It has been two and a bit years since we last saw the Australian and English men’s teams battling it out for the Ashes, and it’s fair to say the world has changed a little bit in that time.
From geopolitics to pandemics, 2020 and 2021 have been a chaotic mess of the unexpected and the unwelcome, but one constant remains — Jimmy Anderson is part of the English touring side.
And while he may not pull on the whites for the Gabba Test, old man Anderson is here as a reminder of simpler days, when QR codes were those things you saw but never used, and vaccine mandates were when you and your best mate went off to get a flu shot together.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Gabba Test.
What time does the first Test start?
First, the basics. Play is set to get underway at 10am Queensland time, which is 11am in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, 10:30am in South Australia, 9:30am in the Northern Territory, and 8am in Western Australia. For those of you in London, that’s midnight your time.
Who currently holds the Ashes?
Given the heroics of Ben Stokes in 2019, it’s easy to forgot that Australia retained the Ashes after a drawn series. Previously, the Aussies had won the 2017-18 series after winning four of the five Tests.
How can I watch or listen to the Ashes?
ABC Grandstand will have you covered throughout the entire series with Jim Maxwell, Jonathan Agnew, Andrew Moore and Quentin Hull calling the action, while Ian Chappell, Kristen Beams, Mitchell Johnson and Steven Fin will be on board as experts.
The ABC Sport team will also be blogging every day of the action at abc.net.au/sport, with Simon Smale, Dean Bilton and Jon Healy leading the way.
The series will be broadcast on TV through Channel 7 and Foxtel, and can be streamed through Kayo Sports.
What’s happening with the fifth Test?
With Perth now on the outer due to WA’s strict COVID quarantine rules, Cricket Australia has put out a tender to other venues to host the fifth Test. There are a couple of stipulations that come with it, including the option of it being a day-night Test to make up for losing the broadcast-friendly West Australian timeslot. Get the full story as it stands here.
At the moment, the schedule will see the second Test start in Adelaide on December 16, the third test in Melbourne on December 26, the fourth Test in Sydney on January 5, and the fifth Test, somewhere, on January 14.
What happened the last time Australia played a Test?
The last time Australia played a Test they were still terrible at T20 and we barely knew what COVID was. It was January 19, 2020, and things had just gone fairly wrong against India on home turf. Read Jon Healy’s take on everything that has happened since here.
What are the key match-ups?
According to ABC podcasters Corbin Middlemas and Ed Cowan, it’s all about the battle between fast bowlers and the top order stars — namely, Stuart Broad against David Warner, and Pat Cummins against Joe Root.
“[Broad] comes round the wicket, [he] is in [Warner’s] head,” Cowan said on the Grandstand Cricket podcast.
“Can Dave Warner get through that and have an impact on the series? It means he’s going to have to get through that match-up and if that happens Australia will go a long way to winning the series and Dave Warner will go a long way to reaffirming himself as a classy Test batsman.”
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The battle between captains could also be crucial.
“Cummins has got [Root] seven times previously and now it has the extra layer that it’s captain to captain,” Middlemas said.
“So much pressure on Root. [He’s said] ‘This is my last frontier’, he’s never got a 100 in Australia, it’s a big challenge, he’s leading the team. If Cummins can continue that psychological edge and winning that battle over Joe Root, just the symbolism of it and what it will mean for the series, I think will be very juicy.”
Who is in the Ashes squads?
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood