The Ashes is almost here, and while casual fans are speculating about who will win the series, proper fans are focusing on the much more important question of which team will emerge the funnier of the two.
It’s a difficult question to answer. Both teams have many cricketing flaws, which almost guarantees that the level of comedy they’ll achieve will be high. Indeed, this may be an amusing Ashes series for the ages.
Long term fans of laughing at England will point to the visitors’ record on the 2013-14 Ashes. On that tour, Alastair Cook’s side managed a completely unexpected 0-5 clean sweep, with each Test a whole new level of Pomnishambles above its predecessor.
Taken as a whole, that series was a wonderful punchline that demonstrated the importance of setup. England had been methodically unfunny for what felt like years. A calculated cricketing competence machine built in the image of coach Andy Flower, without a skerrick of hilarity in its collective veins, they stunned everybody with how perfectly that same machine fell to pieces.
England’s relentless absurdity was too much for Australia that tour, as the visitors effortlessly channeled the glory days of the great England joke cricket sides of the 1990s.
The elevation of Joe Root to the captaincy means England will again be comedically strong for this 2017/18 tour. Root was, of course, the man who laughed at Cook being hit in the nuts at first slip during the 2015 Ashes. Precisely the leader England needs on an arduous tour of Australia.
He will be heavily reliant on Stuart Broad, still the funniest cricketer in the world. On the last Ashes tour, Broad stunned Australian fans by spending eight minutes to adjust a sightscreen before being bowled first ball by Mitchell Johnson.
If the great man can regain that kind of form, Australia will have no answer. Not unless they can persuade Shane Watson to come out of retirement.
So many advantages for England, who will start deserved comedy favourites.
But despite their home ground comic disadvantage, it would be unwise to rule Australia out. Last summer’s visit by South Africa proved that, even on home turf, Australia can still produce some world class nonsense.
Remember the Australian team collapsing for 85 all out in Hobart? Or Callum Ferguson’s brother storming off in disgust as Callum Ferguson’s brother’s brother was senselessly run out? Or the career of Joe Mennie?
No, you underestimate Australia’s comedy prowess at your peril.
England will know this. They’ll also recall the previous Ashes series when, with the series on the line at Trent Bridge, Australia imploded for 60 before lunch.
England never recovered from that stunning blow to the funny bone and recent tours of India and Bangladesh have proved that Australia still have that kind of hilarious collapse in their repertoire.
So, in summary, England to start favourites to dominate comedically in the series, but Australia still a chance to steal the laughs. Especially if Glenn Maxwell retains his number six spot.
The Lancastrian was fresh off some standout displays in the 2003 World Cup.
Hales lost his place in last year’s World Cup-winning squad after news of a second failed test for recreational drugs.
The Warwickshire all-rounder is one on 18 bowlers to be selected for personalised practice.
The West Indies are due to arrive on these shores first this summer.
Broad took part in an individual training session at Trent Bridge.
Clare Connor suggested England are considering hosting a Women’s Tri-Series also involving India and South Africa.
The designated bowlers, whose identitites have not been confirmed, will have their temperatures checked.
The ECB had planned to introduce 40 professional contracts this summer across eight regional hubs.
County are waiting on a decision.