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The Ashes 2021/22 Preview
The Ashes is one of the most prestigious Tests in the world of international cricket. It is usually a five-match series and is played between England and Australia. Despite carrying so much importance among cricket fans in both countries, The Ashes are one of the tiniest prizes on offer in any sport.
While in football, winners of the UEFA Champions League lift a giant cup that's 74 cm in height and weighs 7.5 kg, the winners of The Ashes raise a comically small terracotta urn that is just 10.5 cm tall. When in the hands of the players, it looks minuscule and photographs can often be seen struggling to get a good shot as the team celebrates.
There is, of course, a lot of tradition behind the prize. After losing a Test to Australia in 1882, a newspaper reported that "the body (of English cricket) will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia". The next Test became known as "the quest to regain The Ashes", sparking a tradition that is more than 100 years old.
The next fight for The Ashes, which will begin in just a few weeks, will be just as important for England as it was back in 1882.
The 2021/22 Ashes Series
This December and January, England will be touring Australia for five Test matches at as many different venues across the country. The first of these will take place at The Gabba in Brisbane between the 8th and 12th of December.
The second Test will take place four days later at the Adelaide Oval, starting on 16th December and running to the 20th. It will be a day/night cricket match, starting in the hours of daylight but running into the evening and illuminated by floodlights.
The third and final Test of 2021 will run from Boxing Day through to the 30th December at Melbourne Cricket Ground. This will be followed shortly after the New Year with a fourth Test at Sydney Cricket Ground from the 5th to the 9th of January 2022, and the final Test at Perth Stadium from the 14th to the 18th of January.
Due to logistical reasons, there is some doubt over whether the final test will be able to go ahead.
After beating England in the 2017-18 series and achieving a draw in 2019, Australia are the current holders of the Ashes. The Aussies are also clear favourites to win in 2021/22 with Betway currently giving the team cricket odds of 1.25 compared to England's 6.5.
Former Australian bowler Peter Siddle thinks that the Test matches could be closer than this if England can pick the right squad. Commenting on The Ashes this summer, he suggested that England needed to pick a variety of different bowlers and if they did that the country's "blokes will put in a feisty challenge".
In early October, the 17-man England squad was announced. It is missing Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Dom Sibley, or Jofra Archer. More than half of the players have never taken part in an Ashes tour before, which could be both a blessing and a curse.
Restrictions on who will be allowed to travel to support the players may also affect the performance of players as being away from loved ones and certain staff means their support network won't be as strong.
England don't have history on their side though. Whenever the Aussies manage to retain The Ashes for more than one series, they tend to keep hold of them for at least a few more years. The team from down under have also won, gained or retained the urn in 12 out of the last 17 Test Series, including an impressive 16-year run from 1989.
Playing at home is also usually a huge advantage for Australia who have won 51.5% of all Tests played there against England, while the visitors have only managed a victory 33.5% of the time.
It will be an uphill struggle for England, but that doesn't mean they can't win The Ashes in Australia. If they do, it will be a fantastic achievement and something that fans will be celebrating for quite some time afterwards.