England's stark contrast to Australia's Ashes Test-standard preparations
Australia will play host to Afghanistan in their only match before a testing Ashes series against England on home soil. By contrast, their Ashes rivals will come battle-hardened with test series against New Zealand and India.
Cricket Australia today announced the Ashes fixture that sees the five-match series start in Brisbane on December 8 and conclude in Perth.
From November 22nd, Afghanistan will play their first five-day Test match in Australia since gaining Test status in 2017. Hobart will host the clash between the two sides.
The match will be the only Ashes dress rehearsal before the Aussies welcome the Poms to do battle for the prestigious Ashes urn over the summer.
Ex-Test captain Steve Waugh raised an eyebrow at the Australian preparations but had a bet-each-way that it could work out well for the home team, telling FoxSports:
“It seems unusual in this day and age (to not have more tests before an Ashes series), you’re normally playing a lot of cricket all year round.
“For Australia not to have a test match besides the one possibly against Afghanistan, it may be an advantage, they could be (more) fresh the guys (Australian cricketers).
“Ready to go, with no injuries, and I guess no excuses leading up to it.
“Normally you’ve got a year round schedule, guys are carrying niggling injuries, form is a bit up and down, and this time they’ll be going in fresh.
“So maybe it’s not such a bad thing, but certainly unusual.”
The five-match Ashes series will begin in Brisbane (as is usually the case) on December 8. This will be followed by the day/night test at Adelaide Oval, Boxing Day Test at the MCG. Sydney will host the fourth test rather than the fifth as has been the case previously, with Optus Stadium in Perth hosting the final game.
Cricket Australia interim CEO, Nick Hockley said of the Afghanistan tour;
"They've only played six tests in their history and they've won three.
"They're one of the most uplifting stories in world sport and with some of the best players in the world."
England head coach Chris Silverwood wants his side to use their upcoming summer Tests against formidable opponents New Zealand (2 matches) and India (5) as preparation for the Ashes.
“We want to travel to Australia fitter, faster, leaner, more ready than ever before.
“We have the greatest for our opposition (New Zealand and India).
“To get to where we want to be against Australia, we have to perform well in these Tests.
“It’s not that we rate Australia (more than) anyone else.
“We understand that we have two of the best teams in the world in front of us.
“Play well against them, play to our abilities, it will help us win the Ashes as well.”
One man who will vie to feature for Australia in the Ashes is batsman Cameron Bancroft, who has seen himself overlooked for selection since being dropped in 2019.
Bancroft recently spilled the beans on the infamous ball-tampering incident that took place in South Africa in 2018.
Speaking to the Guardian in the UK, Bancroft stated that the bowlers would have been aware of what was going on with the ball, not just himself, Steve Smith and David Warner.
"Yeah, look, all I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part.
“Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory."
Former Test-captain Michael Clarke said;
“They’ve got to hold the ball to bowl with it.
“If you are playing sport at the highest level you know your tools that good it’s not funny.
“Can you imagine that ball being thrown back to the bowler and the bowler not knowing about it?
The four bowlers: Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have since responded with a statement:
"We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it's been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018.
“We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands (South Africa).
"We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo.
"It has gone on too long and it is time to move on."
The Flow Friday Night Sports Show team the Flowman and the Statman reviewed Sandpapergate's latest rumblings on the Sporting Fix on Wednesday: