Australia's Pat Cummins
Australia's Pat Cummins takes over as captain Image Credit: AFP

When we talk about test cricket rivalry, there are many — India v Pakistan, England v India, Sri Lanka v Bangladesh — but nothing beats the intensity of an England v Australia Test series, better known as the Ashes, a famous event which happens every two years rotating between England and then Australia as hosts.

The 2021/22 Ashes series is all set to begin at the Gabba on Wednesday morning with fast bowler Pat Cummins to lead the Aussies after Tim Paine decided to step down just two weeks before the series was set to start.

Cummins is no longer just the No. 1 fast bowler in Test cricket but also now has to lead the Australia team for his first stint in captaincy in one of the biggest clashes in sporting history, which started all the way back in 1882. Australia have won 33 of the historic clashes, and England 32 — with six drawn series.

The last time they met was in England after the 2019 ODI World Cup, which was a drawn series but since Australia had won the 2016/17 series, they are currently the holders of the Ashes. Australia definitely start as favourites this time around, even though they have not played any red ball cricket after their loss to Team India earlier this year.

The reason for this is England’s batting has been solely dependant on Joe Root, who has been in top form scoring 1,398 runs at an average of 69 but no other England batsman has given him the support he needs. Not surprisingly after the series win against Sri Lanka, England have gone on to lose to India away (3/1) and at home (2/1), also lost to New Zealand at home (1/0). The good news for England is that Ben Stokes will be back after taking a long break for mental health issues and the visitors to Australia will be hoping he shows the same form against their great rivals as he did in the last Ashes series.

Australia must be still hurting from their series loss at home to India and would like to make amends against their fiercest foes with David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne all eager to score important runs with the bat. In the fast bowling department, the hosts have the experienced trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and skipper Cummins, with Nathan Lyon the lone spinner who is on 399 wickets.

Michael Hussey speaks with Mr Cricket UAE Anis Sajan

As Michael Hussey said in the above video, it’s the Ashes which defines a player’s career and people remember what you have done in this competition and forget your poor performances against other teams. England’s captain summed it up perfectly: “There is Test cricket and then there is Ashes Cricket.”