The Ashes, one of the most coveted and widely followed contests in Test cricket is all set to begin on August 1 at Birmingham, England. The host team England and tourists Australia will fight it out for the next six weeks to lay hands on the famous Urn.
The England camp is a jubilant lot after getting crowned as World Champions in the recently concluded ICC World Cup. Meanwhile Australia, who also did well in the quadrennial event by reaching semis, are still regrouping in longer format after a tough calendar year 2018.
The reason for England to be more upbeat is also from the fact that the five test event is happening at their own backyard. Going by the history of Ashes in past two decades, the home dominance is the most noticeable part of the contest.
The contest is historically even-stevens
If the contest is analyzed in the time-frame from the advent of this millennium till now, the evenness is seen in the performance of both sides in many aspects.
Referring to the above table, it can be observed that, since the year 2001, the big ticket event has happened ten times - five times in England and five times down under. The honors have remained shared as well, both the teams winning five times each.
There are only two instances out of ten when the touring team has emerged victorious. Those also have been shared, one each by Australia way back in 2001 and England in recent times during the 2010-11 series.
Both the teams have won their home series four times each but there is a visible difference in the amount of dominance. Australia have enjoyed complete 5-0 dominance twice and three times, they have claimed the series by winning 4 tests.
In comparison, England's series victory margin has remained lesser with their best performance has been 3-0 victory they achieved at home in 2013. Their next best result in terms of victory margin is 3-1 which they achieved down under in 2010-11.
Out of 50 tests played in this millennium, Australia leads England by 27-15 with the honors shared in rest of the 8 tests. The number of draws (6) have been more in England than in Australia (2).
England hold the edge
Coming to the recent test form, England have not lost a series at home since 2014. Last summer, they were successful in defeating India, the No. 1 test team. Adding to it the latest World Cup glory, captain Joe Root and his boys have every reason to be optimistic about their chances in the upcoming Ashes challenge.
Though their top-order batting look unsettled, their strong middle order comprising Root himself, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran has delivered consistently at home from past 3-4 years.
Complementing them are the experienced bowling duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who share more than 1000 test wickets between them, have led the bowling unit effectively over the past decade, adding to their team's dominance at home.
Australia still rebuilding...
On the contrary, Australia have not won an away series since Feb 2016. Now also, they are still in rebuilding phase and working hard to get their team combination right. They even struggled at home last season, losing a series against India for the first time in the history of test cricket.
But there may be some relief for skipper Tim Paine with the return of the experienced duo of Steven Smith and David Warner into the test fold after serving a one year ban they received in Mar 2018 during the series of South Africa on the charges of ball tampering.
Smith and Warner were in good nick in the World Cup. Especially the latter, who enjoyed the great tournament with 647 runs in 10 innings at the average of 71.88 with the help of three centuries. He fell short just by one run to India's Rohit Sharma in the race for the highest run scorer of the event.
Smith also chipped in with useful contributions going past the score of 50 four times. If both of them continue their good form for the next six weeks with useful contributions from other players as well, Australia can definitely challenge the England's home dominance in The Ashes since 2005.Published 29 Jul 2019, 13:36 IST