This Ash has seen one of the bumpiest buildups in recent memories, with both teams embroiled in unwanted controversies. Where England are busy sorting out the massive racism episode, Australia were hit by the abrupt blow of Tim Paine’s sexting scandal.
Like that wasn’t enough, poor weather in Queensland means that both the teams could be underprepared and might even show a bit of rust when the first ball gets bowled tomorrow.
The general consensus is that Australia are the weaker of the two sides but home advantage hides their deficiencies and then some. They have lesser talent and also played much less Test cricket than usual in the last two seasons. When they did play a four-Test series at home this year, they were beaten by an Indian side missing many regular players.
The match and the series would also see the start of the Pat Cummins era in Australian Test cricket, with the pacer having taken over the leadership role from disgraced Paine. Keeping wickets for the home side will also be a new man in Alex Carey but the bowling attack remains largely the same, with the team having snubbed calls to pick Jhye Richardson over Mitchell Starc.
England have the opposite problem. They play a bit too much of Test cricket, their critics say. In all, they’ve played 12 Tests so far this year but their win percentage of 33.33 is on the lower side.
Their leaders will of course be Joe Root with the bat, and James Anderson and Stuart Broad with the ball. Ben Stokes is finally with the squad but has not played competitive cricket in months. His presence though gives the tourists a huge lift.
While those are the plusses, the dampener in the equation is England’s poor recent record in Australia, where they have lost nine and won just one of their last 10 Tests.
Root’s stock has been on the rise this year but in order to truly cement his legacy, this will be his litmus test. The English openers, too, will have to pull their weight because, without a push from up above, English teams don’t tend to do well in Australia.