James Anderson will have a scan on his calf after bowling just four overs in the first session of the Ashes.

The England seamer conceded a solitary run from a probing new-ball spell at Edgbaston, as the hosts reduced Australia to 83-3 at lunch.

However, the availability of England's all-time leading wicket-taker for the rest of the match is in question after the ECB confirmed he is suffering from tightness in his right calf.

Anderson injured the same muscle on July 2 playing for Lancashire against Durham, with the problem keeping him out of action until this week.

Stuart Broad took 2-17 and Chris Woakes 1-17 in a strong start for England, although the decision to pick Anderson ahead of the of Sam Curran, Olly Stone and Jofra Archer – the seam trio omitted from the hosts' 14-man squad - is likely to be called into question if he is unable to return.

Stuart Broad claimed two wickets before Australia recovered from a shaky start to reach 83-3 on the first morning of the Ashes.

Touring captain Tim Paine won the toss and opted to bat in the opening Test at Edgbaston, but his side were soon in trouble as the vastly experienced new-ball pairing of Broad and James Anderson started superbly, extracting seam movement to regularly beat the bat.

Broad, bowling notably fuller and posing a continued threat, removed openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft for two and eight respectively in a superb first spell.

Australia also lost Usman Khawaja to Chris Woakes prior to lunch, but Steve Smith (23 not out) held firm in his first Test innings since he was suspended for his role in last year's ball-tampering scandal and Travis Head provided some much-needed impetus in reaching 26 not out.

Anderson - a fitness doubt ahead of this match - did not bowl again in the morning after an opening four-over burst that yielded figures of 0-1. He briefly left the field after that spell, although it was not clear whether his lack of overs prior to lunch was due to an injury scare or cautious management of the 37-year-old's workload.

Warner's brief innings was certainly not short of incident. Firstly, he was given a life on one when an edge down the leg side off Broad went unnoticed and England failed to call for a review.

In Broad's next over, England wasted a review after umpire Aleem Dar correctly turned down an lbw appeal. Broad did trap Warner in front four balls later, but replays showed the full-pitched delivery would have missed leg stump, meaning the batsman should have sent the decision upstairs.

Warner's dismissal was predictably greeted with jubilation by sandpaper-waving fans eager to remind the opener of his Cape Town ball-tampering shame.

Bancroft, representing Australia for the first time since that saga, soon became a second victim for Broad, edging to Joe Root at first slip having been squared up by one that left him.

A successful review from England then accounted for Khawaja, who got the faintest of edges to a Woakes delivery.

However, Smith would not be shifted and Head, after beginning his innings with 15 dot balls, scored freely to lift the pressure on Australia, who opted to leave out Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood on a day when showers were forecast in the afternoon.

Australia have left out Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood for the first Ashes Test against England, in which the tourists will bat first after winning the toss at Edgbaston.

The exclusion of Starc, the Cricket World Cup's leading wicket-taker, had been predicted in the days leading up to the series opener, but Hazlewood also missed out on selection.

Australia captain Tim Paine confirmed at the toss that James Pattinson and Peter Siddle had got the nod to partner Pat Cummins in his pace attack. Pattinson will be making his first Test appearance since February 2016 after returning from radical back surgery, while Siddle returns having impressed for Essex in the English County Championship.

Starc has struggled to produce his best form in recent red-ball action, but leaving him out still represents something of a gamble from Australia given his outstanding performances during the World Cup in England and Wales.

"It's difficult to leave them out," said Paine of Starc and Hazlewood. "They've been quality performers for a long time but they're going to play a part in the series."

As expected, Cameron Bancroft ousts Marcus Harris at the top of the order, the former returning to the Test arena along with David Warner and Steve Smith following the trio's bans for their roles in last year's ball-tampering scandal. Matthew Wade was picked to bat at six, ahead of Mitchell Marsh.

England named their team on Wednesday. The fit-again James Anderson, who turned 37 on Tuesday, has been included but there is no place for Jofra Archer.

Home skipper Root will bat at number three, having previously expressed a preference for coming in at four.

The opening day's play looked set to start on schedule at 11am local time, but afternoon showers were forecast in Birmingham.

 

England: Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (captain), Joe Denly, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.

Australia: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (captain), James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon.

England and Australia will both be desperate to make a strong start in the 2019 Ashes opener at Edgbaston on Thursday.

But just how important is it for a team to gain an early advantage in the series?

We look at how the first day and Test unfolded in each of the past 10 Ashes contests, to determine whether initial success is key to claiming the urn.

 

2001

Winner of first day: By the end of day one in the 2001 series, Australia were in the driving seat at Edgbaston. England initially collapsed to 191-9 before recovering to make 294 as Alec Stewart (65) and number 11 Andy Caddick (49 not out) rallied. The tourists then made it to stumps on 133-2, with Michael Slater unbeaten on 76.

First Test result: Australia went on to rack up a mammoth first-innings score of 576 and skittled England for a paltry 164 to secure an emphatic innings-and-118-run victory.

Ashes result: The first Test set the tone for a one-sided series, which Australia won 4-1.

 

2002-03

Winner of first day: Poor old Nasser Hussain is regularly reminded of the time he made the shock decision to bowl first on a batting-friendly surface at the Gabba in November 2002. Hussain must have wanted the ground to open up and swallow him when Australia ended day one on 364-2, Matthew Hayden having compiled 186 not out.

First Test result: England rallied to dismiss their hosts for 492, but still suffered a thumping defeat. Set 464 for victory on the fourth day, they shambolically subsided to 79 all out, handing Australia victory by 384 runs.

Ashes result: Another 4-1 win for Australia and another series where England's only win, this time in Sydney, came with the Ashes urn beyond them.

 

2005

Winner of first day: England went into the 2005 Ashes high on optimism and that was only heightened when they limited Australia to 190. However, Australia were on top by the end of day one. Glenn McGrath decimated the England top order and Michael Vaughan's men limped through to stumps on 92-7.

First Test result: Kevin Pietersen made a pair of fifties on his Test debut, but Australia ultimately won at a canter, triumphing by 239 runs after making 384 in their second innings.

Ashes result: In arguably the greatest Ashes series of all time, England secured a 2-1 victory to regain the urn for the first time in 16 years.

 

2006-07

Winner of first day: Another miserable Brisbane experience for England famously began with a woeful Steve Harmison wide straight to second slip. Australia had an imposing total of 346-3 at stumps, with skipper Ricky Ponting unbeaten on 137.

First Test result: The hosts went on to reach 602-9 declared, setting the platform for another crushing victory. Paul Collingwood and Pietersen delayed the inevitable on the fourth day after England had been set 648, but Australia won by 277 runs.

Ashes result: Things got no better for Andrew Flintoff's England thereafter as Australia wrapped up a 5-0 series whitewash.

 

2009

Winner of first day: A tense opening day in Cardiff ended with honours even, England having battled to 336-7 thanks to contributions throughout the order.

First Test result: The contest ended in a draw, but only just. Australia were one wicket from victory before England's last pair of James Anderson and Monty Panesar dug deep to deny the tourists.

Ashes result: As had been the case in 2005, England won the series 2-1, earning successes at Lord's and The Oval either side of an innings-and-80-run loss at Headingley.

 

2010-11

Winner of first day: Australia were the happier side after day one of the 2010-11 series in Brisbane. A hat-trick from Peter Siddle, on his 26th birthday, helped limit England to 260 before the hosts reached 25 without loss in reply.

First Test result: After conceding a first-innings lead of 221, England sensationally rescued a draw by piling up 517-1 declared in their second innings. Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott made hundreds, while Alastair Cook's unbeaten 235 spanned more than 10 hours.

Ashes result: Cook finished with 766 runs in the series as England ran out 3-1 winners. All three of their victories came by an innings as they enjoyed Ashes success in Australia for the first time in 24 years.

 

2013

Winner of first day: England were seemingly ahead by a narrow margin after the first day at Trent Bridge, after reducing Australia to 75-4 in reply to an underwhelming total of 215 all out.

First Test result: An absorbing match - highlighted by debutant Ashton Agar contributing 98 to a 10th-wicket partnership of 163 for Australia in the first innings - ended with England prevailing by 14 runs.

Ashes result: England won the series 3-0, following up their narrow victories of 2005 and 2009 with a much more convincing triumph.

 

2013-14

Winner of first day: Stuart Broad's five-wicket haul ensured England were thought to be in front at the end of day one at the Gabba, with Australia 273-8 on a pitch that appeared benign.

First Test result: Australia dominated the remaining days, dismissing England for 136 and 179 to prevail by 381 runs.

Ashes result: Another 5-0 whitewash for Australia.

 

2015

Winner of first day: A relatively even opening day in Cardiff four years ago ended with England, who opted to bat, on 343-7, thanks largely to a century from Joe Root.

First Test result: After reaching 430, England limited Australia to 308 and kicked on to win by 169 runs on day four.

Ashes result: A 3-2 win for England represented their fourth consecutive Ashes success on home soil.

 

2017-18

Winner of first day: Although they only lost four wickets on day one of the 2017-18 series at the Gabba, England's painfully slow progress meant it was tough to determine who was ahead at the close, with the tourists on 196-4.

First Test result: The match remained hard to call when the hosts eked out a first-innings lead of 26, but Australia ended up winning by 10 wickets, after bowling England out for 195 in the second dig and cruising to a target of 170.

Ashes result: Australia charged to a 4-0 victory, the eighth home win in the last nine Ashes series.

 

SUMMARY:

It would be foolish to read too much into the first day of this year's Ashes series, but the outcome of the opening Test is a much more significant pointer to what will follow.

Australia have won five opening days compared to England's two over the last 10 series, with three too close to call.

However, the teams have won five Ashes series apiece in that time and there have been three examples (2005, 2010-11 and 2013-14) of teams recovering from being second best on the opening day to win the series.

A defeat in the first Test is, understandably, a tougher barrier to overcome. England's 2005 Ashes triumph is the only example this century of a team winning the series after being beaten in the opening match.

Australia's five other first-Test wins since 2001 were all converted into Ashes successes, while England triumphed in 2013 and 2015 after starting those series with wins and also secured victory in the two rubbers that began with draws (2009 and 2010-11).

Joe Root baulked at the suggestion he is under less pressure to deliver an Ashes series win because of his part in England's Cricket World Cup victory.

England and Australia resume their famous rivalry at Edgbaston on Thursday, the first of five Tests in a packed seven-week schedule as the hosts aim to build upon their breathless triumph over New Zealand at Lord's with another memorable success in the longest format.

Root was England's leading runs scorer as Eoin Morgan's men lifted the trophy, comfortably dispatching Australia in the semi-finals en route to glory.

But the 28-year-old is captain once again for Test duties, as he was when Australia took back possession of the urn with a 4-0 win on home soil 18 months ago.

"I think if you speak to anyone that's captained England and is on the verge of an Ashes series… to say that it doesn't mean as much as any other event, I don't think any of them would agree. It's huge," Root, who will step up again to the crucial number three position in England's brittle top order, told a pre-match news conference.

"Cricket in this country is at an all-time high and probably has interest it's not had for a long time. We've got an opportunity as a team to make this summer a very memorable one."

It is a joust limited-overs specialist Morgan will watch from afar.

Root spoke warmly of the Irishman's influence on his leadership of the Test team as he seeks to plot a similarly defining triumph.

"I'm sure he's still celebrating somewhere, to be honest," Root grinned. "He's obviously desperate for us to do well.

"He's been great with me in terms of helping me find my feet as a captain and someone I will always will look up to.

"He's a great man and a great leader. He'll be as supportive as anyone watching on from wherever he is – hopefully with a glass of red somewhere."

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes return to the England side after sitting out last week's topsy-turvy Test win over Ireland – the duo prescribed rest after showing nerves of steel to guide England towards and through the super-over finale versus New Zealand.

"When you look back at that final and everything that it threw at the group who played in it, those are experiences you can hold with you for ever," Root said, acknowledging the lingering benefit such exploits could have over the coming weeks.

"For people like Jos and Ben, who spent a long period out there under pressure, it must make you think differently and it'll be interesting to see that unfold throughout this series.

"It can only be positive to have two senior players perform for a long period of time under the biggest scrutiny and pressure in the white-ball format.

"They've got a chance now to take that into the red-ball stuff and into this series."

Tim Paine believes the Ashes provides Australia with a perfect opportunity to prove they have settled into a more mellow demeanour.

Following the 2018 ball-tampering scandal which resulted in Cameron Bancroft, David Warner and Steve Smith – Paine's predecessor as captain – being suspended, Cricket Australia demanded a review of the team culture.

Bancroft, Smith and Warner all returned to Australia's Test squad for the first time for the Ashes, which starts at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Despite England all-rounder Ben Stokes expressing doubts over Australia's friendlier approach, Paine believes his side can prove they have changed for the better since the controversy in March 2018.

"Every time we play now it is [a chance to do that], there's no doubt about that," Paine told a news conference.

"We want Australian cricket fans and Australian people to be proud of their cricket team. Every time we walk out on the field that's what we're aiming to do.

"We're also aiming to win and be as competitive as people expect of an international cricket side. That's how we're going to go about it.

"Our guys understand what's expected of them. We're role models not just for Australian people but all round the world."

Paine has urged his team-mates to remember a quote widely attributed to former British prime minister Winston Churchill despite there being no evidence he said it.

"There has been a quote going around our changing rooms this week from Winston Churchill actually, and that's that behaviour doesn't lie," Paine added.

"We can talk all we like about how we're going to behave. Ultimately you guys will see how we behave and judge for yourself."

England captain Joe Root explained his increasing ease with being the team's leader motivated his decision to move up to number three in the batting order for the Ashes.

Root will come in at first wicket down as England look to wrest control of the urn from rivals Australia over the next seven weeks.

There has long been a clamour for the 28-year-old to take on that high-pressure role, given his status as the most gifted batsman in a team that frequently loses cheap wickets at the top of the order.

Having captained England to a 4-0 defeat in Australia 18 months ago, Root's growing assurance as skipper helped persuade him to take the plunge.

"I think it's important that we spread the experience out. It gives me the opportunity to lead from the front as well," he told a pre-match news conference on the eve of the highly anticipated series opener at Edgbaston.

"I also feel now that I'm in a place where I've got my head around dealing with the captaincy and my batting – being able to separate the two.

"Hopefully it's an opportunity for me to make an impact at the top of the order."

Joe Denly came into the England side as an opener for this year's tour of the West Indies, meaning he will take on his third batting spot of a four-Test career in Birmingham to accommodate Root's elevation.

Jason Roy backed up his blistering World Cup form with a half-century on his debut in the longest format against Ireland at Lord's last week, but Surrey colleague Rory Burns – himself a Test debutant in Sri Lanka last November – has failed to reach 30 in his past six international innings.

As a collective, it does not present the most intimidating prospect to Australia's much-vaunted seam attack, but Root is confident of their prospects and placed an onus on Roy to take the attack to the tourists.

"I think it's a very exciting top order," he said. "I want Jason to go out and play in his own manner.

"Naturally he has the ability to put any bowler under pressure at any given time. That's very exciting.

"The most import at thing is that as a group we keep things very simple and are focused and continually work hard on those big partnerships that contribute to winning."

Another World Cup hero, Jofra Archer, must wait for his Test bow after James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes were named as England's frontline seam attack.

The 24-year-old fast bowler was England's leading wicket-taker but needed a post-tournament lay off due to a side strain, with Root keen not to risk his fitness as the games come thick and fast in a compressed five-match series.

"Jofra's obviously coming back from quite a serious injury," he said.

"We looked at the conditions and we made a decision on what we thought was best going to take 20 wickets here.

"It also allows him time to get absolutely ready and fit and make sure his workload is up and ready to go for later on in the series if he needs to make an impact."

Australia have named former captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft together in their squad for the first time since the trio served suspensions for their part in a ball-tampering scandal.

Smith's successor Tim Paine used his briefing to talk up the high standards of behaviour set in his regime – albeit by mistakenly attributing a quote to Winston Churchill – but Root feels such matters should not be a focus of the England dressing room.  

"We'll see how that unfolds over the course of this series, but their behaviour doesn't really concern me," he added.

"My concern is we go about things in our own way, we know what we're about as a side and how we want to go about things. 

"It's really important we look after that and don't get too wrapped up in how they play their cricket."

Tim Paine insists he has no need to justify his place as Australia's captain heading into the opening Ashes Test against England.

Australia and England clash in the first Test of the five-match series at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Paine was named Australia's captain after Steve Smith was stripped of the role after the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

The wicket-keeper has scored only one first-class century in his career and some doubts have been raised over his role, but he feels no need to fear his place despite Smith's return to the team, alongside former deputy David Warner.

On the eve of the Ashes, asked if he felt he had to justify his position, Paine told reporters: "No, I do not at all. I'm 34, I don't really care about my place in the side any more. I'm here to do a job.

"I've been put in this team to captain and wicket-keep to the best of my ability and at 34, if you are looking further ahead than the next Test match you are kidding yourself.

"I'm not going to waste time looking over my shoulder. I'm enjoying the job that I'm doing."

Australia regained the Ashes in style on home turf in the 2017-18 series, winning 4-0, but they have not won a Test series on English soil since 2001. 

Paine, though, feels this Australia squad are capable of retaining the urn against an England side struggling for consistency in the longest form of the game.

"[The Ashes] means a hell of a lot. Every time you play Test cricket against anyone it's a real honour to be out there representing your country," Paine said.

"The history of the Ashes takes that to another level. We are excited, we have an opportunity to come to England and do something that even some of our great teams haven't managed to do in the last 20 years.

"We have the self-belief that we can do it. Everyone can't wait."

England have named their XI for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, with Jofra Archer, Sam Curran and Olly Stone the men to miss out from the initial 14-man squad.

Archer was England's leading wicket-taker as the hosts claimed glory at the World Cup this month, but he was prescribed a period of rest after having to negotiate the latter games of the competition while managing a side strain.

The 24-year-old returned to T20 action for Sussex against Surrey last week, but England have elected not to risk the fast bowler, with veteran seamer James Anderson returning following a calf injury.

Joe Root's frontline seam attack is completed by Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, who combined to blow Ireland away for 38 all out at Lord's last week.

Their exploits meant left-armer Curran and paceman Olly Stone did not a have a second-innings chance to press their Ashes case further, although they claimed three wickets apiece in the 143-run victory.

England's batting struggles were to the fore once again against Ireland and Root will move up to number three, with Joe Denly dropping to four as the latter confirmed at a news conference on Tuesday.

Off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali retains his place despite being shy of his best form with bat and ball.

England have won the past four home Ashes series, but Australia are in possession of the urn, having prevailed 4-0 on home soil 18 months ago.

 

England team to face Australia in the first Ashes Test:

Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (captain), Joe Denly, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.

England have named their XI for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, with Jofra Archer, Sam Curran and Olly Stone the men to miss out from the initial 14-man squad.

With the Cricket World Cup in the rear-view mirror, attention turns to an Ashes series that will be hard-pressed to produce the same kind of drama. 

Following their triumph over New Zealand in what many consider the greatest cricket game ever played, England are out to make it arguably the best year in their history by regaining the urn. 

Australia, meanwhile, are aiming to claim a first Ashes win in England since 2001, but start that quest at Edgbaston, a venue with few happy memories for the tourists and plenty for the hosts. 

So ahead of Thursday's opening day at the site of England's semi-final demolition of the old enemy, we assess the state of the two rival nations. 


BATTING 

There remains no definitive solution to England's interminable struggles to find a settled opening pair, though they appear poised to put faith in one of their World Cup heroes, Jason Roy, despite his inexperience at Test level. 

Roy scored 72 in the second innings of his Test debut against Ireland last week, having only managed five with his first knock, as he looked to adapt his devastating game to the longest format, but the challenge of attempting to see off the new red ball against the Australia attack will be a daunting one. 

It would be a less imposing test if he had a seasoned partner at the top but he will instead likely be occupying the crease alongside another player for whom the Ashes is a completely new experience, with Rory Burns having reached 50 just three times in 16 innings for Surrey this season. 

To protect against a collapse should England's openers continue to fail, Joe Root is set to move up the order and provide a steadying force at number three with Joe Denly dropping to four. 

The picture in the middle order could hardly be more contrasting. Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes give England's batting substantial depth but they and Sam Curran, who has too often had to mount recovery efforts early in his Test career, will hope to avoid being tasked with salvaging innings on a regular basis. 

If the top order can provide some solidity, England's strength in numbers with the bat could prove the difference in a series where the ball may dominate.  

The batting order undoubtedly remains the biggest question mark for Australia as well, even though the returns of Steve Smith and David Warner from suspension will provide a huge boost. 

Warner, despite taking a blow to the thigh in training, is set to open the batting. However, the question is whether that will be alongside Marcus Harris or the third party in the infamous ball-tampering scandal, Cameron Bancroft. The selectors will have to weigh up the risk of throwing Bancroft into the fire at Edgbaston, where he will undoubtedly be targeted by the home fans, versus going with an opener whose inability to convert starts has previously hurt Australia. 

There will be significant pressure on Usman Khawaja to finally deliver on English pitches at three, which would help alleviate some of the burden on former skipper and talisman Smith. 

Travis Head should provide a counter-attacking force from five, but the other big call for Edgbaston is at the spot below him. 

Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade and Marnus Labuschagne are all in contention to bat at six in the opener, the latter the leading run-scorer in County Championship Division Two, and it is a decision Australia can ill-afford to get wrong as they seek a batsman to protect a tail that is unlikely to wag with as much effectiveness as England's. 


BOWLING 

At the start of the year, the prospect of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood both missing out on the first Test would have seemed a preposterous one, with the thought of the former being omitted for Australia even more bemusing after his incredible performances at the World Cup. 

Yet, such is the depth of the tourists' attack that Starc faces the very real possibility of watching the opener from the pavilion with Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Nathan Lyon all apparent locks to play in the first Test and Peter Siddle having re-emerged as a genuine option in the attack. 

Saving Starc for Lord's - the site of his stunning reverse-swing yorker to Ben Stokes at the World Cup – and Headingley, where swing will be a greater factor, may not be the worst policy. If Australia end their 18-year Edgbaston hoodoo and then get to unleash a fresh Starc and Hazlewood against a batting order accustomed to collapses, they will be in a very strong position. 

England's biggest call with the bowlers appears to be whether to end the Anderson-Broad axis early.  

Should they choose to do so it would be Stuart Broad to miss out, with World Cup final Super Over hero Jofra Archer in the running to bring his staggering raw pace to the highest level of the red-ball game.  

After his Herculean effort in said final, Stokes has an opportunity to add to his national-hero status and the all-rounder should be well rested in terms of his bowling having carried little of the load during the World Cup. 

Curran and Woakes provide further world-class all-round options and, even if the latter misses out on Edgbaston, he is almost certain to be back in the frame for Lord's, where he has an average of under 10. 

Moeen Ali will be hoping to firmly re-establish himself as England's best spin option, while Olly Stone is another who offers exciting pace.  

Out of action with a side injury, Mark Wood could yet return for the last two Tests and the fast bowler may be a crucial late addition for an attack that could tire in a gruelling five-match, seven-week series. 


OUTLOOK 

England are favourites to regain the urn on home soil, as Australia have not won an Ashes away series since 2001 and the last four series have gone to the home side. 

The hosts prevailed 3-2 four years ago and, with both teams possessing extremely talented but fallible batting line-ups and supremely deep bowling attacks that should thrive on English pitches, an enthralling series producing the same result would be no surprise.

Ben Stokes has no doubt the Ashes will bring out Australia's true competitive edge, despite their apparent bid to cultivate a more wholesome image.

The first Test begins at Edgbaston on Thursday as England seek to follow up their Cricket World Cup success by regaining the urn.

That ODI triumph on home soil included a semi-final win over an Australia side who appear eager to mend bridges after the ball-tampering scandal that rocked the sport.

But Stokes, who missed the 4-0 series loss in Australia last time out, is expecting the niceties to fade under the intense heat of the two nations' long-standing rivalry.

"It is weird Aussies trying to be nice to you," he said in quotes reported by The Guardian. 

"I think once you get out in the middle and cross the white line, the real competitive side of both teams will come out and Ashes are the biggest Test series played in the world.

"There is always something that happens between teams in Ashes series and I don't think this will be any different.

"Both teams are desperate to win, both sets of players are desperate to perform because Ashes series are where you get scrutinised and criticised more, or praised if you do well.

"I think that first morning of any series is when you want to stamp your authority as a team with bat and ball.

"Getting off to a good start can make it flow throughout the series."

David Warner was one of the Australia players implicated in the ball-tampering affair and Stokes, who was pivotal in England's World Cup success, knows it will be important to limit the destructive batsman's impact.

"He is a player who can take games away from you," added Stokes, who will serve as vice-captain and averages 33.89 with the bat and 31.92 with the ball in Tests.  

"He is a phenomenal batsman and very dangerous opener, so to tie him down and not let him establish his authority against us would be a really big plus.

"We don't want to give anything away to any of their batsmen. We want to let them know we are here to be serious and everyone in the changing room is desperately trying to get that urn back because it's not good them having it."

The Ashes is certainly no stranger to moments of controversy.

Pitting two giants of cricket against one another in an age-old rivalry is always likely to be a recipe for some... well, let us say 'tasty' encounters.

From metal bats to serious injury, batsmen refusing to walk and whole teams leaving the field, England versus Australia for the right to a tiny urn has created some unforgettable moments of infamy in the past 137 years.

Here are some of the most notorious flashpoints...

'Bodyline'

Perhaps the most infamous of all Ashes controversies took place in the 1932-33 series, where England captain Douglas Jardine resorted to rather prosaic means to combat the batting of Don Bradman.

In the first Test, the tourists bowled straight for Australian torsos with short-pitched deliveries in a tactic that was described by local media as 'Bodyline'.

It was brutally effective - England won the series 4-1 - but not only was Jardine's plan considered far outside the spirit of the game, it left Bill Woodfull with a bruised chest and fractured Bert Oldfield's skull. New laws were introduced to stop it happening in such fashion again.

 

Lillee ready for ComBat

Test cricket is steeped in tradition, arguably more so than most other global sports, so you can imagine how well received it was when somebody tried to play with a metal bat. Step forward, Dennis Lillee.

In 1979, in a tour where tensions were already high, Lillee emerged at the WACA with an aluminium bat. He faced four balls and plenty of bemused looks, particularly given the unearthly noise of the thing when he made contact.

Ian Botham complained to the umpire and Australia skipper Greg Chappell, apparently believing the bat to be a disadvantage, reportedly told Lillee to swap back to willow. A furious Lillee hurled the bat towards the boundary before agreeing.

 

Digging for (no) victory

On the final day of the third Test at Headingley in 1975, Australia were all set to continue their chase for 445 and regain the Ashes.

As groundsman George Cawthray removed the covers that morning, however, he saw huge chunks had been dug out of the pitch, some of them filled in with oil. The match was duly abandoned.

The vandalism was a protest calling for the release of George Davis, a 34-year-old London minicab driver who had been sentenced in 1974 to 20 years in prison for armed robbery.

 

England walk off to escape Snow flurry

An acrimonious series reached boiling point in the seventh test in Sydney in 1970-71 - an extra match scheduled after a previous abandonment.

England bowler John Snow, who had upset Australia with bouncing balls in earlier Tests, caught Terry Jenner on the head with a fearsome delivery and home fans were not happy. One grappled with Snow on the pitch; others rained down cans and bottles in his direction.

Skipper Ray Illingworth had seen enough. He marched his side off, despite the risk of a forfeit, until the pitch was cleared of debris and order was restored. In the end, England returned and won the Test by 62 runs to take a 2-0 series win. 

 

What's glove got to do with it?

James Anderson and Monty Panesar were hanging on in Cardiff in 2009 as England desperately tried to draw the first Test 

With England effectively waiting for the clock to tick down, 12th man Bilal Shafayat was sent on with a new pair of gloves for Anderson. One over later, he brought on another. When England physio Steve McCaig appeared to offer some advice to the batsmen, the umpires stepped in.

"He changed [the gloves] the over before, I don't think they'd be too sweaty in one over," an incensed Australia captain Ricky Ponting said. "I'm not sure what the physio was doing out there. We came to play by the rules and the spirit of the game - it's up to them to do what they want to do."

England skipper Andrew Strauss insisted the whole affair was just a misunderstanding. It was a useful one - England got the draw and went on to win the series 2-1.

 

'Broad, walk! Umpire?!'

The ICC were encouraged to suspend Stuart Broad after he refused to walk from the stumps during the third day of the first Test in 2013.

Broad was given not out by umpire Aleem Dar despite blatantly edging Ashton Agar's delivery to Michael Clarke, and he chose not to depart the pitch amid some pretty intense fury from the Australians, most notably coach Darren Lehmann. The anger only increased after Broad helped England to a narrow win.

Although Broad was not compelled by the rules to accept his fate, it was considered by many to be against the spirit of the game. Indeed, West Indies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin got a suspension for a similar offence just a month earlier.

 

Clarke threat takes sledging to new levels

Sledging - for the uninitiated, that's trying to put off the opposition through insults - is a fairly common if discouraged practice in cricket, and no less so during the Ashes.

Six years ago, one particular comment from Clarke caused a real stir: the stump microphone picked him up telling England star Anderson to "get ready for a broken f****** arm" as Australia chased victory in the first Test.

Clarke was fined 20 per cent of his match fee and accepted his language was unwarranted, but he insisted he was right to stick up for team-mate George Bailey. Still, it provoked plenty of discussion and even forced former vice-captain David Warner to admit their sledging tactics had gone too far.

Tim Paine could be a man under growing pressure if Australia make a slow start to the Ashes, but he can silence his doubters quickly.

Paine took over the Test captaincy early last year with his nation reeling in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal that included bans for skipper Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner.

Widely considered the best gloveman in Australia, Paine has done an admirable job since taking the helm and will lead his country into the Ashes against England beginning on Thursday.

But has the 34-year-old, who has played 21 Tests, completed his task, now that leaders Smith and Warner are back?

Paine is without a Test ton and he averages 35.14, often able to produce some handy lower-order contributions, having made five half-centuries.

However, if his dip in form continues it could quickly lead to questions over his spot in Australia's line-up in England, particularly if those above him in the batting order are incapable of delivering the runs the tourists need in what are sure to be bowler-friendly conditions.

Since his nation's last Test against Sri Lanka ended in February, Paine has played in six matches, making just 163 runs at an average of 18.11 for Tasmania and during Australia's warm-up games.

Where the pressure really starts to build is with a look at the form of Matthew Wade, whose runs led to his inclusion in the 17-man squad.

Wade impressed in English conditions during Australia A's tour, making scores of 117, 155, 41 and 42, before another century for an Australian XI against the England Lions.

Paine and Wade may yet be picked in the same XI during the Ashes, but if the former's struggles continue, selectors may opt for a special batsman and give the gloves to the 31-year-old, giving up some polish behind the stumps in favour of potential runs.

Australia head coach Justin Langer is a fan of Paine's – the "toughest pretty boy" he has met – while he talked up their relationship in the lead-up to the Ashes.

Given the difficult period he has taken Australia through, Paine well and truly deserves his chance, but he must turn his form around or the pressure, and desperation to win the Ashes, could lead to change.

Joe Denly will have no sympathy for Australia if they are taunted over the 2018 ball-tampering scandal by England fans during the Ashes.

Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been included in Australia's squad for the first Test at Edgbaston on Thursday.

All three players were handed suspensions by Cricket Australia following their involvement in altering the condition of the ball during a match against South Africa in March 2018.

Smith and Warner returned to Australia's squad for the Cricket World Cup after serving 12-month bans and were the targets of jibes from England supporters in a warm-up match, a group-stage clash and the semi-final.

Bancroft, meanwhile, is "very close" to making his first international appearance since a nine-month suspension, according to coach Justin Langer, who acknowledged on Tuesday his side can do little to avoid negative treatment from the home crowd.

And Denly, who will bat at four in the opening Test with Joe Root moving up to three, believes England would not be received any differently by Australia supporters if the situation was reversed.

"If it was the other way around and we were going out to Australia, I'm pretty sure we would hear a lot about it," he told a media conference.

"What the crowd decides to do I don't know. I'm sure the Aussies might hear a little bit about sandpaper-gate throughout the series.

"I can't really comment on how [the crowd] will be feeling but after a few beers I'm sure the Aussies might get a bit of stick."

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