England have named their squad for the Ashes after the tour was agreed between the ECB and Cricket Australia, although the venues for the five-match Test series are yet to be confirmed. Joe Root will lead the Three Lions in their bid to win Down Under for the first time since the 2010/11 series.
Since winning the final Test in 2011 in Sydney, England have lost nine out of the 10 matches played, suffering a 5-0 whitewash in 2013/14 and a 4-0 hammering in the 2017/18 series. England are once again missing a raft of key players for the Ashes, including Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. As a result, Australia are overwhelming favourites in the cricket betting odds at 1.25 to retain the urn on home soil.
Although Australia have not been in great form in Test matches of late, which included losing to an under-strength India at the start of 2021, the Aussies have managed to up their game against their biggest rivals. Steve Smith more than most relishes the prospect of facing England, averaging an incredible 65.11 against the Three Lions, scoring 11 centuries and nine fifties in 27 matches. Even the brilliance of James Anderson and Stuart Broad has not been enough to stymie the 32-year-old, and he will be the essential cog in the Baggy Greens’ push for the urn.
Archer did manage to rough up Smith during the last Ashes series in England, but the Three Lions will be without the paceman, along with Olly Stone, leaving their options light on express bowling behind Mark Wood. Ollie Robinson may give the Three Lions hope after his excellent start to his Test career, which has seen him earning comparisons to Josh Hazlewood. The Australian has been outstanding in his home conditions, despite lacking the extra pace of his team-mates Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. If Robinson can produce the same level of accuracy and bounce, England might be able to conjure problems in the Australian batting line-up.
Unfortunately for England, they are taking arguably their weakest batting line-up in a generation Down Under. Root has held the unit together singlehanded in 2021, scoring an incredible amount of runs, including six centuries. Not even he could prevent a 2-1 loss to India in the English summer as the England captain lacked support from the rest of the ranks. Rory Burns has had his moments against Australia, along with Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow, but the answers must come from the fledgling players in the side, such as Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence, to ease the pressure on their captain.
The absence of Stokes hits England particularly hard in this aspect as he continues to take an extended leave due to health issues. Stokes was sensational in 2019 and was responsible for one of the greatest innings of all time in England’s triumph at Headingley. Without him, England lack their talisman and all-rounder, who provides brilliance and balance to the side. Unless he returns in time for the series, England are staring down the barrel of another heavy defeat.