Ashes 2019: James Anderson vs Steve Smith and other key battles that could shape the series

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James Anderson and Steve Smith.

The oldest cricket rivalry in the world is set to be renewed as arch-rivals England and Australia prepare to lock horns in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

Coming in the backdrop of England’s maiden World Cup triumph, the series is set to bring the focus back to red-ball cricket and marks the beginning of the inaugural World Test Championship.

With two evenly stacked teams on show, the Ashes 2019 promises to be a thriller and the result could come down to the finest of margins.

Here, we look at three key individual battles that could have a large bearing on the fate of the Edgbaston Test.

Roy v Pattinson

It will be only the second Test appearance for Jason Roy with the England opener finally being given the vote of confidence for a red-ball international career. His debut Test knock against Ireland ended on just five but the right-hander was able to make amends in the second innings with a counter-attacking 72.

However, it will be a whole different ball game for Roy against a formidable Aussie pace attack which includes a certain James Pattinson. The fellow 29-year-old has played just 17 Tests for Australia in an international career which started in 2011 after suffering horrible luck with a spat of injuries.

Back in the squad after more than three years out with injury, Pattinson has left Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle behind in the pecking order and is set to partner Pat Cummins with the new-ball.

Pattinson’s talent has never been in question and he can be a monster of a pacer when fully fit. He is bound to give Roy a tough examination at Lord’s and could give the visitors the upper hand with early inroads.

Pattinson will be big test for England's openers.

Pattinson will be big test for England’s openers.

Root v Cummins

With England’s top-order woes refusing to die down any time soon, the important of Joe Root to the side has only increased drastically and the skipper is now set to promote himself to No3 in the order.

It is very likely that Root will find himself early at the crease and the right-hander will have to navigate the threat posed by Australia’s pace spearhead Pat Cummins.

While Root has been one of the top Test batsmen for many years, Cummins has scripted a remarkable comeback since getting over his injuries. The Aussie enters the series as the No1 ranked Test bowler in the world and he will have fond memories of the last time he faced England in the Ashes.

In the 2017-18 series Down Under, Cummins finished as the leading wicket-taker with his 23 scalps leading the hosts’ charge to a 4-0 triumph. His battle against Root could be the most vital one of the upcoming series and whoever comes out on top could hand their respective side a massive advantage.

Cummins gave Root a tough time in Ashes 2017-18.

Cummins gave Root a tough time in Ashes 2017-18.

Anderson v Smith

While Cummins is the No1 ranked bowler, it is England veteran James Anderson who will command the most respect among bowlers from both sides and for good reason.

Having just turned 37 on Tuesday, Anderson is just one spot behind Cummins in the rankings and he has already cemented his legacy as an all-time great after overtaking Glenn McGrath as the leading Test wicket-taker among fast bowlers.

There is no sight as menacing for batsmen than to see Anderson steaming in under overcast English conditions with a Duke ball in hand and the veteran holds the key to England’s hopes with the ball.

While it was Anderson’s battle with Virat Kohli that enthralled spectators in the English summer of last year, it will be the seamer’s tussle with Steve Smith which could be the box-office draw of this series.

Making his Test return after serving his ball-tampering suspension, Smith will be Australia’s linchpin with the bat and dismissing him early will be crucial for the hosts. That won’t be easy, however, with England being the right-hander’s favourite opposition in Test cricket.

With eight Ashes tons and a batting average of more than 56 previously against England, Smith will be keen to establish his credentials as the No1 Test batsman in the world once again.

Smith vs Anderson could be the summer's box-office duel.

Smith vs Anderson could be the summer’s box-office duel.

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