is joined in the bowling attack by Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson.
Australia coach Langer has left Mitchell Starc out of the first Test team, with spinner Nathan Lyon joining James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Peter Siddle in the attack.
Veteran swing bowler Siddle has taken 34 wickets this season with Essex and conditions in Birmingham are expected to suit his skills.
Anderson the key?
Nonetheless former Aussie bowling legend Glenn McGrath, whose long-standing pace record of 563 Test wickets was surpassed by Jimmy Anderson last summer, believes the English swing bowler could be the key factor in deciding the outcome of the Ashes.
“On home soil with the Dukes ball, he’s the best in the world bowling in those conditions,” said McGrath. “He is a big player and if he has a big series for England, Australia will find it tough.”
The last time England played Australia at Edgbaston, in 2015, Anderson took six wickets as the tourists were skittled for 136, setting up an English victory by eight wickets.
Ashes 1st Test teams
England XI for the first Test
Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (captain), Joe Denly, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
Australia XI for the first Test
David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (captain, wicketkeeper), James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon
Stokes ready for battle against Warner and Co
England vice-captain Ben Stokes has urged his team-mates to go on the attack “from ball one” against Australia, the Daily Express reports.
The all-rounder says England must get off to a fast start and nullify the threat of top batsman David Warner, who is in the Australia squad along with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft.
All three players were banned last year for their part in the ball-tampering scandal against South Africa, but are now ready to return to Test cricket.
Stokes said: “You can’t feel your way into any Ashes series - you have to hit the ground running. There’s no time for easing into a spell or finding your way with the bat, you have to be switched on from ball one.
“That first morning of any series is when you want to stamp your authority as a team with bat and ball. And getting off to a good start can make it flow throughout the series.
“You want to be the team on top and you want to win that first day because hopefully that can carry on into the next four days.
“Because if you go 1-0 down in a series it can be hard to come back from so you want to start very well.”
On Warner’s threat Stokes added: “Davey Warner is a player who can take games away from you. He is a phenomenal batsman and very dangerous opener so to tie him down and not let him establish his authority against us would be a really big plus for us for the rest of the series.
“We don’t want to give anything away to any of their batsmen. We want to let them know we are here to be serious and everyone in the changing room is desperately trying to get that urn back because it’s not good them having it.”