England hold edge against Oz as 1st Ashes Test kickstarts Championship
Birmingham, July 31: Riding with confidence after their victorious World Cup campaign, England will aim to make a good start in their effort to regain the urn when they take on Australia in the first Ashes Test beginning Thursday at Edgbaston. The excitement level will be doubled in the Birmingham Test as it also marks the start of the ICC World Test Championship which will see a world champion in the longest format of the game in July 2021.
The Joe Root-led side, which faced a scare against Ireland in the four-day Test at Lord's, will look to come out with a better performance, especially with the bat. Given the top-order woes, Root is likely to bat at number three, with Joe Denly set to come in at number four.
The availability of Jofra Archer, who could get his maiden Test cap, is the one fitness concern for the hosts.
"Both teams are desperate to win, both sets of players are desperate to perform because Ashes series are where you get scrutinised and criticised more, or praised if you do well," said England all-rounder Ben Stokes ahead of the match.
On the other hand, Australia will be looking to take revenge of the semi-final defeat. They will be bolstered with the return of David Warner and Steve Smith who are making their comeback to Test cricket after serving their one-year bans for involvement in Sandpaper Gate fiasco.
Head coach Justin Langer has already indicated that Usman Khawaja who is returning from an injury and has passed the fitness test, will be in the playing XI alongside James Pattinson. Australia will have to choose between the returning Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris as Warner's opening partner.
Squads: England: Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes (vc), Jason Roy, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Joe Denly, Rory Burns, Moeen Ali, Olly Stone, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Sam Curran
Australia: Tim Paine (c & wk), Cameron Bancroft, Patrick Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner