The panic of whether England will travel to Australia to participate in this summer’s Ashes is finally set to be over, and the British media have wasted no time in upping the stakes.
Joe Root agreed to the compromise put on offer by Australia during an 11th-hour meeting on Tuesday, which would see the families of the players avoid hotel quarantine upon arrival in the country.
Todd Greenberg, the CEO of the Australian Cricketers’ Association told the Sydney Morning Herald: “For the England players, they needed some level of surety from us that what’s happened in the previous three months is probably not indicative of what might happen in the next three.
“The long and the short of it, for me, is the England players have handled themselves really well, they’ve asked the right questions, they’ve been really professional in the way they’ve dealt with that and all credit to them.”
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It put to the bed weeks of suggestions that the tour may not go ahead after a number of key England players raised concerns over being without their families for up to four months, with the T20 World Cup immediately before the start of the Ashes.
But now we can look forward to a summer dominated by Test cricket’s flagship event, and already the rivalry is being ramped up in the UK press.
The Daily Telegraph UK’s Nick Hoult was scathing on why Australia should be “nervous”, going in on “paper tiger” Tim Paine and “loose cannon” Justin Langer in particular.
He wrote: “When Paine tries the hard Aussie schtick it just does not convince. He has never made a Test hundred and his hold on the job will be weakened if England start well.
“The relationship between head coach Justin Langer and his players is also at breaking point, with reports swirling in August of senior players fed up with Langer’s abrasive style. It is not going to take much to gnaw away at this fractured relationship. A good start to the Ashes will pile the pressure on their notoriously volatile coach.”
However, while Australia has its problems, England’s are far greater, with their best player, Ben Stokes, and their fastest bowler, Jofra Archer, both set to miss the tour.
Stokes is currently taking an indefinite break from cricket for personal reasons but has also just undergone a second surgery on the broken finger he first injured four months ago. Meanwhile, Archer has been out for most of the British summer with an elbow injury and will not travel to Australia.
Hoult’s Telegraph colleague Scyld Berry agreed that England would be considerable underdogs, writing: “The prospect of England winning the next Ashes is another matter, and secondary to the integrity of the contest. To win Down Under, England have customarily had a batsman who has scored three centuries in the series, and a fast bowler who has taken at least 20 wickets.
“Ben Stokes was the batsman most likely to make those three individual hundreds (Root has yet to make one in Australia) as his century in Perth in 2013-4 was masterfully watertight for one in his second Test, while Jofra Archer was the bowler most likely to emulate Harold Larwood, Frank Tyson, John Snow, and James Anderson in 2010-11; and neither will tour.”
The first Test begins on December 8 at the Gabba, before the day-night Test in Adelaide the following week.