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Ashes preview: Squad updates, schedule and more as Pat Cummins and Joe Root’s teams square off

After a build-up overshadowed by controversies and Covid, Australia and England’s hotly anticipated five-Test Ashes showdown gets under way on Wednesday in Brisbane with Joe Root’s men confident of defying recent history to cause an upset.

Few series between the old rivals have witnessed such troubled preparations, with the tour threatened early on over Australia’s tough Covid-19 quarantine rules.

With that hurdle cleared, the hosts were rocked by a text-message scandal that led to the resignation of skipper Tim Paine and eventual stepping aside from the squad, while English cricket has been engulfed in claims of institutional racism.

Throw in torrential rain that severely derailed both teams’ warm-up games, and it has been memorable for all the wrong reasons before a ball is even bowled.

The poor weather could yet cause more problems. Showers are forecast for the opening Test at Brisbane’s Gabba, where the deck looks set to favour the seamers given the recent deluges.

England haven’t won a Test at the ground since 1986 and have only come out on top there four times – twice in the 1930s, once against the Kerry Packer-weakened 1978-79 Australians and 35 years ago during Ian Botham’s heyday.

But they do have hope after India pulled off an upset three-wicket win at the Gabba…

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