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Ashes 2015: Can England spring a shock and beat Australia?

England’s national cricket team have disappointed in recent years across all forms of the game. Their recent group stage exit at the 2015 Cricket World Cup was nothing short of diabolical and they have been a team in turmoil throughout the last few years. The English Cricket Board (ECB) sacked head coach Peter Moores, while they also employed former captain Andrew Strauss as director of cricket. Strauss, who featured in 100 Test matches for his country, recently ruled out the return of Kevin Pietersen to the England set-up until after this summer’s Ashes series against Australia – a decision that has been extremely controversial and splitting opinion across the cricket world.

However, the 38-year-old will be looking to appoint a new head coach in the coming weeks and months in order to fully prepare the selected squad for the upcoming Ashes matches, which are to be held at five venues across the UK. In the last series, England were well beaten and were whitewashed by Australia in the 2013 series, their third 5-0 defeat since the series began in 1882. On home soil, Alistair Cook’s side will be hoping to raise their game and earn a home victory and move level with Australia on 32 series wins. Such is the current state of English cricket, many are suggesting that they will have a tough task to regain the Ashes this summer and, at the time of writing. Strauss will be looking for an injection of passion and will hope that the current crop of players can take inspiration from the 2005 Ashes success. There is one good omen for England though: they have won each of the last three Ashes tournaments on home soil and will be looking for a fourth straight success this year.

A look ahead to the venues used in the 2015 Ashes series..!

1st Test: SWALEC Stadium (Wednesday 8th to Sunday 12th July)

The first test match of the 2015 series will be held at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff. The home of Glamorgan Country Cricket Club has hosted just one Ashes fixture in the past in England’s 2-1 series victory back in 2009. Unfortunately for those involved with the club, and for those fans that travelled, the majority of this clash was spoiled by rain. The Cardiff ground may be used on a regular basis for England Tests in the foreseeable future and many of the players have revealed that they enjoy playing at that particular venue.

England opted to bat and posted a solid 435 from their 106.5 overs, including an impressive contribution of 69 from Pietersen. However, Australia rallied and after a phenomenal individual effort of 150 from 224 balls from captain Ricky Ponting, the visitors declared on 674/6 – the largest total against an England side since 1934 and the fourth largest in Ashes history. The hosts were fortunate to come away with the draw after batting out the final day and scraping home with 252/9 – including a dogged last-wicket stand between James Anderson and Monty Panesar. The highlights of the first Test from the 2009 series can be seen below.

This is the second time that Cardiff’s iconic ground has been selected to host an Ashes test match and shows the clear progress that is being made in Welsh cricket. However, many northern cricket fans have expressed their anger at the selection of grounds that shall be used, with no Tests to be held at either Old Trafford or Headingley.

2nd Test: Lord’s (Thursday 16th – Monday 20th July)

The iconic venue has hosted a number of Ashes Test series matches over the years, and the stadium has been in use since the formation of the five-match competition. There have been some exceptional games of cricket between the two sides at Lord’s in the modern era, and the majority have tended to be extremely one-sided affairs. Traditionally, Australia have performed admirably at Lord’s and have won many matches at the famous venue – including a run of 18 consecutive victories between 1934 and 1997.

For example, Australia won the second Test of the 1993 series by an innings and 62 runs after a dominating performance from legendary batsman David Boon. Boon scored a phenomenal 164 not out from 378 balls as the visitors posted an incredible 632/4 before declaring. The hosts racked up a disappointing 205 in response and, after Australia enforced the follow on, were bowled out in the second innings for 365. Michael Atherton, who currently commentates on cricket events around the globe, was the standout England performer as he scored 80 and 99 in the two innings respectively.

The 1997 Test, which halted Australia’s run of wins at the venue, was an incredible affair. Despite an eight-wicket first innings masterclass from Wallabies legend Glenn McGrath, in which England were dismissed for just 77 runs, the hosts avoided defeat due to the adverse weather conditions. In fact, they lost two days play due to the horrific rain and the visitors were left to rue a tremendous individual display, but went on to win the six-game series 3-2.

In their most recent encounter, England thrashed the visitors courtesy of a spin bowling performance that veteran Australian bowler Shane Warne would have been proud of. Graeme Swann claimed five wickets for 44 runs in the first innings and four wickets for 78 runs in the second as the hosts earned a mammoth 347 run victory on their way to a 3-0 series win. England batsmen Ian Bell and Joe Root both scored centuries, with the former becoming the fourth Englishman to score a century in three successive Ashes matches.

3rd Test: Edgbaston (Wednesday 29th July – Sunday 2nd August)

The first Ashes test match between the two sides at this venue was held over a century ago, in 1902. This was a rain affected encounter and the fixture was settled as a tie, however this game will always be remembered for Australia’s astonishing first innings total of 36 from 23 overs. England were in fine form and racked up 376/9 before declaring, and the visitors struggled with their response before posting the lowest Test score in English cricket history – a record that stood for over 22 years.

Possibly the most famous Ashes fixture at Edgbaston was England’s two run victory in the 2005 series – the match that sent cricket fever across the nation. After the hosts produced an impressive opening tally of 407 – including 90 runs from Marcus Trescothick – the Australians responded well and racked up a total of 308, just 99 runs behind England’s first innings total and avoided the potential follow on. The visitors, inspired by iconic figure Shane Warne, who recorded figures of 10-162 across both innings, set about destroying England’s batting attack and the hosts were bowled out for a disappointing 182 runs.

Prior to the start of day four, and with Australia needing 107 runs to win with just two wickets remaining, England were within touching distance of victory. However, the spirited Brett Lee led the fight back and got the Wallabies to within three runs of victory before Steve Harmison’s yorker was edged by Michael Kasprowicz to hand the hosts a crucial win. This was, and still is, the closest match in Ashes history and remains one of the greatest international Test matches of all time. The moment that Geraint Jones took the catch to earn England the victory can be seen below.

4th Test: Trent Bridge (Thursday 6th – Monday 10th August)

Nottingham’s venue remains one of the greatest places in the country to play cricket and has hosted many classic encounters throughout its history. In the 2001 series, Australia romped to victory after a below par batting display by England. Heading into the third Test of the five-match series, the hosts knew that a defeat would end their hopes of winning the Ashes. Unfortunately, both Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were on top form and limited England’s batting units to 185 and 162 in the first and second innings respectively. Despite a disappointing first innings total of 190 from the visitors, Australia went on to comfortably make the remaining 158 with seven wickets to spare and earned yet another Ashes victory on English soil.

Meanwhile, in another tight contest, England scrapped to a 14 run victory over the visitors in the opening test of the 2013 series. The hosts racked up a disappointing 215 in the first innings, with Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle claiming five wickets for just 50 runs – an impressive haul. However, despite finishing on the losing side, it would be Ashton Agar who would receive all the plaudits from this clash. Making his test debut, the 19-year-old scored 98 while batting from number 11 in the order – breaking the records for the highest total for a debutant and for a batsman batting from the bottom of the order.

In the second innings, a solid 375 from England – led by Ian Bell’s magnificent century – left the visitors a target of 311 to win. Despite a superb effort from Brad Haddin, James Anderson picked up five wickets for 73 runs as the Australians just fell short and England got their series off to the perfect start. Highlights of the final day’s play from Trent Bridge can be seen below.

5th Test: Kia Oval (Thursday 20th – Monday 24th August)

The Oval will host the final match of this year’s Ashes series and supporters will be hoping that the urn will still be up for grabs before the opening day’s play at the legendary stadium. In fact, there have been a number of recent clashes at the venue that has decided which team wins the entire Ashes series.

In the 2009 series, the score was tied at 1-1 heading into the final match. England got off to a flying start as they racked up 332 – with the ever-consistent Ian Bell scoring yet another huge total – before bowling out the Australians for just 190. The hosts could sniff blood and went for the throat, putting up another 373 runs before declaring and setting the visitors 546 to win with two full days of play remaining. Despite a reasonable effort from Michael Hussey, who scored 121 runs off 263 balls, the Wallabies could not bat out and England earned an epic 197 run victory and a 2-1 series triumph – making it back-to-back home Ashes series victories.

Despite an excellent start from Australia in the final fixture of the 2013 series, England responded and were unfortunate to miss out on a 4-0 thrashing of the Wallabies after bad light stopped play with just four overs remaining. The visitors scored 492/9, with Shane Watson scoring an impressive 176 from 247 balls, before declaring and putting England into bat. England, who had already secured victory in the series, racked up 377 runs in response and avoided the follow on, before Australia declared after setting England 227 runs from 44 overs to win. The hosts were within 21 runs of victory with four overs remaining, but the umpires deemed that bad light should stop play and the hosts missed out on the perfect opportunity to earn a 4-0 series victory over their arch rivals.

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