England need to buck recent trends on Australian soil to regain the Ashes

Ben Stokes

England begin their Ashes campaign in the early hours of Wednesday morning UK time looking to reverse their struggles Down Under of late.

Here, the PA news agency assesses their performance on recent tours and how it compares to their all-time record.

Dominant spell for Australia

The Ashes urn in Australian hands
Recent series in Australia have seen the Ashes urn remain Down Under (John Walton/PA)

All-time, Australia have won 24 Test series against England on home soil (57.1 per cent) compared to 14 for England (33.3 per cent), with four drawn series (9.5 per cent).

The individual match results show a similar breakdown – albeit with a slightly higher proportion of draws at 15.6 per cent, or 28 matches. Australia have won 95 games to England’s 57, or 52.8 per cent to 31.7 per cent.

The recent form, though, is even more damning for England with Australia winning seven of the last eight series Down Under, the only exception being England’s 2010 win led by the captaincy and run-scoring of Sir Alastair Cook.

The hosts will be seeking to win three successive home series against their old enemy for only the third time, having previously done so between 1936 and 1950 and with five in succession from 1990 to 2006. England’s only such run in Australia came in the 19th century and one of the three ‘series’ was a one-off Test in 1888.

Batting issues must be addressed

  • Joe Root, 47.25 in 2017-18
  • Sir Alastair Cook, 47.00 in 2017-18
  • Dawid Malan, 42.55 in 2017-18
  • Ben Stokes, 34.87 in 2013-14
  • Jonny Bairstow, 34.00 in 2017-18
  • Tom Curran, 33.00 in 2017-18

Much has been made of England’s failures with the bat in recent years and their winless series on their last two trips Down Under have highlighted the issue.

In the 2013-14 series, which finished 5-0 in Australia’s favour, Ben Stokes was the only England batsman to average over 30 – reaching the heights of 34.87 across his four Tests with the help of 120, England’s only century of the series, in Perth.

Kevin Pietersen, Michael Carberry, Joe Root, Ian Bell and Cook averaged in the 20s while Gary Ballance (12.50), Jonny Bairstow (12.25) and Jonathan Trott (9.50) fared even worse.

Things were slightly better in 2017-18, when England even managed a draw in Melbourne to limit the damage to 4-0, but only Root, Cook and Dawid Malan broke 40 while Tom Curran’s 33 ranked fifth in the tourists’ batting averages. Keeping their places for all five Tests, James Vince and Mark Stoneman averaged in the mid-20s with Moeen Ali at 19.88.

Cummins and goings

Pat Cummins celebrates the wicket of Joe Root, background, during the 2017-18 Ashes
New Australia captain Pat Cummins had a successful 2017-18 series (Jason O’Brien/PA)

Pat Cummins has been named Australia’s captain ahead of the series after Tim Paine stood down, and he will be looking to replicate his starring role in 2017-18.

Cummins took 23 wickets at an average of 24.65, making him the leading wicket-taker as Australia’s pace attack ran riot.

The hosts had the top four in the wicket column – Cummins followed by Mitchell Starc on 22, with 21 apiece for Josh Hazlewood and spinner Nathan Lyon – and only used seven bowlers in total with Mitch Marsh, Jackson Bird and Steve Smith combining for only 71 overs. James Anderson’s 17 wickets led England with no other bowler reaching 12.

That continued the pattern from 2013-14, when Mitchell Johnson destroyed England with 37 wickets at 13.97 and Ryan Harris (22 wickets) and Peter Siddle (16) joined in the fun. Lyon took 19 wickets with Shane Watson and Smith also chipping in.

England had hoped to rival that pace battery this time around but injuries to Jofra Archer and the inexperienced Olly Stone have left Mark Wood, himself no stranger to the treatment table, to fly the flag alone. Starc and Hazlewood continue for Australia alongside Cummins and Jhye Richardson.