Ben Stokes has warned Australia he has ‘worked his nuts off’ to get back to his 2019 best after it emerged the England captain has sought treatment for chronic tendonitis.
Stokes is confident that careful management and a period on the sidelines at the IPL has brought his fitness back to the level of his golden summer four years ago and will allow him to play a “full role” as an all-rounder in Thursday’s Test against Ireland and in the Ashes, which start on June 16.
The injury was at its worst on England’s tour of New Zealand in February, when he was able to bowl just two overs in the defeat in Wellington. He played just two matches at the IPL.
“The knee is obviously in a much better place than it was in Wellington,” Stokes said. “I’ve been in India over the last nine to 10 weeks but what I have done is get myself into a position where I am not able to look back and regret or say I have not given myself the best opportunity to play a full role with the ball this summer.
“I have worked incredibly hard with the medical team in Chennai, who were liaising with the ECB guys, and got myself into a place where I feel like I am back at a 2019, 2020 space in terms of my own body and fitness.
“I made a promise to myself and team-mates, in particular the bowlers, that I will be doing everything I possibly can to be in a position to fulfil that role. I’ve done that.”
Ashes fixtures and full schedule
As usual there will be two Tests in London, at Lord’s and the Oval, and the series will start at Edgbaston, the England players’ favourite ground despite the so-called home ‘fortress’ being breached by Australian victory in 2019. Following the template of four years ago, the other two Tests are scheduled for white rose and red, at Headingley and Old Trafford, Trent Bridge missing out again.
First Test, Edgbaston, Birmingham June 16-20
Second Test, Lord’s, London June 28-July 2
Third Test, Headingley, Leeds July 6-10
Fourth Test, Old Trafford, Manchester July 19-23
Fifth Test, The Oval, London, July 27-31
What time does each Test match start?
All five Tests are designated ‘day’ matches, commencing at 11am BST, and each day’s play is scheduled to last until 6pm, although time can be made up to 6.30pm, if no breaks in play, to facilitate 90 overs. Lunch will be at 1pm and last for 40 minutes and tea at 3.40pm for 20 minutes.
What is England’s record in the Ashes at each ground?
Edgbaston P15 W6 L4 D5
Lord’s P37 W7 L15 D15
Headingley P25 W8 L9 D8
Old Trafford P30 W7 L8 D15
The Oval P38 W17 L7 D14
What TV channel is the Ashes on? How can I follow it in the UK?
Sky has the rights for domestic Tests and will broadcast all five matches exclusively live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event.
The BBC has a highlights package and will show Today at the Test on BBC2 at 7pm after each day’s play.
The Corporation also has the radio rights for domestic Tests and will feature ball-by-ball coverage (unless you are listening on longwave during the shipping forecast) on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and via the BBC Sounds app.
TMS coverage will be led as usual by Jonathan Agnew, alongside what it calls “an iconic commentary team” comprising Isa Guha, Simon Mann, Alison Mitchell, Daniel Norcross and Jim Maxwell, with summarisers Michael Vaughan, Sir Alastair Cook, Phil Tufnell, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Ebony Rainford Brent, Vic Marks, Moeen Ali and Alex Hartley, with Andy Zaltzman returning as scorer.
Who is in the Ashes squads?
Australia named their squad for the World Test Championship (against India at the Oval, June 7-11) and the first two Ashes Tests on April 19.
Australia squad for first two Tests
Pat Cummins (captain), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vice-captain), Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
England announced their squad on May 16 for the first Test of the summer, against Ireland on June 1. Zak Crawley has retained his place at the top of the order with Dan Lawrence named as a spare batsman. Josh Tongue has been called up for the first time. The 25-year-old bowler impressed Steve Smith when taking the Australian’s wicket playing for Worcestershire against Sussex recently.
England squad for only Test vs Ireland
Ben Stokes (captain), Ollie Pope (vice-captain), Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Dan Lawrence Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Mark Wood, Matty Potts, Jack Leach, Josh Tongue.
England’s injury list
Brendon McCullum, the England head coach, has confirmed that James Anderson and Ollie Robinson will sit out this week’s Test against Ireland as they are put on ice for the Ashes.
Anderson (groin) and Robinson (ankle) are both being handled with extreme care. They trained with the squad at Lord’s on Monday before the Ireland Test but did not bowl.
With Jofra Archer and Olly Stone already out for the summer the importance of Mark Wood’s pace against Australia has grown, and risks will not be taken with him either.
“For the first Ashes Test, I think they should be fit,” McCullum said of Anderson and Robinson. “They won’t be fit for this one against Ireland. We’ll just have to monitor it over this next while, but we’ve got some great options right throughout the squad.
“When I first took over this job, people said there wasn’t much depth in English cricket and I disagree with that completely. I think there is an immense amount of depth and we’ve got plenty of good options throughout the squad.”
The current fit and available fast-bowling department consists of Matthew Potts, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Josh Tongue, who was a surprise selection for the Ireland Test. Brydon Carse is also out until the third Test at the earliest while Jamie Overton is out for the whole summer.
What is the recent history of the Ashes?
Seventeen months on from their latest winless tour of Australia (it is now 12 years since they last won a Test Down Under), England will begin their quest to regain the Ashes for the first time since 2017.
Ben Stokes’s side have an awful lot going for them, winning 10 of their first 12 Tests under his captaincy, and also enjoy a superior record in the past five home series against their most venerable opponent, four of which were won and the last, in 2019, drawn.
After losing the first Ashes of the 21st century 4-1 on Steve Waugh’s last tour here, England won back the Ashes in memorable style in 2005, regained them in 2009, both times by margins of 2-1, retained them 3-0 in 2013, won them back by 3-2 in 2015 and rallied to square the series 2-2 four years ago even though they were unable to prevent the holders preserving their possession of the urn.
In the 1980s and 1990s England’s home Ashes series were elongated to encompass six Tests but since the conclusion of Australia’s 1997 tour they have been wisely reduced to five and that remains the format this time around.
There is one significant and controversial difference, however because of the 50-over World Cup in October, which England will begin as defending champions, and the desire of the England and Wales Cricket Board to give its Hundred competition an August showcase, the marquee Test series will take part before high summer and only the final Test will be held after the state schools break up for the long holiday.
What is our prediction?
There have been merely two draws in 13 Tests in England following the Covid summer of 2020 and none in the past 10, writes Rob Bagchi. In 2015 every Test yielded a positive result and it would be fair to hazard that with good weather, England’s aggressive tactics, Australia’s brilliant attack, a more durable batch of Dukes balls and a home Ashes swansong for Messrs Broad and Anderson (84 and 44 Ashes wickets in England respectively, though Anderson managed only four overs in 2019), that all five Tests will end with a victor. England’s excellent home record of late and their refreshing approach persuades this observer to plump for a repeat of 2015 in terms of series result but with closer matches: England 3-2 Australia.
What Australia are saying
Nathan Lyon has claimed that an Australian whitewash as this year’s Ashes is “100 per cent” doable. Speaking during Australia’s training camping, the veteran spinner believes his side have what it takes to dominate their rivals again.
“I’ve never gone into any game thinking that we’re never going to compete well and win the game. I know it’s a headline for you guys, but in my opinion and my view, every game I play for Australia, I’m going out there to win it. I’m confident heading over there.”
“I think our squad should be really proud of the work that we’ve done over the last 24 months. I think it’s been an incredible journey.”
“This is a new challenge and I’m extremely confident going over there.”