An Ashes series has historically been all about the hype, personalities of each teams and of course the mind games.
Add to it the Duke cricket ball this time — which looks set to play a key role in the run-up to the Ashes 2019.
The manufacturers of the British cricket balls have switched back to the older variety of balls used in the previous contests at the request of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) — which is hand-stitched and is expected have a pronounced seam.
The idea behind this, no prizes for guessing, is to help the England pace bowlers derive more swing and movement off the seam in a contest expected to be dominated by the bowlers over the next one and-a-half months.
This will be a departure from the relatively batsmen-friendly balls which makers of Duke had supplied for this year’s County season. It remains to be seen if the unusually hot British summer this year acts as a deterrent to the new ball’s movement — but both teams have the credentials to exploit the conditions with a relatively more favourable tool.
The pace bowling armoury of both teams look like a Who’s Who with the hosts boasting of the ‘Old Firm’ of James Anderson and Stuart Broad (with 1,000 Test wickets between them), Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran while Australia have the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazzlewood, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson to lead the counter-attack.
According to media reports, a batch of the more bowler-friendly balls from last year were sent to Australia, soon after the ECB decided in May to use them in the Ashes.
Another box was left for the Australia ‘A’ squad, which included players who are now in the Test side, to get used to the balls for the high-profile contest.
Will the new balls then, according to the general perception, help England?
Those in the know feel there is no reason for such apprehension as there are members in the touring Australian side — like senior paceman Siddle — who have played enough County cricket to know the character of the revived balls.
As we brace for the purists’ battle, we will also keep an eye on which way the Duke swings!