Joe Root has been sent for scans after being struck in the abdomen during England's warm-up prior to day four of the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval.

The England skipper did not start the day's play on the field, after the blow not long prior to the scheduled commencement.

Root, who made 62 in the first innings, was hit in the abdomen while facing throwdowns in the nets.

"He is currently being assessed by the England medical team," an England team spokesman said in a statement.

Root did return to the playing field in the first session on day four but appeared sore.

Australia resumed on the fourth day at 45-1, with England taking three wickets in the opening 12 overs without Root on the field, with vice-captain Ben Stokes stepping in as skipper.

Dawid Malan admitted it was "disappointing and frustrating" as England endured another batting collapse on day three of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.

The tourists began Saturday at 17-2 as they desperately tried to chase down Australia’s total of 473-9.

England appeared to be making a decent charge with the partnership of Malan (80) and Joe Root (62) moving them to 150-2.

However, the floodgates opened upon Cameron Green's dismissal of Root, with Malan following soon after, while Ollie Pope went for five and Jos Buttler was out for a duck as the visitors slid to 169-6.

Nathan Lyon (3-58) and Mitchell Starc (4-37) did the damage for Australia, who led by 282 runs at stumps with nine second wickets still standing and are closing in on a 2-0 lead.

 

"After we lost those two wickets last night, the thoughts were just to get a partnership going, which myself and Rooty got," Malan told BT Sport.

"We got ourselves into a half-decent position. But once again, as soon as the Aussies opened the door, they just jumped straight through it.

"It's disappointing and frustrating that we got ourselves back into the fight and then lost a few too many wickets in clusters.

"I think it’s a bit of a trend; it's something we did on the last tour and the last Test here. We get a bit of momentum and a partnership going and as soon as the Aussies take that one wicket, we lose two or three in clusters.

"When we lose that one wicket, we need to make sure we get another partnership going as quickly as possible.

"Luckily, we got that one wicket tonight and, hopefully, we can have a crazy hour or two somewhere [on Sunday]. We need to take wickets, try to put them under as much pressure as we can, and then bat for a very long period."

Malan also praised Root following their impressive partnership, although it ultimately proved academic in the context of the innings.

"He's one of the best batters that has ever played the game," Malan added.

"Every innings, he seems to find another way to score runs, so that's fantastic for me to watch and learn."

Marnus Labuschagne stood unbeaten on 95 and David Warner fell just short of a century as Australia battled to 221-2 on the first day of the second Test in Adelaide.

Steve Smith captained Australia for the first time since the ball-tampering scandal in 2018, after new skipper Pat Cummins was forced to isolate following close contact with a COVID-19 case in a restaurant.

Smith opted to bat first on Thursday and lost opener Marcus Harris for three to Stuart Broad in the bowler's 150th Test, as Jos Buttler produced a fantastic diving catch down the leg side. Harris had earlier overturned an lbw decision.

Warner closed shop in response against Broad and James Anderson's early dominance with the pink ball, managing just one run from his opening 35 deliveries, with Labuschagne following in a similarly attritional fashion.

Labuschagne was relieved when he was dropped by Buttler on 21 off Stokes, and capitalised as he battled to his second fifty of the series in 156 deliveries, after Warner had brought up a 108-ball half-century – the pair sharing their sixth century stand in Tests.

Left-handed opener Warner then fell in the 90s for the second consecutive Test when Broad gratefully collected a catch at cover, with Stokes' aggressive short-pitched bowling finally paying off. Warner was dismissed for 95 and the partnership ended at 172.

Buttler shelled a regulation catch from Anderson in the final hour with Labuschagne on 95, before Australia's number three and stand-in captain Smith made it to stumps unbeaten after a testing period against the new ball under the lights.

Landmark Labuschagne delivers once more

Labuschagne crafted an excellent first-innings 74 at the Gabba and followed that up with more calculated brilliance against England's five-man seam attack on a flat Adelaide Oval pitch in almost perfect batting conditions.

The right-hander, who has faced 275 balls so far, also made it to 2,000 Test runs in his 34th innings, with only four players – Michael Hussey, Herbert Sutcliffe, George Headley and Don Bradman – requiring fewer outings to reach the landmark.

Spin it to win it?

The surface in Adelaide has already shown signs of turn and bounce, much to the frustration of England, who dropped Jack Leach as the tourists went without a spinner for the first time in an Ashes Test since Headingley in 2001.

That run dates back further to 1998 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the last time England played without a spinner Down Under, and captain Joe Root, tasked with operating as the frontline spinner, struggled as he recorded figures of 0-37 from his 11 overs.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad have been included in England's 12-man squad for the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.

The pair's omission for the opening match raised eyebrows and came under further scrutiny after the tourists slumped to a nine-wicket loss as Australia seized the upper hand in Brisbane.

But both are in contention as England seek to level the series in the first of two day-night Tests, with the final selection to be confirmed at the toss on Thursday.

Anderson is his country's leading wicket-taker in Tests with 632, while Broad – who is one shy of 150 Test caps – has 524.

Spinner Jack Leach, who endured a torrid outing as he gave up 102 runs in 13 overs at the Gabba, retains his place in the squad, while seamer Mark Wood has been rested.

Any lingering fears over the fitness of Ben Stokes, who jarred his knee in the field during the opening Test, appear to have been put to rest with his inclusion.

Joe Root's side face a tough task, with Australia boasting a 100 per cent record in day-night Tests.

England squad: Joe Root, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Haseeb Hameed, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.

Australia have a 100 per cent record in day-night Tests and another victory at Adelaide Oval will leave England's hopes of regaining the Ashes hanging by a thread.

The tourists made a nightmare start to the series at the Gabba, slumping to a nine-wicket defeat after Joe Root had won the toss and opted to bat first on a green pitch under cloudy skies.

England were rolled over for only 147 on day one in Brisbane after Rory Burns lost his off stump to the first ball of the match from Mitchell Starc.

Captain Root (89) and Dawid Malan (82) showed some resistance in the second innings after Travis Head had made the third-fastest Ashes century, but another collapse left Australia with the straightforward task of chasing 20 to go 1-0 up.

Pat Cummins could not have wished for a much better start to his reign as Test skipper, taking 5-38 on the opening day as England crumbled meekly.

The Australia attack will be licking their lips at the prospect of doing more damage with the pink ball in Adelaide, where they will be hunting what would be a sixth win in seven matches in the longest format in Adelaide.

No side has a better record than Australia's eight out of eight in day-night Tests, while England have lost three day-nighters out of four and their only victory was against West Indies in 2017.

Stats Perform looks at some of the selection issues both sides will be weighing up and picks out where the second Test, which starts on Thursday, could be won and lost.

Anderson and Broad to shine under the lights?

Eyebrows were raised in the Australia camp and far beyond when both James Anderson and Stuart Broad were left out for the first Test.

With 1,156 Test wickets between them, the pace-bowling stalwarts would have been rubbing their hands together at the prospect of racing in at the start of the series but watched on as Australia's bowlers had a field day.

Broad should be back in for his 150th Test and Anderson will surely return under the lights.

The selectors face a tough call when deciding who to leave out as Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes came out the first Test with credit, while spinner Jack Leach endured a chastening start to the series.

 

Hazlewood injury forces Australia into at least one change

Australia will be without Josh Hazlewood after he suffered a side strain in Brisbane and Jhye Richardson is the favourite to replace him.

Hazlewood took 5-8 when Australia bowled India out for an embarrassing 36 last December, but either Richardson or Michael Neser will get a chance to exploit England's vulnerability with the bat.

Richardson has taken 23 wickets in four Sheffield Shield matches this season at an average of 13.43 and looks primed to make his Ashes bow in what would be his third Test.

Australia are hopeful David Warner is fit to open after he took a couple of blows to the ribs in the opening Test.

Joe Root is confident England will bounce back from their chastening loss in the first Ashes Test.

The tourists slumped to a nine-wicket defeat in Brisbane, having been skittled for a paltry 147 in the first innings as Australia seized the upper hand.

Root's side will seek redemption when the second Test, a day-night match, begins in Adelaide on Thursday.

And the captain has no fears of history repeating itself, with England having failed to win a single Test across their previous two Ashes tours.

"It doesn't feel like previous tours leaving Brisbane where we have been battered and completely on the wrong end of the result," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I think we're leaving Brisbane with a slightly different perspective.

"There is a lot more optimism. I thought our bowlers did a brilliant job and created a lot of chances, but when you don't take them it makes it really hard."

England's team selection came under scrutiny after James Anderson and Stuart Broad were left out at the Gabba. Spinner Jack Leach was included and posted 1-102 from 13 overs.

Anderson looks set to come back into the fold as he aims to build on his record haul of Test wickets for his country, but the need for a spin option could see Broad sidelined again, with Dom Bess the possible beneficiary.

"No selection is straightforward and this one looks like it could be a fascinating one," said Root.

"The great thing is we have got everyone fit and available and ready, so whoever is given the opportunity, you would like to think they will be champing at the bit.

"We obviously have big decisions to make."

The returning Ben Stokes suffered a knee injury while fielding in Brisbane and Root conceded there is some doubt over the all-rounder's involvement.

"We will find out about Ben over the next couple of days," said Root.

"Hopefully that is something he's shaken off now and he can get back to full intensity, but all options are on the table. We will have to manage that and see where we are at."

Joe Root said England must make brave calls and insisted the tourists are not scared of a challenge after they were put to the sword by Australia in the Ashes opener.

England were left licking their wounds after crumbling on day four of the first Test, which Australia comprehensively won by nine wickets at the Gabba.

Root's England – having opted not to play star bowling pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad – went from 220-2 to all out for 297 in Brisbane, where Australia swiftly chased down 20 runs for victory on Saturday.

After England's collapse, Root defended his decision to bat first against Australia.

"If we go about things the way we did on the last two tours we'll get the same result," Root said, with England having lost nine matches without winning on their last two tours to Australia.

"We have to be brave. I look back and think [batting] was the right decision.

"In terms of selection, we could have gone a different way [but] we wanted variety in our attack and ways of changing things."

 

"I'm not trying to make things up," said Root. "We're not far away."

Root and Dawid Malan had sparked renewed hope for England on Friday following a strong rear-guard display, but the revival was short-lived after losing eight wickets for just 77 runs across the opening session on Saturday.

England will now look ahead to the day-night Test in Adelaide, starting Thursday.

"We're a team that's always responded well to situations like this in the recent past," Root told BT Sport. "We're not scared of a challenge.

"We're not scared of fronting up to a difficult result, and we'll just have to make sure that we do exactly that again on this occasion."

Australia captain Pat Cummins expressed his pride with the team's complete performance after the hosts embarrassed England to claim the opening Ashes Test.

England fell to pieces on day four as Australia humbled the tourists by nine wickets to draw first blood in the Ashes on Saturday.

Australia were set just 20 runs for victory after England went from 220-2 at the start of play to 297 all out – the visiting nation losing 77-8 in a stunning collapse.

Nathan Lyon fuelled Australia with 4-91 as he became only the third Australian bowler to reach 400 wickets and Cummins – in his first Test as captain after replacing former skipper Tim Paine – revelled in the display while hailing man-of-the-match Travis Head following his first-inning century.

"I really enjoyed it, a lot of things did go right, probably from the toss - overcast conditions, wicket had a bit in it, turn up day two and it's blue skies," Cummins said during the post-match presentations. "So someone was smiling on me.

"Really proud of everyone, complete performance, the bowlers did their thing, then Marnus [Labuschagne] and Davey's [David Warner] partnership and the way Travis [Head] played. Sign of a positive, brave side.

"I was really happy about how everyone stuck to it, we bowled without luck yesterday [Friday]. Turned up positive and not thinking about too much other than trying to get that breakthrough.

"That's why we want him [Head] in the side, he can take a game away in a couple of hours. He showed what he can do, bright future, hopefully he's away now."

 

Cummins also said he is confident David Warner will be fit for the day-night Test in Adelaide after the star opener did not bat on Saturday, while also adding that paceman Josh Hazlewood had pulled up okay.

As for England skipper Joe Root, he cut a frustrated figure after the tourists' overnight hopes were swiftly dashed at the Gabba.

England emerged on the fourth day with renewed hope after Root and Dawid Malan mounted a fine rear-guard on Friday – the pair's stance leading the tourists to 220-2, but they capitulated and were all out prior to lunch.

"Frustration, we worked really hard to get ourselves back in the game last night and we knew how in important it was to try and get through to the new ball unscathed," Root said. "If we carried that partnership forward we could have given ourselves an opportunity.

"You saw how the pitch was playing here was sideways movement and the cracks were appearing. It's a shame we couldn't get through that initial period."

Root added: "Important in a five-match series not to feel too sorry for ourselves, relish the challenge to go out there and try and get one back. There are good things to take, most importantly the bowling effort. Created chances and felt in the game for a long time. Need to learn from this and come back stronger."

"Easy with hindsight, but can't create as many chances as we did and put them down. Similar with the bat, [29-4] is not the way to start a Test series. But we know where we need to improve, and the way we responded in the second series showed fight which will stand us in good stead," he said.

Dawid Malan admitted he thought he "may never play another Test again" after the left-hander combined with Joe Root to frustrate Australia in Brisbane.

England were skittled for 147 on the opening day of the Ashes and problems were compounded when Travis Head's 152 guided Australia to 425, the hosts boasting a 278-run first-innings lead.

When Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed were dismissed with just 61 on the board in response, Root's side were teetering once more on day three before the vital partnership between the England captain and Malan.

The pair dug deep to record an unbeaten 159-run partnership, with Malan six behind his skipper, who reached the close of play on 86 not out as England reduced Australia's lead to 58.

Malan, who flourished in Perth during the last Ashes trip before losing his place due to a lack of form, is relishing the somewhat unexpected opportunity of facing Australia once again. 

"I thought I'd never play another Test again," he told reporters. "I actually said to Rooty when we were on 40 or 50 and the Barmy Army were singing, 'I've really missed this'."

"I've missed having someone trying to blow my head off all the time, the crowd going and the adrenaline going, playing against the best bowlers going around. Test cricket is the pinnacle.

"To be able to stand out here in an England shirt. I'm so proud to do that. Especially to do it here at The Gabba in front of everyone. It's just really good fun.

"You can do as well as you want in Twenty20 or 50-over cricket, but you're judged a lot by your Test career at the end of it. For us, an Ashes series is the biggest series of our calendar so to come here and get runs against this really good attack is very satisfying."

Root, who has amassed 1,541 runs in a prolific 2021, moved past former England captain Michael Vaughan (1,481 in 2002) for the most runs in a calendar year for his country in Test cricket.

While hailing the work of his skipper – who is closing in on a maiden century in Australia – Malan appreciated England are still in a difficult position.

"The job isn't done yet, just getting an 80 doesn't mean you've made it, it's about scoring the big hundred that will change the game," he added.

"They are so brilliant at closing that door on us. We need one more good 100-run partnership to put a score on the board and then who knows what can happen? To come in after a day and a half of hard fielding and do what we did here was fantastic, but that’s only half the job.

"Joe's record obviously speaks for itself, with what he's done in his career. Batting with him is great because he takes the pressure off you, always looks to score and seems to find a way of putting the pressure back on the bowlers. 

"It's a great sign for us as a team that Joe is playing so well and leading from the front."

England captain Joe Root and Dawid Malan mounted a fine rearguard to help England get back into the first Ashes Test against Australia with an unbroken 159-run third-wicket partnership.

The tourists reached 220-2 at stumps on day three at the Gabba, trailing by only 58 runs, with Root 86 not out and Malan 80 no.

Australia had added 82 to their overnight score – led by Travis Head, who passed 150 for the second time in his Test career – before being bowled out for 425, with a 278-run lead.

England appeared well behind in the game at 61-2 when Mitchell Starc had Haseeb Hameed (27) caught behind by Alex Carey.

But Root and Malan combined for an excellent partnership, as batting conditions improved on a bright day in Brisbane where only five wickets fell.

Australia had resumed on 343-7, with Head and Starc continuing their 85-run eighth-wicket stand well into the first session before the latter fell for 35. Mark Wood then claimed the final two wickets – including Head with a yorker for 152 – to finish with 85-3.

In response, England opener Burns, who was clean bowled with the first ball of the series, almost fell for a pair when umpire Paul Reiffel gave him out lbw from Starc.

Burns successfully had the decision overturned, with the early bounce taking it over, but did not capitalise on the reprieve for long, caught behind by Carey as Australia skipper Pat Cummins deceived him for 13.

Hameed had played well before he tickled a Starc delivery down leg through to Carey to fall for 27.

However, Root and Malan responded with a gritty stand. The England skipper was clinical off his pads, hitting 10 boundaries, while Malan was excellent square of the wicket, also finding the rope on 10 occasions.

Record for Root

Root's attempt to play at the final ball of the day from Cameron Green almost undid his hard work, but the England captain remains well poised for a 24th Test century and fourth Ashes hundred after being dismissed for a duck in the first innings.

Six of Root's tons have come in 2021 alone, and this knock has now taken him clear of Michael Vaughan (1,481 in 2002) with the most England Test runs in a calendar year (1,541).

Aussie bowling concerns

The first session on day four will be critical for both sides, with only 10 overs left until Australia take the new ball, desperate to get more wickets before England take the lead.

Josh Hazlewood did not bowl in the final session on day three, only getting through eight overs in the second innings in a slight concern for the hosts, while spinner Nathan Lyon has struggled, failing to take a wicket so far in the match.

Travis Head hit his first Ashes century as Australia reached 343-7 to take control of the first Test in Brisbane.

Head's place in Australia's line-up was under some scrutiny heading into the series, but the decision to give him the nod over Usman Khawaja paid off emphatically and he is still in place on 112 not out heading into day three.

His century came after David Warner fell just short of a ton, striking 94 before falling to Ollie Robinson, the pick of England's bowlers with 3-48.

A blow to the underside of Head's chin from an errant Mark Wood delivery could not even dampen Australia's mood.

England were desperate for a fast start after a nightmare opening day at the Gabba, where the tourists were skittled for 147.

Joe Root's men got what they wanted – Ashes debutant Robinson making the early breakthrough when he had Marcus Harris (3) caught at slip.

Ben Stokes knocked over Warner for 17 but he was afforded a reprieve with a no-ball call, while Marnus Labuschagne's edge fell agonisingly short of Root.

Warner was granted two more lives following lunch – Rory Burns dropping a routine catch on 49, while the opener was stranded outside his crease on 60 – but Jack Leach's dismissal of Labuschagne sparked England.

Four wickets in the space of eight overs followed. Warner, Cameron Green (0) and Steve Smith (12) all sent to the pavilion as Robinson just missed out on a hat-trick.

Despite the wickets of Alex Carey (12) and captain Pat Cummins (12), England – walking wounded with Stokes struggling and most of their attacking fading in the sun – were unable to maintain their charge.

Head surpassed his century with a sublime on-drive from Chris Woakes and though Wood's beamer did deliver a blow to the batsman's jaw, his efforts moving Australia into a 196-run lead.

Head stars as team-mates set the stage

Head could well have put this game out of England's reach. His innings so far has included 12 boundaries and two sixes. Only four players have scored a faster hundred for Australia in a men's Test innings (Adam Gilchrist, Jack Gregory, Warner, Matthew Hayden).

While they did not have centuries to show for their efforts, Warner and Labuschagne enjoyed stellar days. Warner posted his sixth 50-plus score as an opening batsman at the Gabba, equalling Bill Lawry for the second most at the ground in the format as an opener – only Mark Taylor (eight) has more. Labuschagne, meanwhile, recorded his fourth 50-plus score in five career innings at the Gabba.

No-ball embarrassment

Umpiring and technology were in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons after Stokes' early spell. Having been denied the wicket of Warner due to a no-ball, analysis of his spell showed the England star had overstepped 14 times with only two no-balls called. The reason? The technology had failed, leaving the umpires to make the calls.

As for Stokes, he finished with disappointing figures of 0-50 from nine overs, suffering a knee injury in the field to further compound a so-far frustrating return.

Pat Cummins made a blistering start to his Australia captaincy, spearheading a day of destruction with a five-for as England were skittled out for 147 on day one of the opening Ashes Test.

Cummins – who replaced Tim Paine as skipper after stepping down and ultimately taking a break from cricket following a lewd texting scandal – ushered in a new era with a five-wicket haul for just 38 runs before rain and bad light scuppered play at the Gabba on Wednesday.

England won the toss and opted to bat first on a green wicket in Brisbane but it was a horror day for Joe Root's tourists.

Mitchell Starc (2-35) knocked over Roy Burns' leg stump with the first ball of the series and things quickly turned sour, much to the delight of the local crowd.

Root's nightmare was realised when he was sent back to the pavilion for a duck by Josh Hazlewood (2-42) as England found themselves 11-3 after Dawid Malan (6) also succumbed to the Australian quick.

Australia continued to put England to the sword as Cummins claimed the scalp of star Ben Stokes (5), leaving England 29-4 through just 12.4 overs.

Haseeb Hameed (25) tried his best to steer the sinking ship, but Australia continued where they left off post-lunch – Cummins dismissing the opener with vice-captain Steve Smith on hand to collect the catch.

Ollie Pope (35) and Jos Buttler (39) guided England past 100 before Starc broke the partnership, Buttler edging through to debutant wicketkeeper Alex Carey for the second of his three catches.

Australia wrapped up the innings early in the afternoon as Cameron Green (1-6) celebrated his first Test wicket by removing Pope before Ollie Robinson (0), Mark Wood (8) and Chris Woakes (21) fell victim to Cummins, with the weather preventing the hosts from beginning their run chase.

 

Cummins joins exclusive club

It was a memorable day for Cummins, who became the second pace bowler to take five wickets in a Test innings as captain of Australia after George Griffin (three occasions in December 1894, February 1895 and January 1895). Cummins has taken 133 wickets in Test cricket since the start of 2018 – the most of any bowler in that time.

Starc silences critics

After avoiding the axe for the two opening Ashes Tests, Starc had the perfect response for his doubters with a first-ball wicket. It was just the second time in Ashes history a batter has been dismissed off the opening delivery of a series, while it was the 13th time Starc has claimed a wicket in the first over of a Test since 2014.

England left Stuart Broad out of their team for the first Ashes Test in Brisbane on Wednesday after already revealing James Anderson would miss the match.

It meant the tourists went into the series opener without pace bowlers who have collected a combined 1,156 Test wickets, and it amounted to a gamble.

The 35-year-old Broad has 524 of those wickets to his name, yet in Ashes Tests in Australia he has only taken 34 victims in 12 matches at an average of 37.17, strikingly different to his rate of 84 at 26.19 in home Tests against the same opposition.

England captain Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat, with Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood chosen as frontline pace options, with Ben Stokes also sure to figure in that equation, backed up by spinner Jack Leach.

Root said: "We're blessed with a very good seam attack and a very good squad out here in that department in particular, and it was a very difficult decision to make.

"But there's five Test matches and all those guys I'm sure will be wanting to play a big part throughout this series, and it's important they're all ready to go when called upon at any time."

New Australia captain Pat Cummins said he was relishing the tussle, saying on BT Sport: "I feel great. Can't wait. The buzz has been amazing around town."

He added: "I thought maybe Broad or Anderson would play each Test, but it's not a huge deal. They're a good XI and we're going to have to play well."

Australia gave a Test debut to Alex Carey, with the wicketkeeper stepping in for Tim Paine, the former skipper who is taking time out of cricket after the lewd text message scandal that ended his time in charge of the team.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad were the only members of the England squad who were born when the tourists last won an Ashes Test at the Gabba.

The hostile iconic Brisbane venue has been such a fortress for Australia that you have to go back to November 1986 for their previous Test defeat to England at the ground where the 2021-22 series starts on Wednesday.

Yet India consigned Australia to a first Gabba loss in the longest format for over 32 years in January and England captain Joe Root is backing his side to end the hoodoo, despite a lack of match practice due to rain.

The world's number one Test batter said: "[Victory] would absolutely set us up for the rest of the series and it's a great opportunity.

"This group of players, not that long ago, went to Cape Town where we've not won a Test for a long period of time and off the back of a performance there won the series.

"I feel like we have been able to do that around the world and this is an opportunity to do that here. Obviously conditions are slightly different to home, at this venue in particular with that extra bit of bounce, but we have prepared as well as we can for that. If we manage that well we should give a really good account of ourselves and start well."

Ben Stokes' return gives England a massive lift as they attempt to wrestle back the urn, though they won't have the usual level of backing from the Barmy Army as usual due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

The tourists were thrashed 4-0 in their last Ashes series Down Under in 2017-18 after the humiliation of a 2013-14 whitewash, so it is almost 10 years since their last Test win in Australia.

Stats Perform looks at some of the key factors that will decide whether they can make it a miserable start to Pat Cummins' reign as Australia Test captain.

 

Stoking the fires

Stokes has not played for his country since July, but declared himself fit to face Australia after taking a break to prioritise his mental well-being and fully recover from a fractured finger.

The all-rounder was England's player of the series in an Ashes series two years ago that ended in a 2-2 draw, scoring 441 runs at an average of 55.12 and producing one of the great innings at Headingley to pull off an unlikely victory.

Vice-captain Stokes' return should add strength to the middle order they have been lacking and Root will be hoping he can do some damage in short, sharp bursts with the ball.

 

Root must keep racking up the runs

It has been an incredible 2021 for Root, who has scored six Test centuries - including one double-hundred in Sri Lanka and another in India.

The skipper said this tour will define his captaincy and England will need him to keep racking up the runs if they are to return home with a surprise series win.

Only five batsmen have scored more Test centuries in a year than Root's tally, with Mohammad Yousuf holding the record with a staggering nine in 2006.

 

Lack of pace potency?

Not for the first time in Ashes, a lack of pace could be a big issue for England and how they would love to have a fit Jofra Archer firing.

Australian Troy Cooley was brought into the touring party as a consultant pace bowling coach and there is no doubting the quality in the England attack, led by James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Broad tormented Warner in the 2019 series, but the opener could be much more difficult to dismiss on home soil with a Kookaburra ball and returned to form in Australia's recent T20 World Cup triumph.

Mark Wood is capable of doing damage but it remains to be seen how many Tests the injury-prone quick can play. Ollie Robinson could make a big impact in his first Ashes series and Chris Woakes can hit the sort of lengths to trouble batters in Australia.

Darren Gough has been appointed as managing director of Yorkshire on an interim basis following the Azeem Rafiq racism crisis, the club has confirmed.

Ex-England bowler Gough will relinquish his current media duties to take the role at his former county, initially until the conclusion of the 2022 season, as Yorkshire look to rebuild in the wake of the revelations by Rafiq.

A 100-page independent report in early November upheld claims by Rafiq that he had been the victim of "racial harassment and bullying" during his time at Yorkshire.

Former chairman Roger Hutton resigned with immediate effect over Yorkshire's handling of the investigation, with new chair Kamlesh Patel stepping into the role.

Chief executive Mark Arthur then followed Hutton in resigning, while Yorkshire announced on Friday that they were parting ways with their entire coaching and medical team, including first-team coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon.

Gough, who enjoyed two spells at Headingley as a player, will oversee the recruitment of a new coaching team as his immediate priority.

On his appointment, Gough told Yorkshire's official website: "Yorkshire County Cricket Club has been part of my life since my earliest days in cricket when I made my debut in 1989, and I spent 15 happy years at the club. 

"Like many, I have followed how the club handled the recent racism allegations with sadness and anger.

"I want to play my part in rebuilding cricket in Yorkshire and I am looking forward to working with the exceptionally talented group of players here. 

"I am also aware of my wider responsibility to listen to everyone and ensure that every person who is associated with this club feels welcome, instilling values we want associated with the White Rose: honesty, straight talking, hard work, integrity and excellence.

"I share [Kamlesh] Patel's vision for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and the collective determination to face the issues head on with a series of positive actions. Change will not happen overnight, but I am certain that we can make Headingley roar again."

Gough retired from professional cricket in 2008 but travelled to New Zealand in 2019 as a mentor for England's seamers on tour.

Current England captain Joe Root, who worked with Gough on that tour and is a lifelong Yorkshire player, has backed the 51-year-old to succeed in his new role.

Speaking ahead of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, Root – before the appointment was confirmed – said: "It's news to me, but if that is the case he's a good man and I'm sure he'll be looking to put his stamp on things at the club.

"From my experience of spending time with Goughie, he's obviously very passionate and knowledgeable about the game. His love for it is clear for everyone to see. 

"I'm sure he'll want to bring all of that to the fore, all of his experience and achievements in the game and pass them on to the group if he is the man to take over."

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