Australia name Ashes XI three days early ahead of first Test

Australia have taken the step of naming their XI for the first Ashes Test against England in Brisbane – three days before the game gets underway.

The two sides are preparing to battle in Test cricket’s biggest series over the next six weeks. The five-Test series will be taking place Down Under.

Australia are the current Ashes holders. They retained the urn after recording a 2-2 series draw in the previous series, which took place in England in the summer of 2019.

Cricket fans will best remember that series for an unforgettable innings of 135 not out by Ben Stokes at Headingley to secure the unlikeliest of victories.

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Let’s take a look at some of the build-up ahead of the Ashes, and the XI that Australia hopes will guide them to victory at the Gabba:

The pre-Ashes build-up

The build-up to this year’s Ashes series has seen significant talking points and anticipation of the like we have not seen for a long time.

Firstly, most of the talk from an England point of view was whether Ben Stokes would feel ready to return to the international setup. The Durham all-rounder had taken an indefinite break from cricket back in July. He wanted to prioritise his mental health and rest an ongoing finger injury.

He declared himself fit in October and was promptly added to the Ashes squad. Stokes is one of England’s most important players, playing a pivotal role with bat and ball.

Read: Ben Stokes reveals Joe Root’s reaction to return announcement

Australia, meanwhile, were soon looking for a new captain. Tim Paine stood down as Test skipper shortly after it was announced that he was the subject of a historical investigation into a sexting scandal. It was later confirmed that he would be taking a break from cricket.

Pat Cummins would become the 47th male Test captain for Australia. Batter Steve Smith is his deputy.

Australia name their XI for first Test

Cummins now knows the 10 players he will be leading out at the Gabba on December 8 – three days before the game gets underway.

That was even after Australia coach Justin Langer revealed he wanted to keep people guessing about the line-up. Some early mind games, perhaps?

There is little in the way of surprises when it comes to the team itself. Batting stalwarts David Warner and Steve Smith are included, as are pace bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

The only debate came in the form of the wicket-keeper position. With Paine absent, Australia needed to name a replacement. They have opted with Alex Carey. The 30-year-old has 83 caps for his country in white-ball cricket but will be making his Test debut this week.

Here is the XI in full:

David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith (vice-captain), Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wicket-keeper), Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood

Who is likely to play for England in the first Ashes Test?

Unlike their opponents, England are yet to name their XI for the first Test.

Captain Joe Root will lead the side, with Jos Buttler likely to keep wicket. It is an important Test for England, who will desperately not want to go one-nil down early.

Image Credit: Getty

One debate will be over the positions of England’s two premier seam bowlers, Stuart Broad and James Anderson. It will be interesting to see whether both play or if England decide to opt to pick just one of them.

Off-spinner Jack Leach could play his first Test since March, whilst opener Haseeb Hameed would be playing in his first Ashes Test if selected.

When does the Ashes start and how can I watch?

The 2021/22 Ashes series begins on December 8. It will take place at the fearsome Gabba in Brisbane.

English viewers can watch the entire series on BT Sport. Coverage starts on December 7 at 11pm UK time, and will run through the night.

Featured Image Credit: Getty