Australia will be aiming to capitalize on England’s woes to reclaim the Ashes on home soil this winter.
The Three Lions could be without key man Ben Stokes following his arrest, with the ECB suspending the all-rounder until the police complete their investigation into allegations of actual bodily harm.
Although England defeated South Africa and the West Indies during the summer, Joe Root’s men still have huge concerns over their batting line-up.
On home soil, the Baggy Greens will be more than confident of exposing England’s weaknesses to win back the urn that was lost in the 2015 series. Steve Smith’s men have a strong record at home and are well worth considering a bet with Sky Bet at odds of -175 with a $5 punt earning up to $20 in free bets.
Australia first must complete a series of T20 matches against India before returning home, while England have a break of six weeks ahead of the Ashes.
The home side look a strong unit, but we’ll now investigate to see whether they can reclaim the urn in the five-match series.
Duo Hold The Key
Australia share similar traits in their batting unit with England. Unfortunately for the two sides, their success is very much dependent on the fortunes of their two world-class players.
David Warner and Smith will carry the expectations of a nation on their shoulders in the series, while Alastair Cook and Root are faced with a similar prospect during the winter.
Warner comes into the series off the back of an excellent series in Bangladesh. The Aussies have had their issues on turning tracks in recent seasons.
The 30-year-old himself had more problems than others, averaging 27.16 in his side’s series defeat to Sri Lanka and 24.12 in their loss to India earlier this year.
However, he scored two centuries in the two matches against Bangladesh, with his hundred in the second Test proving to be crucial in guiding his side to victory and earning a draw in the series.
Warner scored two hundreds and two fifties in Australia’s whitewash win, averaging 58.11 in the series.
His punishing knocks both came in the second innings to put England’s weary bowlers to the sword. The Baggy Greens will be hopeful that he can fire from the off at the top of the innings to ensure that his team get off to a rapid start in the series.
Smith is arguably the best batsman playing the game at the moment, although Root, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will challenge that debate.
He will come into the Ashes off of a rare down series against Bangladesh, scoring just one fifty in his four innings. However, the 28-year-old did score three centuries against India on tour earlier this year in a losing effort for his team.
Smith’s record against England is slightly inferior to his average over the course of his career. The Australian nation will be looking for him to amend that statistic in the five matches over the series.
Outside of Smith and Warner, there could be issues for the Baggy Greens. Matthew Renshaw has had his moments opening alongside Warner, but averages only 36.64 in his ten matches. The 21-year-old had a bright start to his career, including an outstanding knock of 184 against Pakistan.
Renshaw notched a couple of half-centuries in the tour of India, but since then has gone nine innings without scoring a fifty.
As a result, there will be pressure on the opener to succeed early in the series against the Three Lions and the quality posed by James Anderson and Stuart Broad with the new ball.
It will not be straightforward for Renshaw to fire as England’s two wily bowlers will be aiming to capitalize on his inexperience. If he is able to stand up to the pressure and score runs with regularity, that will be a huge bonus for the Baggy Greens.
Usman Khawaja has been up and down in his series. The 30-year-old’s form in Australia and on tour has been in stark contrast. He has been outstanding against New Zealand, the West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan.
Khawaja averaged 52.33 against the Proteas on home soil, scoring one century and two fifties. South Africa’s attack boasts a similar quality to that of the Three Lions and that should give the batsman confidence that he can make runs against Anderson, Broad and company.
The 30-year-old has struggled in his limited outings against England, therefore he will need to rise to the occasion to support Smith and Warner in his side’s attempt to win back the Ashes.
Peter Handscomb has had the most success out of the players outside of Smith and Warner. He has scored two centuries and four fifties in his 19 innings, attaining an average over 50.
One area of concern will be his form in the County Championship for Yorkshire during the English summer. The 26-year-old scored just one century in 14 innings and averaged 33.92.
If his struggles are down to facing the style of bowlers found in England then his issues will be exposed during the series.
Matthew Wade has edged ahead of Peter Nevill to fill the wicket-keeping spot. However, his performances with the bat are worrying ahead of the series, failing to break double figures against Bangladesh.
England bat deep even without Stokes and runs made in the lower order could well be the difference in the battle for the urn.
The Aussies have been dealt a blow even before the start of the series as James Pattinson has been ruled out. The 27-year-old had not played a Test match in 2017, but had come into consideration due to his impressive form in the County Championship for Nottinghamshire.
Pattinson took 32 wickets at an average of 12.06 in his five matches over the summer. Due to his pace, he could have caused the Three Lions problems at the top of the innings, but the bowler will now miss out on the series with a back injury.
Mitchell Starc will spearhead Australia’s pace attack, aiming to emulate Mitchell Johnson’s performance in the 2013/14 series. Johnson took 37 wickets in the five matches, tearing England’s batting line-up apart at a staggering average of 13.97.
The left-arm quick was the driving force behind the Aussies’ success, with the pace of his deliveries providing intimidation to the Three Lions throughout the series. Ryan Harris was equally a potent threat, notching 22 strikes at 19.31, offering a foil to Johnson at the top of the innings.
Starc missed the tour of Bangladesh due to injury, but should be back to full fitness for the start of the tour. At his best, the 27-year-old can be equally as devastating as Johnson, sharing similar traits with his predecessor. However, his record against England is not the best and his foot injury will give the Baggy Greens ample concerns whether he can hold up over the entire series.
That will put the pressure on Josh Hazlewood to fire. The seamer has not had the same injury issues, but lacks the pace that will be needed to open up the England batting unit. The 26-year-old had an impressive two series against Pakistan and South Africa last season, but will have to raise the level of his performances with uncertainties elsewhere in the squad.
Nathan Lyon has established himself as one of the leading spinners in world cricket and his brilliant performances in the sub-continent have locked up his place in the line-up.
The only questions that remains is the other spot for a fast bowler. Due to Pattinson’s injury, Pat Cummins has the inside track, but he has only played five Test matches. He has taken 21 wickets in that period at a great average of 25.38, but the 24-year-old has also had concerns over his durability.
Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird are on hand if injuries strike, but neither have the explosive pace of Starc and Cummins. The Baggy Greens’ success could hinge on their ability to keep their key men fit over the course of the series.