The Ashes 2023: Preview, Schedule & Key Players

The Ashes is cricket’s most fiercely contested Test series, as the two heavyweights of England and Australia, the Poms vs the Aussies, compete for the cricketing world’s smallest yet arguably most iconic trophy, the Ashes urn. The 2023 series will be the first Ashes played on English soil since the global health crisis began in early 2020, and will present a golden opportunity for the hosts to regain the urn, having been defeated 4-0 in the previous series, which took place in Australia in 2021.

In this article, we will provide a brief background on the history of the Ashes, give a quick preview of this year’s schedule, and even take a look at which players could possibly decide the series. This year’s contest is very tough to predict, although the bookies slightly favour England (5/4) over Australia (13/8), with the draw a real possibility at 5/1.

What is the Ashes, and How Did it Begin?

Well, to put it simply, the Ashes is a five-Test series between England and Australia, which takes place every two years, and it means a lot. The series is often incredibly competitive (just look at the incredible 2005 contest), and this fierce rivalry originated way back in 1882, when a combined XI from the “Australian colonies” took on England at The Oval and beat them, causing uproar in the British press.

This marked the first time that Australia had defeated England on their turf, and led to the publication of a satirical obituary in The Sporting Times. This pronounced the “death” of English cricket, declaring that “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” When England then went to tour Australia a year later, captain Ivo Bligh vowed that his team would “regain those ashes,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

After England were victorious on this tour, Bligh was handed a small urn by a group of Australian women, with the urn supposedly containing the burnt remains of a bail, which was described as “the ashes of Australian cricket.” Ever since, the team that wins the Ashes will hold aloft a replica of that famous diminutive urn, the original permanently held at Lord’s.

What is This Year’s Schedule?

Cricketer at Edgbaston

This year’s Ashes will be the first in history to not include a Test played in August, as the five matches will all take place between June 16 and July 31 to accommodate The Hundred. Furthermore, whilst the previous Ashes, played in Australia, was broadcast on BT Sport, this year’s series will be back on Sky Sports. There, the action will be commented on by Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and co., with the likes of Eoin Morgan and Dinesh Karthik also joining the star-studded commentary team.

It is also worth noting that the women’s Ashes, which will also be played throughout June and July, will include the first ever five-day women’s Test match in England, which represents a huge step forward for the women’s game! Below, we have compiled a table to highlight when and where each Test match will be taking place this summer.

Test Ground Date
1st Edgbaston 16-20 June
2nd Lord’s 28 June-2 July
3rd Headingley 6-10 July
4th Old Trafford 19-23 July
5th The Oval 27-31 July

Who are the Key Players in this Year’s Series?

Joe Root plays shot at the Ashes

So, we known when the matches will be taking place, but which players could be the ones to potentially decide them? Both sides boast teams jam-packed with talent, and skippers Ben Stokes and Pat Cummins are not the kind to back down easily, so this could be a hard-fought and highly competitive series. We will now take a look at two players from each side, starting with England, who could be vital to the success of either country.

Joe Root

Whilst England’s batting lineup is likely to be vastly different to the previous series in Australia, with the likes of Ben Duckett and Harry Brook coming into replace Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, who both struggled significantly, there is one man that you would not dream of replacing. That is, of course, Joe Root.

The former England captain, who has the number four spot nailed down, is one of the country’s greatest batsmen of all time, and averages a whopping 50.22 in Test matches. With 10,948 Test runs to his name, he is also England’s second-highest scoring batter of all time, behind Alastair Cook, and if England are to win this year’s series, the Yorkshireman will undoubtedly play a key part in it.

Ollie Robinson

Whilst James Anderson continues to age like fine wine, and Stuart Broad retains the ability to destroy teams with a single spell, there is no man more important to England’s bowling attack than the brilliant Ollie Robinson. The Sussex pace bowler, who recently took an astounding 14 for 117 against Worcestershire, his career-best figures, is a consistent, deadly bowler who could represent England’s best chance of dismissing Steve Smith (who we’ll get on to in a minute!) Having taken 66 wickets in the 16 Tests he has played, at a remarkable average of 21.27, the Aussies will have to watch out for the imposing, six foot, five inch frame of Robinson.

Steve Smith

Next up, and one of two Australian batsmen to boast a higher average than Joe Root, along with the almost super-human Marnus Labuschagne (who is currently ranked the #1 Test batsman by the ICC), we have Steve Smith. The right-hander, who seems impossible to dismiss at times, averages a ridiculous 59.80 in Test matches, and will be incredibly tricky for England’s bowling attack to deal with.

Smith was the second fastest batsman in history to reach 25 centuries, after Don Bradman, and is also just the second ever player to hit more than 1,000 Test runs in four consecutive years. He’s a force to be reckoned with and will likely frustrate the life out of those England bowlers, even if there is some suggestion that his powers are on the wane!

Nathan Lyon

Finally, although we could have chosen any of Australia’s highly skilled seamers, such as Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, we have instead gone for Nathan “Garry” Lyon, who could be a major thorn in England’s side this summer. The off-spinner, who has a very impressive 482 Test wickets to his name, the third-most of any Australian bowler, was key in the previous Ashes series played in England, back in 2019.

Lyon will likely have to bowl a vast number of overs, something the 35-year-old is accustomed to doing, and will undoubtedly continue his knack of getting under both the skin and bats of the English batsman! Look out for Garry…