Edgbaston gives hosts the edge as Australia and England prepare for Ashes series opener

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England captain Joe Root and Australia skipper Tim Paine.

After a summer that has been dominated by the 2019 ICC World Cup, attention finally shifts to red-ball cricket as England and Australia prepare for the five-match Ashes series opener at Edgbaston.

Edgbaston was the venue where England thrashed Australia in the recent semi-final of the World Cup and the visitors will be determined to make amends for that loss as they start the defence of their Ashes urn.

Thursday’s Test will kick-start the 71st edition of the oldest rivalry in cricket while also simultaneously ushering in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.

Daunting task for Aussies

It will be the first time ever that England enter an Ashes series against their arch-rivals as world champions and they will be further emboldened by their formidable track record at Edgbaston.

The hosts have now won 11 matches on the bounce across all formats at the venue with their semi-final win over the Aussies in the World Cup being the latest of them. In fact, England have not been beaten in their previous eight Test appearances at Birmingham with their last defeat coming against South Africa all the way back in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Aussies have a dismal record at the venue with their last victory at Edgbaston coming in a Test in 2001. That was the last time Australia captured an Ashes series on English soil and they have sine lost nine matches and drawn one across all formats at the ground.

Starc set to miss out for Australia

While Australia skipper Tim Paine has refused to name his playing XI for the Test before the toss, it looks like Mitchell Starc will miss out.

No1 ranked Test bowler Pat Cummins is set to lead the attack while fellow pacer James Pattinson has been confirmed for the Edgbaston Test as well barring a late injury mishap.

As such, Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle are vying for the one slot among themselves. Starc was excellent in the World Cup where he finished as the highest wicket-taker for the second edition in a row but the express pacer generally takes his time to transition to red-ball cricket.

Paine has stated that Australia will continue to rotate their pacers over the course of the five-match series and Starc should feature sooner rather than later. However, it could be one of Hazlewood or Siddle who takes the third pacer’s slot on Thursday for the visitors with Nathan Lyon set to operate as the sole spinner.

Starc could miss out to Hazlewood or Siddle for the third pacer's slot.

Starc could miss out to Hazlewood or Siddle for the third pacer’s slot.

Archer’s Ashes debut on hold

Jofra Archer’s Ashes debut will have to wait with the Barbados-born pacer not included in England’s playing XI for Edgbaston. Instead, it is Chris Woakes who has been given the nod by England’s selectors with pace spearhead James Anderson deemed fit to play as well.

“Jofra is coming back from a serious injury,” Root stated on the eve of the first Test.

“We looked at the conditions and went with what we thought was best to take 20 wickets here. It always gives him the chance to get 100 per cent fit. That will be monitored throughout the week.”

Young pacer Olly Stones too will have to wait for his Ashes debut with Stuart Broad set to partner Anderson and Woakes in the pace department while Moeen Ali has been given the nod as the team’s sole spinner.

TEAMS

England XI: Jason Roy, Rory Burns, Joe Root (c), Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.

Australia likely XI: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Tim Paine, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Josh Hazlewood/Peter Siddle.

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