England will be without Olly Stone for at least the first half of the Test summer after he was ruled out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury.
Stone suffered the injury playing for Nottinghamshire against Lancashire on Saturday. He did not bowl again in Lancashire’s second innings but limped out to bat on the final evening as last man, facing five balls to salvage a draw for his team.
Stone underwent a scan on Tuesday evening, with the results confirming that he will be out for five to six weeks. That rules him out of the four-day Test against Ireland on June 1 and the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on June 16, and leaves him a race to prove his fitness for the remainder of the series.
Nottinghamshire have County Championship fixtures on June 11 and, more realistically, June 25 that might allow Stone an opportunity to prove his fitness for the last three Tests at Old Trafford, Headingley and the Oval. The Ashes is wrapped up by July 31.
Having been plagued by injury throughout his career, Stone, 29, has played just three Tests, the last almost two years ago, but has very much been part of England’s plan for the series. Ben Stokes has expressed his desire to have eight fit seam bowlers and is clear that his preferred attack includes the sort of pace that Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Stone provide.
Seventeen months on from their latest winless tour of Australia (it is now 12 years since they last won a Test Down Under), England will begin their quest to regain the Ashes for the first time since 2017. Ben Stokes' side have an awful lot going for them, winning 10 of their first 12 Tests under his captaincy, and also enjoy a superior record in the past five home series against their most venerable opponent, four of which were won and the last, in 2019, drawn.
As usual there will be two Tests in London, at Lord's and the Oval, and the series will start at Edgbaston, the England players' favourite ground despite the so-called home 'fortress' being breached by Australian victory in 2019. Following the template of four years ago, the other two Tests are scheduled for white rose and red, at Headingley and Old Trafford, Trent Bridge missing out again.
All five Tests are designated 'day' matches, commencing at 11am BST, and each day's play is scheduled to last until 6pm, although time can be made up to 6.30pm, if no breaks in play, to facilitate 90 overs. Lunch will be at 1pm and last for 40 minutes and tea at 3.40pm for 20 minutes.
Sky has the rights for domestic Tests and will broadcast all five matches exclusively live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event.
The BBC has secondary rights for the highlights package and, if previous series are anything to go by, will show them on BBC2 at 7pm.
The Corporation also has the radio rights for domestic Tests and will feature ball-by-ball coverage (unless you are listening on longwave during the shipping forecast) on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, Radio 4 LW and via the BBC Sounds app.
Telegraph Sport will also be bringing you live coverage of every over throughout the series.
After losing the first Ashes of the 21st century 4-1 on Steve Waugh's last tour here, England won back the Ashes in memorable style in 2005, regained them in 2009, both times by margins of 2-1, retained them 3-0 in 2013, won them back by 3-2 in 2015 and rallied to square the series 2-2 four years ago even though they were unable to prevent the holders preserving their possession of the urn.
In the 1980s and 1990s England's home Ashes series were elongated to encompass six Tests but since the conclusion of Australia's 1997 tour they have been wisely reduced to five and that remains the format this time around. There is one significant and controversial difference, however. Because of the 50-over World Cup in October, which England will begin as defending champions, and the desire of the England and Wales Cricket Board to give its Hundred competition an August showcase, the marquee Test series will take part before high summer and only the final Test will be held after the state schools break up for the long holiday.
Australia named their squad for the World Test Championship (against India at the Oval, June 7-11) and the first two Ashes Tests on April 19. As is normal for the home side, England will name a squad roughly a week before the first Test starts on June 16.
England are likely to pick from those who served them so well in Test cricket in 2022, plus a few on the fringes, namely:
Ben Stokes (captain), Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes, Ollie Robinson, Matthew Potts, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Jack Leach, Rehan Ahmed, Mark Wood and hopefully bolstered by the longed-for returns of Jofra Archer, Olly Stone, Saqib Mahmood plus possibly, at home, Chris Woakes.
Pat Cummins (captain), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vice-captain), Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
There have been merely two draws in 13 Tests in England following the Covid summer of 2020 and none in the past 10, writes Rob Bagchi. In 2015 every Test yielded a positive result and it would be fair to hazard that with good weather, England's aggressive tactics, Australia's brilliant attack, a more durable batch of Dukes balls and a home Ashes swansong for Messrs Broad and Anderson (84 and 44 Ashes wickets in England respectively, though Anderson managed only four overs in 2019), that all five Tests will end with a victor. England's excellent home record of late and their refreshing approach persuades this observer to plump for a repeat of 2015 in terms of series result but with closer matches: England 3-2 Australia.
Australian bowler Mitchell Starc has been impressed by England's recent Test transformation, admitting it "probably is not the best time to play them" since the team's rejuvenation under Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
Both captain and coach have guided England to 10 wins in 12 Tests while playing an aggressive brand of cricket.
He believes the upcoming series will be an "unbelievable" contest, given how much England's approach has changed since they were thrashed 4-0 by Australia in the 2021-22 series.
Starc's comments come after Pat Cummins, the Australia captain, hailed England's "impressive" new approach. He told Fox Sports last month: "They've really stuck to their method and are willing to live and die by that method. They've been impressive, they've found a new way to play a totally different style that gives them the best chance of winning."
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