Australia and England go head to head in the Ashes, starting on Thursday at the Gabba – but what are the key battles that will decide the fate of the urn this time around?
England hold the Ashes after their 3-2 win in 2015, but Joe Root’s side face a tough test to retain the urn in Australia, with the hosts desperate to avenge that defeat.
With the help of Sky Sports Cricket’s Nasser Hussain, we take a look at the head-to-head battles which could have a major say on the outcome of the series, and up next it’s the battle of the coaches – Darren Lehmann v Trevor Bayliss…
Six months after leading Australia to a 2-1 T20I series victory over South Africa, Bayliss was appointed England head coach and one of his first assignments was the 2015 Ashes against the Aussies.
Bayliss had stood in for Lehmann for that T20I series but now he was up against his fellow countryman, battling it out to regain the Ashes for his adopted country after they had been whitewashed in 2013/14.
England went on to claim a 3-2 series victory and although it was very early on in Bayliss’ reign, the Australian’s positive approach had already rubbed off on his charges. Lehmann and his side struggled for answers and it proved to be a second Ashes defeat for the coach on English soil.
“We have two very good coaches on show in this series and also two very good men.
“I’m a big fan of Darren Lehmann. I was a big fan of him as a player and I’m a real fan of him as a character. He’s a real fighter and has a great knowledge of the game. Just like Bayliss and the Aussies, he will know a lot about these England players.
“He was at Yorkshire for a long time and had a great career with Australia. There’s a huge amount of experience there and again, he’s someone that calls it pretty straight. He’s certainly someone you’d want to play for.
“If I had Lehmann as my coach, a little bit like with David Lloyd, I’d run through a brick wall for him because he’s a good, honest, hard-working and loyal coach. Everything he does is to try and make you win games.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss reflects on England's batting performance during their warm-up win in Adelaide.
“England do have experienced players like Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who will know all about Australian conditions, but it’s certainly no hindrance to the squad to have the knowledge of Bayliss on their side. The obvious bonus is that Bayliss has worked with a lot of the players in the Australia squad.
“He’s been away from Australia for a little while now so some of it will be new to him, but he will very comfortable out there. It will lift the team knowing that they’ve got a coach that knows the pitches, the facilities and knows about the Kookaburra ball.
“I firmly believe coaches just set you up for games. England won’t win or lose the Ashes because of the coaching set up, it will be because of the players and how they adapt to conditions. I do like Bayliss’ honesty, though, because you get a straight-up Aussie answer from him whether it’s about on-the-field or off-the-field stuff. There’s a brutal honesty about him and I like it.”
Lehmann on Bayliss…
“Trevor has been a great servant of the game in Australia. A trademark of Trevor’s teams is that they are well prepared and this just serves as another reminder to us that this Ashes will be a tough contest. I congratulate him on his appointment and wish him all the best.” – Lehmann congratulates Bayliss on his appointment as England coach ahead of the 2015 Ashes (May, 2015).
Bayliss on coaching…
“If you look in history at the best players in the world, they’ve all been self-reliant. Not only are they single-minded and they know what to do off the field and how to prepare, they are able to make decisions for themselves out on the ground, rather than look to the coaching staff for an answer. One of my philosophies is that the best coaches are the other 11 players in the team.” – Bayliss gives his views on the role of the coach after being appointed to the England job (July, 2015).