The Ashes

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The battle for the terracotta urn kicks off on the 23rd November, with England beginning their defense at the Gabba. This Ashes test will be the 65th time these sides have met, and since the first series in 1882, both Australia and England are tied with 32 series wins each. England are outsiders to retain the urn and Australia are expected to snatch back the Ashes.

Steve Smith and Joe Root, will be leading their teams out for the 2017 series, for their first Ashes in charge. Smith is arguably the leading batsman in world cricket and after registering a maiden Test century in the final test of the 2013 Ashes, the floodgates opened for Smith who has gone on to hit an incredible 20 more in the last four years, including a career best 215 at Lord's during the 2015 Ashes contest. Since Michael Clarke's retirement, Smith has been an assured leader, who has continued to score heavily in the number three position, and at 28 he may not have even reached his peak yet. Root has also taken England captaincy in his stride and the pressures of leadership have certainly not dented his heavy run scoring, making 190 at Lord's on his captaincy debut against South Africa. Root has won his first two series in charge, and was part of the winning Ashes sides in 2013 and 2015. It may turn out to become a fierce rivalry between the two captains as to who will score the most individual series runs.

This year's Ashes series will see a few players get their first Ashes debuts. Renshaw is expected to open the batting for Australia in his Ashes debut, after making a name for himself with a knock of 184 in just his fourth match. Peter Handscomb also made an instant impact on his call up to this side, hitting over fifty in each of his first seven test matches. Although breaking the international scene 6 years ago, and a late call up to the 2015 ashes team, Pat Cummins is yet to record his first Ashes test. England will also be fielding a few Ashes debutants. Mark Stoneman will stake his claim to cement the position of Alastair Cooke's opening partner. Another of England's new batting cohorts, Dawid Malan announced himself on the international stage with a blistering 78 off 44 balls in a T20 against South Africa in June - the highest score by any English debutant in that format. After drawing many comparisons, to Michael Vaughan, James Vince will be looking to make the most of the hard-Australian pitches in his first Ashes series. Mason Crane also embarks on his first Ashes tour and with a first-class bowling average of almost 43, was a surprise selection. Chris Woakes is also in, to strengthen the lower batting order.

The rest of the squads include:


David Warner - Australia's agitator-in-chief, expect plenty of fireworks when David Warner walks to the crease. Be it the inevitable verbals from a player who isn't shy in letting opponents know what he thinks of them, or hard-hitting from the T20 specialist who has matured into one of Test cricket's most destructive openers, Warner is sure to make an impact on the series. Banned for the first two Tests of the 2013 series, after punching Joe Root in a Walkabout, Warner had his revenge in the 5-0 win that winter, scoring two centuries.

Usman Khawaja - Usman Khawaja made his Test debut in the final Test of the disastrous 2010/11 Ashes series, replacing Ricky Ponting nonetheless. The 30-year-old batsman has been in and out of the side ever since, due to injury and loss of form, but with Australian batting options thin on the ground, he may be called upon again here. Four of his five Test centuries came in the space of six innings over 2015-16, and after starting the Aussie domestic season in good nick, he'll hope for a similar hot streak here if selected. 

Mitchell Starc - Just as England were tormented four years ago, by one left-arm quick called Mitchell, Mitchell Starc will hope he can repeat the trick this time around. Starc, who missed the 2013/14 series after Mitchell Johnson was favoured, became the leader of the attack on the latter's retirement, and is arguably the leading fast bowler in the world. Able to deploy much more control than his namesake, and armed with a vicious in-swinger, Starc has the ability to dismiss any batsman, no matter how well set, and will be the man Steve Smith looks to should the Aussies need a breakthrough. 

Josh Hazlewood - Not many players deserve comparisons to Glenn McGrath, but Josh Hazlewood is one of them - his unerring accuracy and ability to worry the top off-stump are certainly reminiscent of the great man in his pomp. The pair both made their debuts at 23, with the 46 innings it took Hazlewood to reach 100 Test wickets just one short of his idol's mark. The 26-year-old bowler, who made his Ashes bow during the 2015 defeat, will come into his first home series against England short of full fitness after injury in Bangladesh, though could yet play an important part in proceedings.

Nathan Lyon - Plenty of Australian spinners have tried and failed since the retirement of Shane Warne, but none have had the longevity or success of Nathan Lyon. After the likes of Bryce McGain, Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer were discarded, selectors turned to former Adelaide Oval groundsman Lyon, who took the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara with his first ball in Test cricket on debut in 2011. Since then he hasn't looked back, and his 269 wickets put him behind only Warne in the all-time list of Australian spinners. 

Cameron Bancroft - There's a lot to be said for good timing, and Cameron Bancroft's 228 not out for Western Australia on the eve of the Ashes squad announcement was exactly that. The opening batsman, who has just one international T20 cap to his name, jumped ahead of Matthew Renshaw in the queue on the back of the double century, which came just a couple of months after scoring 206 in county cricket for Gloucestershire. 

Tim Paine - Earmarked as Australia's long-term wicket-keeper when making his Test debut in 2010, Tim Paine must have thought his hopes of adding to his four caps were long gone before a shock recall ahead of this Ashes series.


Alastair Cook - Former England captain Alastair Cook has already conquered Australia once - his 766 runs on the 2010/11 tour saw him named man of the series in a 3-1 victory. Cook doesn't have many fond memories of his other two tours down under, however  both ending as 5-0 Australian whitewashes. He does have four Ashes victories to his name though, two as captain, and plenty of England's hopes will rest on their leading runscorer of all time firing at the top of the order.

Jonny Bairstow - Test stardom seemed a long time coming for Jonny Bairstow - the long-time drinks carrier has now become one of England's most dependable players. In and out of the team for a number of years as a batsman after his debut in 2012, Yorkshire wicketkeeper Bairstow had to wait patiently for his chance to claim the gloves, which he gained full-time in 2015. With more security over his position, Bairstow's batting has flourished, scoring more runs in 2016 than any Test wicketkeeper in a calendar year. His glovework has improved too, and will be a trusted lieutenant for close friend Joe Root both on the pitch, and in the dressing room.

Moeen Ali - Moeen Ali is England's jack of all trades - at one time or another he's been asked to bat in every position from 1 to 9, and has been in a variety of roles with the ball too. He currently operates as a late-order dasher and the premier spinner, and enjoyed a stellar Test summer where he was named man of the series against South Africa, after taking a hat-trick to win the final Test. 

Gary Ballance - Gary Ballance's Test career has been a curious one - while most usually find it difficult on arrival before easing into their surroundings, Ballance took to it like a duck to water, but has since struggled for form and runs. He scored four hundreds in his first 15 innings and looked set for a distinguished career - but he's yet to add another in his 27 knocks since. Ballance played the first two matches of the 2015 Ashes, but was dropped after technical flaws were exposed, and in his appearances since, hasn't looked the same player. 

Stuart Broad - Now England's second-highest Test wicket taker of all time, not many players raise their games for the Ashes more than Stuart Broad. Broad, now approaching his sixth Ashes, has played in four series victories, and has his fair share of magic moments to look back on. When on a `hot streak', he is near unplayable - Broad first announced himself with a match (and series) winning spell at the Oval in 2009, taking 5/37, including four wickets in 21 balls. There was a similar return in 2013, with six in a single spell to claim the urn in Durham, before the remarkable 8/15 with the new ball as Australia were demolished at Trent Bridge in 2015. 

James Anderson - The first Englishman to 500 Test wickets, and the undoubted leader of the bowling attack, Jimmy Anderson heads into this series on what will surely be his final tour of Australia. Now 35, and with the speed gun slightly down on his youth, Anderson is showing no sign of slowing down when it comes to wickets. He claimed 39 in seven matches this summer, and has averaged under 24 in each of the last four calendar years - a fine return for an aging player that has certainly lost none of his guile. This will be Anderson's fourth away Ashes tour and his seventh overall, in a country where he has had mixed returns having been part of both whitewashed squads in 2006/7 and 2013/14. 

Ben Foakes - Called the 'best wicketkeeper in the world' by Alec Stewart, uncapped Ben Foakes makes his first full international tour after an impressive summer for Surrey. The 24-year-old scored an unbeaten 127 against the touring South Africans in June, which was enough to secure him a spot on the plane to Australia. 

Craig Overton - Born three minutes before twin Jamie, and with both tipped to play for England, Craig may beat his brother to international honours with a first cap on this Ashes tour. The Somerset all-rounder has been a solid performer at county level, most recently helping to bail his side out of relegation trouble - his 46 wickets helped the west country side avoid the drop, and gained him a place in the Ashes touring party.