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The Ashes 2023: England v Australia, first Test, day one – live | Ashes 2023

The Ashes 2023: England v Australia, first Test, day one – live | Ashes 2023

Preamble

Rob Smyth

Well that’s the next six weeks sorted. From WhatsApp to the watercooler, the dinner table to the dive bar, one thing is going to dominate conversation between now and 31 July, and it’s not peerages. In three hours’ time, at a roastingly hot Edgbaston, the most eagerly anticipated Ashes series since 2006-07 will begin.

That anticipation is easily explained: it’s the most exciting team in the world versus the best team in the world. Cricket could do with a classic Ashes series, given the existential crisis about the future of sport’s greatest format. But while both teams have a shared purpose to advertise Test cricket in all its abundant glory, they disagree on how it should be played in 2023.

The Ashes has always been a clash of cultures, yet England have never parked so many tanks on Australia’s lawn. They are enjoying a Bazball epiphany, playing perhaps the most attacking Test cricket in the 146-year history of the game, and have won 11 of their 13 games under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. But Australia are the new world champions and look as formidable as they have in many a year, maybe since the retirement of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in 2007. They aim show that their brand of cricket – relentlessly aggressive, just not hyper aggressive – will always be the best way, as it was when they shattered the first incarnation of Bazball at the 2015 World Cup.

There’s little doubt England can score big, fast runs against bowlers as good as Australia’s, because they did it against South Africa last year. The question is whether they can do so amid the brain-scrambling, sanity-questioning intensity of an Ashes series. But the same is true of Australia’s bowlers. In an otherwise dominant series four years ago, when they had England’s batters in a vice most of the time, a great attack lost the noggin when Ben Stokes went berserk at Headingley.

Australia would love to puncture England’s new-age serenity by inducing a few old-fashioned collapses, and see how their bohemian vibe survives being plugged by 300 runs at fortress Edgbaston. Both teams are world-class at riding the wave; the ability to respond to the choppier stuff will probably decide who wins the series.

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England have spoken about the result being secondary to the process. Yet it was abundantly clear from Stokes’ press conference yesterday that his team are determined to do something astonishing this summer: make the bucket hat fashionable.

But seriously folks. England have scored at 4.85 runs per over since Stokes became full-time captain last summer. Their overall run-rate under him (including a Test in 2020) is 4.65. The next highest of anybody who has captained more than two Tests is Steve Waugh with 3.66. Under Cummins, Australia have gone at 3.52 per over. Admirably aggressive by any measure, except Bazball.

A recurring theme of the most exciting Ashes series is aggression: sporting aggression, that is, be it paint-stripping pace bowling, extravagant wristspin or, most crucially, the once rare sight of English batters trying to hit sixes. There will be no wristspin genius this summer, on the pitch or in the commentary box, but the other ingredients are all there. It could – sod it, should – be a classic.

It’s hard to recall an Ashes series in which both teams have been so comfortable in their own skin beforehand. We know from experience that there is always plenty of bluff when England play Australia; we’re about to find out just how much.

The match starts at 11am BST (8pm AEST), with the toss at 10.30/7.30.

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Updated at 03.10 EDT

Key events

“Rob, I am surprised to find you local to Pylle and its animal shelter,” writes Dan Catton. “This email comes to you from sunny Evercreech, where the pre-Ashes excitement level is only subdued by the thought of the impassable roads that await us next week, thanks to Mr Eavis’s little gathering…”

This is my first year living close to Glastonbury during the festival. I haven’t really noticed it yet, apart from all the people wearing bucket hats on my TV.

Moeen Ali speaks

“My concern with Hazlewood is fitness,” says Robert Speed. “He hasn’t been able to get through a Test match unscathed for a while now. I would have stuck with Starc instead.”

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Yeah I can understand that, though Green (and Lyon) give you enough insurance I think. The conditions, and the potential for reverse swing, is another reason why I thought they might play Starc.

“First, let’s get one thing straight,” says Matt Dony. “The bucket hat has never not been fashionable. (Possibly the Welsh football fan in me talking…). Second, English cricket has often gone in cycles, focussed on Ashes series. What if the whole Bazball thing has actually been a fantastic ploy to confuse the Australians? Really playing the long game? What if Crawley and Ducket come out and put on an obdurate 37-0 in the morning session? Admittedly, it’s not likely, but it would mess incredibly with Australian heads.”

You do realise only two 1.5 overs will be possible in the morning session because of an unexpected storm?

What do you think of Hazlewood over Starc? I suspect England would have preferred to face Starc, simply because he is more hittable. Hazlewood’s Test economy rate is 2.71, Starc’s 3.32. It probably comes down to that.

Ian Ward’s last question to Pat Cummins is simple. “England will come at you, is that okay?” Cummins smiles broadly. “Ah, I think so. Yeah.”

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Team news: Hazlewood replaces Starc

“Tough call on Mitchy,” says Pat Cummins, “I thought he was really impressive last week. The squad mentality… it’s a good problem to have. Managing the bowlers and conditions will be important.”

England Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes (c), Bairstow (wk), Ali, Broad, Robinson, Anderson.

Australia Warner, Khawaja, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Carey (wk), Cummins (c), Lyon, Hazlewood, Boland.

England win the toss and bat

“Looks a really good cricket wicket,” says Ben Stokes. “Good toss to win, now we’ve gotta put some runs on the board.”

Pat Cummins says he would have batted as well.

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England have won the toss and choose to bat first 🏏🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

🗣️ “Now we’ve got to go and put some runs on the board!” pic.twitter.com/bbybxfJxDe

— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) June 16, 2023

Updated at 05.40 EDT

“Morning Rob,” says Dom Besley, though it’s anything but in his part of the world. “9:15pm in New Zealand and the family are in bed. I’m getting ready to pull an all-nighter. My first energy drink is open and the coffee machine is ready. When my four-year-old wakes, I’m likely to be as bouncing off the walls as he is.

“I’ve not been this excited for an Ashes since 2005. I’m really looking forward to seeing how England’s aggression fares against this Australian attack and how the plan goes if they find themselves in a spot of bother.”

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If in doubt, go even harder. I don’t know if it will work, but I’m 99.94 per cent sure England won’t change their approach.

“Mornin’ from a chilly Southern Highlands NSW,” writes Jon Greig. “Despite wishes to the contrary… Can see Eng being three down within an hour… or, Oz 90 for one at lunch. Forever optimistic. Ahem.”

Ricky Ponting on Steve Smith

Hopefully this isn’t geoblocked in Australia.

Here’s Geoff Lemon on David Warner, the great survivor who wants to land one last haymaker on England. If the pitches are generally flat, I fancy him to have a good series.

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“Regarding whether England were better than India in 2005: worth remembering that England went to India a few months later and held them to 1-1. Though that was admittedly after the 0-2 drubbing in Pakistan, so maybe England were actually behind Pakistan, not India.”

Ah but Pakistan were Pakistan: they hadn’t won a series for two years before beating India. For reference, these were the rankings at the start of the English summer: 1 Aus 2 Daylight 3 Eng 4 Ind 5 Pak.

“Morning Rob, morning everyone,” says David Clark. “The Aussies always try to pick off the English captain. Ben Stokes will know this. Presumably, he will fight fire with even more fire than usual. Is that possible?”

I’m sorry I assumed that was a rhetorical question.

“Last night I dreamed that I logged into the OBO this morning, only to discover that the Ashes had started yesterday,” says Richard O’Hagan. “Fortunately, it was displaying the close of play score as 275-4, at which point I knew that it must be a dream. Gone are the days of so few runs being scored on day one of an England Test.”

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You do realise only 34 overs were possible because of an unexpected storm?

Win the toss and bat win the toss and win the toss and bat win the toss and we’ll have a bowl

“Rob! A Very Good Morning!” writes Kim Thonger. “May I ask you, on the first day of what we all hope will be a wonderful series, to mention a good cause? We long-suffering sixtysomething cricket watchers have huge admiration for the exciting changes brought about by Bazball, but there is a downside. The constant excitement is affecting our ability to take our traditional after lunch forty winks. I therefore announce on behalf of silver snoozers everywhere a global campaign called Preserve Elderly Naptime In Sport.

“We demand that this summer, with a window of tranquility the objective, batters should observe a half hour of deliberate shouldering of arms outside off stump from 1430 to 1500 BST every match day. Straight balls must get the full forward defensive. Short balls are to be evaded, by swaying or ducking. Leg side half tosses to be disdainfully ignored.

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“I do not need to spell out the obvious acronym for this initiative. It may be short, but trips off the tongue nicely. I do hope you can provide rigorous editorial agitation so we can get the thing out and in front of the general public and make it a towering all conquering success. Cricket club members globally need the Guardian OBO writers to step up and deliver hands on active encouragement.”

This is a very longwinded way of pushing for Dom Sibley to be recalled. (And hats off to Dom, so unfairly maligned in recent years, for showing there is more than one way to skin a target of 501. In a Bazball world – and I’m not being flippant – he is now the maverick.)

It looks like Josh Hazlewood will play ahead of Mitch Starc (and Mitch Marsh)

Test Match Special overseas link

Don’t thank me, thank Simon in Luxembourg, who has sent in the link below.

“Surely 2005 was the last Ashes series involving the two best sides in the world,” says Matt Hipkiss. “Australia go without saying, but England leading into that series had won all seven tests at home the previous summer, and won away in both South Africa and the West Indies in the preceding 12 months.”

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I agree, though I suppose the argument is that – a bit like this team – they were a nose behind India. I can see both sides. Ultimately I think that if England and India played a 10-Test series, five at home and five away, India would edge it.

This entry is for England fans only

Let’s get this out of the way, shall we

Thanks for all your emails this morning. I won’t have time to read them all, but I’ll do my best. So far they all have one common theme: everyone feels like they’re 25 years old again.

“Happy Ashes morning Rob!” says Patrick Connolly. “I’m delighted you’ve got the OBO open nice and early as I need somewhere to direct my excitement this glorious morning.

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“The sheer beauty of a five-Test series is that it condenses so many dramas on so many levels into a short period of time that also happens to be a long time. It’s a short period of time relative to, say, a whole football season, but a long period of time relative to any other sporting contest in the world. Yet it has all the drama (and more) of a full sporting season, and hundreds of mini-contests within it.

“Like a soap opera we get to know the participants and see their story develop over the series and we get to watch the most joyous part of sport – momentum shifts – play out in something like slow-motion. The momentum of a spell, a session, a day, an innings, all wrapped up in the momentum of a test and the momentum of a series. And even if we have to go do something else, it’s always there in the background, from 11am-6pm, the gradual moving of the dial back and forth.

“Other series are great, but the Ashes and the five-Test format just pushes it into the sublime. (And for those of us lucky enough to get a ticket in the cheap seats for a day, we also get to stack our empty beer glasses into a giant snake construction to be passed between the congregation like a collection at mass.)

“It’s strange to think too that in the time I’ve been reading the OBO people have been born, completed their schooling and are now actual adults….

“Anyways, I’m probably a bit over-excited. Enjoy the cricket!”

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Updated at 04.56 EDT

“Morning Rob, morning all,” says Matt Turland. “Well, here we are again. But it feels different. A whole lot of different. Don’t get me wrong, I think Australia win the series 3-2. But, and maybe it’s because I’ve been brainwashed by all the “good vibes”, It almost doesn’t matter what the result is. Almost. But that’s still a long way removed from years gone by

“If England give it a go and stick to their guns, glorious failure will be accepted by me. Much more enjoyable going down swinging than some of the dross we’ve been served up in the past.”

Admirable sentiments, and I completely agree, but the mood will change quickly if they score at 5.5 an over and lose 5-0.

There were so many encouraging signs for Australia in the WTC win over India. The greatest of them all was the rhythm and form of Steve Smith (second-innings yahoos notwithstanding). There are great players on both sides, but only one of them has won an Ashes series almost single-handedly.

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Mitch Marsh marking out his run-up must be a red herring, surely. He’s a fine cricketer and all, but it would only make sense if Cam Green has picked up an injury.

“Morning Rob,” says Simon McMahon. “Come on then, prediction time. Mine? Not a bloody clue. I think anything, literally anything, could happen. Though maybe not five draws, eh? Let’s hope the Hundred Test cricket is the real winner…”

I’ve never felt less confident in predicting an Ashes series, and not only because I’m subconsciously terrified of being cancelled. Could be 4-0, 0-4 or anything inbetween. And for that expertise, you are most welcome.

Mitch Marsh to play?

To mix metaphors in a frankly egregious way, this would be a helluva funky tank to park on England’s lawn.

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Musical interlude

There’s going to be a lot of noise in the next six weeks, so let’s enjoy eight minutes of peace.

“How exciting is this?” says Pete Salmon. “Just spent the night gaming every possible first day scenario in my mind while trying to sleep, from England being 8/540 at stumps to Australia being 3/298, and everything in between. My question – when was the last Ashes series between the two best teams in the world? It wasn’t 2005 – I suspect it may have been 1974-75? Any other possibilities?”

At the risk of sounding like, well, me, I’m not sure it’s 2023. India are actually top of the ICC rankings and, though those rankings aren’t gospel, I’d still India them above England as of 9.40am on 16 June 2023. That said, I wouldn’t abuse you on the internet for having an alternative view.

I think there’s a decent case for 2005, personally, as India had just lost at home to Australia and, though much better than in the 20th century, could still be vulnerable away from home. Before that, goodness knows, probably 1974-75 as you say. It wasn’t 1989, I’ll tell you that for free.

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Updated at 04.40 EDT

“Here we go,” says Guy Hornsby. “Morning Rob, the day is here. Six weeks of uber-cricket, and whatever happens, it won’t be boring. The subtle fluctuations of form and fitness has meant while Australia have the usual suspects, we don’t have the team we hoped we would a year ago. But that’s not pessimism (no more than any 90s England fan) it’s just a slight readjustment of the Stokes protagonists, but the ethos won’t change. And that’s the big hope for us. Because we all know that other way didn’t work. But mainly, we can stop talking about two winters ago. I wonder if Rory Burns will be watching? Come on England!”

Poor Rory Burns, to be forever remembered for one ball rather than a pretty strong series in 2019.

Ben Stokes was almost comically laid-back at his press conference yesterday. If he’s bluffing, a career in poker awaits because he is seriously good at it.

Mark Ramprakash’s column

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What to do at the toss?

“If England win the toss, they’ll bat, right?” says Francis Barton. “Dry, hot, good pitch, possible cloud on Sunday, possible fourth-innings turn. You’ve got to bat… right? But Stokes loves to chase. Cummins would definitely bat first. What do you think? Ridiculously excited about this series.”

All logic says bat first, so I fully expect Ben Stokes to … bat, actually, as he went away from chasing over the winter and it would feel damagingly ostentatious to bowl first on a dry, flat pitch – especially given what Nathan Lyon did on the final day at Edgbaston in 2019. But I don’t say this with complete confidence.

Many of us fancy Ollie Robinson to be England’s leading wickettaker in this series. He’s also an endearingly straight talker, and this chat with Don McRae – the best sports interviewer in the business IMO – is particularly good.

It’s the first day of the Ashes and here is another run for an interview I did last week with Ollie Robinson. Amid an early death and a public shaming he made mistakes and suffered dark days but his desire to improve as a person and cricketer is heartfelt https://t.co/5GYXnFkQBZ

— Donald McRae (@donaldgmcrae) June 16, 2023

Bazball by numbers

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Trust me, this is one euphoric statgasm after another.

“Morning Rob,” writes Jim Wallace, who I’m very glad to say will be covering the second half of the day. “On the rattler to Brum. (John Snow Hill station.) Will send over a few ‘vibes’ (urgh) from the ground. I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna be good.”

At my age you don’t get too many Friday feelings, but I’d happily experience this once a week. Also, good idea to get the train after 7am so that you could pop into M&S.

Early team news

England named their XI on Wednesday, as is their wont, with Stuart Broad preferred to Mark Wood. Australia also have a choice between scalpel and sledgehammer: Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc. The remarkable Scott Boland is no longer in that particular conversation.

England Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes (c), Bairstow (wk), Ali, Broad, Robinson, Anderson.

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Australia Warner, Khawaja, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Carey (wk), Starc/Hazlewood*, Cummins (c), Lyon, Boland.

* Hazlewood will bat below Cummins and Lyon if he plays.

It’ll be interesting to see who takes the new ball for England. It’s usually James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, but one of the reasons Stuart Broad has been picked is to take care of David Warner. I suspect Robinson will revert to first-change, with England hoping he can crack the Labuschagne/Smith code.

Updated at 04.14 EDT

There’s plenty to do before flip gets real – just over two hours to go – so for now I’ll leave you with Ali Martin’s series preview.

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Updated at 03.51 EDT

It’s the Ashes!

Classic Ashes scenes as disbelieving man discovers you can’t buy 12 cans of Stella at Euston M&S self scan because “it’s not yet 7am sir”

— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) June 16, 2023

And a tip of the hat to this tinder-dry response.

Hope you find a shop later

— Ed Cumming (@edcumming) June 16, 2023

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Usually in this thing, only one team has to win the series. A draw will be enough for Australia to retain the urn they have held since December 2017, but they are aiming higher than that. They are desperate to cement their legacy by becoming the first Australian side to win a series in England since 2001.

Fantasy Ashes!

The folks below the line on our County Cricket blog have set up a fantasy league if you want to get involved. I’ve picked my team, with Moeen Ali ahead of Ben Stokes. It’s a budget thing, I’m not an idiot. I am an idiot, but it’s still a budget thing.

The CricketXI link is here and the code is YOZYDMWJ.

Preamble

Rob Smyth

Rob Smyth

Well that’s the next six weeks sorted. From WhatsApp to the watercooler, the dinner table to the dive bar, one thing is going to dominate conversation between now and 31 July, and it’s not peerages. In three hours’ time, at a roastingly hot Edgbaston, the most eagerly anticipated Ashes series since 2006-07 will begin.

That anticipation is easily explained: it’s the most exciting team in the world versus the best team in the world. Cricket could do with a classic Ashes series, given the existential crisis about the future of sport’s greatest format. But while both teams have a shared purpose to advertise Test cricket in all its abundant glory, they disagree on how it should be played in 2023.

The Ashes has always been a clash of cultures, yet England have never parked so many tanks on Australia’s lawn. They are enjoying a Bazball epiphany, playing perhaps the most attacking Test cricket in the 146-year history of the game, and have won 11 of their 13 games under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. But Australia are the new world champions and look as formidable as they have in many a year, maybe since the retirement of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in 2007. They aim show that their brand of cricket – relentlessly aggressive, just not hyper aggressive – will always be the best way, as it was when they shattered the first incarnation of Bazball at the 2015 World Cup.

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There’s little doubt England can score big, fast runs against bowlers as good as Australia’s, because they did it against South Africa last year. The question is whether they can do so amid the brain-scrambling, sanity-questioning intensity of an Ashes series. But the same is true of Australia’s bowlers. In an otherwise dominant series four years ago, when they had England’s batters in a vice most of the time, a great attack lost the noggin when Ben Stokes went berserk at Headingley.

Australia would love to puncture England’s new-age serenity by inducing a few old-fashioned collapses, and see how their bohemian vibe survives being plugged by 300 runs at fortress Edgbaston. Both teams are world-class at riding the wave; the ability to respond to the choppier stuff will probably decide who wins the series.

England have spoken about the result being secondary to the process. Yet it was abundantly clear from Stokes’ press conference yesterday that his team are determined to do something astonishing this summer: make the bucket hat fashionable.

But seriously folks. England have scored at 4.85 runs per over since Stokes became full-time captain last summer. Their overall run-rate under him (including a Test in 2020) is 4.65. The next highest of anybody who has captained more than two Tests is Steve Waugh with 3.66. Under Cummins, Australia have gone at 3.52 per over. Admirably aggressive by any measure, except Bazball.

A recurring theme of the most exciting Ashes series is aggression: sporting aggression, that is, be it paint-stripping pace bowling, extravagant wristspin or, most crucially, the once rare sight of English batters trying to hit sixes. There will be no wristspin genius this summer, on the pitch or in the commentary box, but the other ingredients are all there. It could – sod it, should – be a classic.

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It’s hard to recall an Ashes series in which both teams have been so comfortable in their own skin beforehand. We know from experience that there is always plenty of bluff when England play Australia; we’re about to find out just how much.

The match starts at 11am BST (8pm AEST), with the toss at 10.30/7.30.

Updated at 03.10 EDT


Rob Smyth (now) and James Wallace (later)

Published: 2023-06-16 10:24:50

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