England captain Joe Root vows to lead from the front in Ashes opener
England take on their oldest, fiercest rivals Australia in the first of five Test matches.
England begin their quest to reclaim the Ashes at their Edgbaston stronghold on Thursday, with captain Joe Root vowing to lead from the front.
Little more than a fortnight after capturing the nation’s imagination by winning the World Cup in an unforgettably tense Lord’s final, England take on their oldest, fiercest rivals Australia in the first of five Specsavers Test matches.
The omens are good for England, who have not lost an Ashes series on home turf since 2001 and have won each of their previous 11 internationals in Birmingham, but it is the tourists who head in as holders of the urn following a 4-0 success Down Under 18 months ago.
That was Root’s first Ashes as captain, meaning he has still to achieve a childhood ambition of steering his country to glory in the sport’s biggest Test series.
“I dreamed about it from being a little boy and obviously it became more real having been put in a position to have that opportunity,” he said.
“It’s easy to get carried away but it is something growing up as a kid you want to be a part of. When you get the opportunity to captain your country, that’s a privilege for anyone and it’s an opportunity for this team to put themselves in the bracket with some famous teams.”
Root heads into the opening match having reclaimed the number three slot in the order, a problematic position in recent years but one he finally feels ready to flourish in.
“It gives me an opportunity to lead from the front,” he said of his promotion.
“It is another opportunity to take my leadership forward and show the rest of the group that it is something I’m more than prepared to do, that I’m not expecting anyone to do something that I wouldn’t.
“Hopefully this can be a series where I stamp my authority in the role and make it my own.”
England named their XI on the eve of the match, Jofra Archer made to wait for his Test debut after the combination of a side strain and stiff competition from the experienced trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes all selected.
Australia captain Tim Paine declined to follow suit, keeping his side under wraps until the toss.
Paine was bullish about the Edgbaston factor in his pre-match press conference, responding with incredulity when asked if there was ‘a more intimidating’ venue in cricket.
“Than this? I could name you 15,” he said, a response which is likely to spur on the Barmy Army and rowdy fans who populate the Hollies Stand.
Paine was appointed as captain in the aftermath of the Cape Town sandpaper scandal and is set to lead a side featuring all three of the ball tampering trio: Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
Asked about his expectations for the team’s on-field conduct, Paine revealed they had been using an inspirational quote attributed, inaccurately, to a former British Prime Minister.
“Our guys understand what’s expected of them. They are role models not just for Australian people but all around the world,” said Paine.
“There’s been a quote hanging around the changing room this week from Winston Churchill and that’s that ‘behaviour doesn’t lie’.
“We can talk all we like about how we’re going to behave, ultimately you guys will see how we behave and can judge for yourselves.”