|Men’s Ashes 2019: England v Australia, first Specsavers Test|
|Venue: Edgbaston Dates: 1-5 August Start time: 11:00 BST|
|Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sport website, plus in-play highlights and text commentary|
The 71st Ashes series begins at Edgbaston on Thursday, with England looking to reclaim the urn they surrendered in Australia just over 18 months ago.
England won the World Cup for the first time earlier this month and have not been beaten in a home Ashes series since 2001.
But with both sides featuring strong bowling attacks and fragile batting line-ups, they look evenly matched.
Can England complete a World Cup-Ashes double? Or will Australia take the urn back down under?
The Test Match Special team have had their say.
Michael Vaughan, England’s Ashes winning captain of 2005: “I can’t see there being any draws in the five Tests, especially with the pitches we’re expecting and the use of the 2018 Dukes ball. I’m going 3-2 either way. At this stage, I’ve no idea which way it will go. It could be as simple as whoever gets most runs between England’s Joe Root and Australia’s Steve Smith will deliver their team the Ashes.”
Alastair Cook, who led England to Ashes victories in 2013 and 2015: “It will be a tactic for England to play on pitches that produce results, because that is where they have had most success and Australia’s batsmen do not like the moving ball. I can see there being five results and I think England will sneak the biggest moments, not least because of the runs their lower order can contribute. They will take it 3-2.”
Former Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath, a six-time Ashes winner: “I’ve always found it hard to say that the team that I back will draw, let alone lose a Test. The first match will be seriously important. If Australia can start well, I think they can go on and win, but the same can be said if England find form at Edgbaston. Both teams have strength in the bowling, so whichever batsmen put their hands up will be the side that wins the Ashes. I’m always confident in Australia and I’ll say that they will win, but I’m not sure on the scoreline.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew, an Ashes winner in 1985: “Unless there is bad weather around, I don’t see any draws. The pitches will largely suit the bowlers and the batting on both sides is very fragile. Therefore, the question is which team can be the most consistent with the bat? It will be 3-2 to someone and, perhaps based on nothing but patriotism, I shall say England will win the Ashes.”
Former England spinner Phil Tufnell, who played in five Ashes series: “There’s bound to be a little bit of rain around, so I suspect that will claim one Test. I’m concerned about the Australia attack. With the pace bowlers and off-spinner Nathan Lyon, they can take 20 wickets, especially against England’s batting. Having said that, Australia’s batting is flaky in the middle order. I think it will be 2-2.”
Australian TMS commentator Jim Maxwell: “I love speculating about Ashes series and this one in particular. It’s a long time since Australia have won here, but on this occasion I am confident that Australia will win decisively. On the back of some outstanding batting from Steve Smith and David Warner, who will relish the booing from the terraces, Australia will win 3-1.”
Former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace: “It will come down to which team bats the best. England’s middle order is so strong, and I expect them to get the majority of the hosts’ runs. I expect Jimmy Anderson to have a fantastic impact and I think Moeen Ali will be key with both bat and ball. I expect England to win 3-2 to round off a memorable summer.”
TMS commentator Isa Guha, a Women’s Ashes winner: “After such a disappointing time in Australia last time around, England will be hungry to regain the urn. They had a scare against Ireland, but Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes will come back to strengthen and there is competition among the pace bowlers. It will be close because Australia have the bowlers, not to mention Steve Smith and David Warner coming back and wanting to prove a point. England will win 2-1.”
Former England spinner Vic Marks: “It will be 3-2, because draws are out of fashion, no-one can bat and there are a lot of good bowlers around. Unless the heavens open, we’re in for a cracking Ashes, five results, and the winners only being confirmed at The Oval. A key factor is whether England can get to about 80-2 in their first innings often enough. If, and it is quite a big if, they can do that, they will edge it.”
TMS commentator Dan Norcross: “Eighteen months ago I said Australia would win 4-0 unless their bowlers got injured. I thought Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc would be too much for England’s batting. Since then, nothing has changed – and Australia now have James Pattinson too. However, if Australia do have some injuries, it will make things tighter. It will either be 4-0 Australia, or 2-2, depending on the fitness of the tourists’ attack.”
TMS commentator Alison Mitchell: “It’s going to be an up and down series. Neither side has an established and stable top order, though the return of Smith and Warner certainly makes Australia much stronger than they were in their last home summer, when they struggled against India. England have match-winners, but they have been relying on their middle order for runs – that might not be enough. It will be 2-2, with one weather-affected draw, meaning Australia retain the Ashes.”
TMS commentator Simon Mann: “It’s a hard series to predict because both batting line-ups will be vulnerable to the Dukes ball. England have been forced to revamp their top order again and further changes during the series would not be a surprise. There are also question marks over the fitness of their bowling attack. England can win, especially if their World Cup players like Jofra Archer can rouse themselves again. But Australia have a decent chance of retaining the Ashes, or even winning their first series in England since 2001. It will be 2-2.”
Australian writer and broadcaster Geoff Lemon: “We can look forward to one of the classic Ashes series – two ropey batting teams and two very good bowling attacks. They will bowl each other out relatively cheaply, so expect carnage with the ball and the odd standout performance with the bat. Jos Buttler will do some special things with the bat and James Pattinson will win Australia a Test with the ball. It will come down to the last Test and will be drawn 2-2.”