The clock is ticking in Australia and England are set to square off in the Ashes

Australia and England are reaching out to the 15th straight time for the Ashes series. The English are aiming to reverse their 4-0 defeat in 2016-17 and will also be looking to equal an…

The clock is ticking in Australia and England are set to square off in the Ashes

Australia and England are reaching out to the 15th straight time for the Ashes series. The English are aiming to reverse their 4-0 defeat in 2016-17 and will also be looking to equal an all-time record for the most defeats over an eight-year span by one team. England are 0-4 for the first time since 1920, with Shane Warne’s Brisbane losses the first two of that 12-game sequence in 2003. Only one side has ever come back from a 4-0 series defeat and Australia have shown some really impressive form in their recent tour of South Africa, which includes an unassailable 3-0 win at the Wanderers and a 2-1 victory in Johannesburg. England might be getting confidence from the way South Africa beat them in Durban earlier this year, but both teams are already clear favorites to win the series.

Pre-series drama is the big story from England’s preparations. Hashim Amla was dropped for the tour after throwing his bat away in the net. Joe Root, their young captain, was not publicly reprimanded for his arguments over TV decisions with on-field umpires — and they were not alone. In a damning report, the England and Wales Cricket Board admitted that they had “left the field of play too often” in England’s home series against Pakistan this summer. Cricket authorities have already said that they will make changes. Australia’s opening two days of practice were soured by the news that Josh Hazlewood had suffered a hamstring strain. If he misses a few days, it is a nightmare result for Australia. Hazlewood is one of the five best bowlers in the world, and can often be relied upon to get their side off to a flyer.

The Australians are notorious for testing boundaries, but with only England, their closest rivals, bowling badly, then they will need to get some early wickets. After a strong showing against South Africa, England need to find their best batting line-up and one that is ready to stand up to the world’s best bowlers. England’s spinners will have to be on top form if they are to stop the Australian batsmen, but their most important weapon is the fastest man in the world, Stuart Broad.

The two teams face off in Adelaide on Dec. 9.

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