The cricketing world will light up once again from June 16 onwards when the sports’ biggest rivals, England and Australia lock horns with each other for the prestigious Ashes urn that has a history dating back to the 1880s. The hosts will be aiming to avenge their 4-0 loss in the 2021-22 season. Australia too will be aiming to win their first Ashes series in England in over 20 years. The hosts are also charged up by the ‘Bazball’ revolution brought by skipper Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum, which has seen England win 11 of their last 13 Tests and dominate their opponents with an attacking, aggressive and positive cricket that aims for victory.
A lot of eyes during this series will be on Australia’s star batter Steve Smith. Smith is regarded as the most decorated Test batter of this generation and one of the most prolific stars in the Ashes series as well.
In 97 Tests, Smith has scored 8,947 runs at an average of 60.04. He has scored 31 centuries and 37 half-centuries in his Test career, with the best score of 239.
Smith has the second-highest batting average in Tests among players who have scored 5,000 runs in cricket, next to compatriot and legend Don Bradman (99.94).
He is the fourth-highest run-scorer from Australia and overall fifth in the history of The Ashes. In 32 matches, he has scored 3,044 runs at an average of 59.68. He has scored 11 centuries and 11 fifties in 56 innings, with the best score of 239.
Smith is behind Steve Waugh (3,173), Allan Border (3,222), Jack Hobbs (3,636) and Don Bradman (5,028) in the run-scoring charts and would be aiming for a record-breaking season to surpass Hobbs’s tally.
Besides Bradman (19 centuries), Hobbs (12 centuries) and Waugh (10 centuries), he is one of the four players to have scored 10 or more centuries in the series. He is 10 centuries away from overtaking Bradman here and if he sticks around for a few years more, it could become a reality.
After he served a one-year ban due to the ball-tampering scandal, Smith made a comeback for the ages in Ashes 2019. He topped the batting charts with 774 runs at an average of 110.57 in four Tests and seven innings, consisting of three centuries and three fifties. His best score was 211.
It is the fifth-highest runs scored by a batter during a single edition of the series, behind Bradman (810 runs in five Tests, nine innings at an average of 90.00 with three centuries, one fifty) in 1936-37, Australia’s Mark Taylor (839 in six matches at an average of 83.90, with two centuries and five fifties) in 1989, England’s Wally Hammond (905 runs in five matches, nine innings at an average of 113.12 with five centuries) in 1928-29 and Don Bradman (974 runs in seven innings, five Tests with four centuries at an average of over 139.14).
Smith has scored 500-plus runs across three successive Ashes editions. Besides his 774 runs in 2019, he scored 687 runs in the 2017 Ashes at an average of 137.40 with three centuries and two fifties and topped the charts. He also scored the most runs in the 2015 Ashes with 508 runs in five matches at an average of 56.44, with two centuries and a fifty.
Bradman has scored 500-plus runs across five editions, the most by any player in Ashes history. So this is another aspect in which Smith is chasing Bradman.
Smith has the record of being the only player to have ten fifty-plus scores in The Ashes in a row, starting his run from December 2017 at Perth and ending it in September 2019 at The Oval. His scores during this period read, 239, 76, 102*, 83, 144, 142, 92, 211, 82, and 80.
He is also among the six Australian batters to have scored a hundred each in both innings of an Ashes Test, besides Usman Khawaja, Matthew Hayden, Warren Bardsley, Arthur Morris and Steve Waugh. He scored 144 and 142 during the first Test at Birmingham back in 2019.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis (wk), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, David Warner
England squad: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Moeen Ali, Ollie Pope, Matthew Potts, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Josh Tongue, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
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