Wednesday 8th December 2021 is the date that has been marked into cricket lovers diaries for the past two years. This is the date when Australia will lock horns with England to contest the Ashes.

Australia are the current holders after a drawn series 2-2 in England 2019. The forthcoming five match series has been the subject of tense negotiations over off field living conditions. However, this has now been resolved and the battle can commence on Wednesday.

England name a strong squad

England coach Chris Silverwood has named an 17- man squad for the tour with Australia naming a 15-man squad for the first two tests.

After the curtain raiser at Brisbane it’s off to the Adelaide Oval for the  day night test. This will be quickly followed by the traditional Boxing Day test at Melbourne. In the New Year the Fourth test will be played in Sydney with the final test at Perth.

England will be hoping to return the urn back to English shores for the first time since 2015. Under Alistair Cook the side triumphed 3-2 in a breath taking five match series. In all there have been 71 Ashes series with Australia winning 33, England 32 and six series drawn.

Both sides enter the battle underprepared

Both sides will go into the series severely undercooked. Australia haven’t played any test cricket since January. England have played a couple of warm up matches, with both ruined by the weather.

Despite fears that up to ten players might decide to sit out the tour, England have managed to select a strong squad. Jos Buttler, Chris Wood and Mark Wood all making themselves available.

However, the squad does contain 10 players who have never played a test in Australia. The absence of fast bowler Jofra Archer is a massive setback, although the return of Ben Stokes is a huge boost.

No Archer or Curran due to injuries

England will also be without the services of Sam Curran due to injury, however the ever reliable Stuart Broad has been selected for his fourth Ashes tour after injury.

The big concern for England is their lack of raw pace. Wood the only bowler capable of producing bowling in excess of 90 mph. The squad also contains two spinners with Dom Bess and Jack Leach getting the nod.

No Paine with Cummins at the helm

Australia chances of retaining the Ashes have been hit by the resignation of captain Tim Paine. The skipper resigned back in November and has since taken an indefinite mental health break from the sport.

Pat Cummings will lead from the front with Steve Smith named vice captain. Usman Khawaja has been recalled to the side, while Alex Carey was a late addition after Paine stepped away from the sport.

34-year-old Khawaja hasn’t played test cricket since being dropped during the 2019 Ashes series. The left hander has gained his place in the side after some fine run scoring form for Queensland in domestic cricket.

Labuschagne the man to watch for the Aussies

Marcus Harris is likely to remain David Warner’s opening partner, with the excellent Marnus Labuschagne coming in at No.3.

The pace trio of Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc oozes experience and class. The trio will be backed up by Jhye Richardson and uncapped Michael Neser with leg spinner Mitchell Swepson included with veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

England squad: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wk), Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood. 

Australia squad: Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Steve Smith, David Warner. 

Ashes schedule

8-12 Dec: 1st Test, Brisbane (00:00 GMT)

16-20 Dec: 2nd Test, Adelaide (d/n) (04:00 GMT)

26-30 Dec: 3rd Test, Melbourne (23:30 GMT, 25-29 Dec)

5-9 Jan: 4th Test, Sydney (23:30 GMT, 4-8 Jan)

14-18 Jan: 5th Test, Perth (02:30 GMT)