The much anticipated 2017/18 Ashes series is finally here!
Cricket's biggest rivalry is set to restart again this Thursday as Australia host England in the 1st Ashes Test in Brisbane. England will be looking to retain the trophy, coming off a 3-2 series win when the teams last met in the Ashes series of 2015 in England.
Australia are coming into the match as the odds on favourite with the bookies, but that looks very skinny in the market for what they have shown lately. The Aussies poor form in the subcontinent continued this year where they were only able to manage a 1-1 drawn series against the lowly ranked Bangladesh after their 2-1 series loss to India. Excluding the series against a very poor Pakistan the Aussies have struggled at Test level for the last 12 months and as a result slipped to number 5 in the world ICC rankings.
England on the other hand have been playing some very strong cricket of late and moved up to number 3 in the world. They were dominant in their 3-1 series victory over South Africa (ranked 2 in the world) earlier this year and then again proved too good against the West Indies. While home ground advantage means a lot for the Aussies, on form England should be the team to beat.
There were a couple of surprise inclusions in the Australian squad, most notably with Tim Paine returning to wicket keep for the first time in 7 years despite not playing Sheffield Shield cricket for Tasmania. That seems to be a position the Aussies are struggling to fill lately, but luckily they aren't having the same problems with their bowling stocks. Australia will go into the 1st Test with a full strength pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood all lining up in the same team for the first time.
With mostly good weather predicted for all five days of the Test it is hard to imagine we won't get a result one way or the other. Conditions in Brisbane have been a bit wet in the days leading up as well which should ensure there is plenty under the surface for the bowlers to work with. Even if a few short showers do arrive during the five days teams can make up lost time at the end of each day so we shouldn't be losing any game time at all.
Both teams major struggles have come in the middle order so we should be able to put a line through the draw.
ICC Test Rankings: England (3) vs Australia (5)
Australia haven't lost a Test at the Gabba since 1988
David Warner averages 55 at the Gabba
Joe Root is averaging 60.75 in 2017
James Anderson has the best average of any bowler in 2017 (14.10)