The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) once had Twenty20 vision to realise the potential for a new, shorter format to be added to the county structure.

What was set up as a method to attract a younger audience has become a global success worth millions, with T20 competitions springing up around the world - and not just traditional cricket-playing nations, either.

However, the ECB has decided the time is right to embrace change again. In 2020, the English game will see The Hundred come into existence.

Here, we attempt to answer some key questions about the tournament, including the teams involved, the players who are primed to play in it and where the games will take place.


The Hundred - what exactly is it?

A new concept for cricket in England that involves eight teams. A game will have two innings of 100 deliveries each (the clue is in the name).

There will be a change of end after 10 balls, rather than the usual six. Bowlers can send down five or 10 consecutive balls, while they are limited to 20 in the match. As for the powerplay, that will span 25 deliveries and a maximum of two fielders will be allowed outside the inner circle during that period of play.

It's cricket - just not as we know it.


And when will this take place?

From July 17 to August 16. The schedule – which runs during the school holidays in England – will see the teams play each other once, while each side will take on a 'rival' opponent both home and away, taking the total number of group games for each up to eight.

The top three in the table will then progress through to finals day, where second will play third in a semi-final to decide who will face the top seeds for the title.


What about the names and locations of the teams?

Well, the identities will be announced on Thursday at the initial draft. However, we do at least know the locations.

The 18 first-class counties have been grouped together in catchment areas based around international venues, two of which are situated in London. The full list is as follows (in alphabetical order):

- Birmingham (Warwickshire and Worcestershire - to play at Edgbaston)
- Cardiff (Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Somerset - to play at Sophia Gardens)
- Leeds (Yorkshire and Durham - to play at Headingley)
- London (Middlesex, Essex, and Northamptonshire - to play at Lord's)
- London (Surrey and Kent - to plat at The Oval)
- Manchester (Lancashire - to play at Old Trafford)
- Nottingham (Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire - to play at Trent Bridge)
- Southampton (Hampshire and Sussex - to play at the Rose Bowl)


Will England players be appearing in it?

Absolutely! That includes their Test players too, albeit only for a limited stretch due to a home series against Pakistan, which starts on July 30.

The 10 individuals who were handed red-ball contracts for the 2019-20 season are not guaranteed to play for their 'home' teams, however.  Each roster will have at least one Test representative, with the chance to choose from the options available from their counties. However, Cardiff and the London franchise based at Lord's have no red-ball options tied to them.

Those with multiple options will have to make a choice on Thursday at the initial draft.

For example, if Leeds opt for all-rounder Ben Stokes (and why wouldn't they?), it means Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root could end up elsewhere, though if they are not chosen by another team, they will automatically be added to their original team's roster.

As well as Test stars, the teams will have the opportunity to announce two 'icon' players from their catchment, which will also be revealed on Thursday.

This is likely to be when some of the England squad who won the Cricket World Cup on home soil earlier this year will find out whether they will be staying close to home. However, there also could be some lesser-known names - at least globally - rewarded for their T20 performances at county level.


How many players on each team, and what about international signings?

There will be 15-man rosters for the teams to work with, which will be filled out during a further player draft on October 20.

Organisers has revealed some of the registered players already, with the list including World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan and England team-mate Moeen Ali.

Australia duo Steve Smith and David Warner will also be involved, along with Pakistan batsman Babar Azam, South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan. Oh, and the evergreen Chris Gayle, of course. It would not be a white-ball event without the 'Universe Boss'...

Do not, however, get excited about the prospect of seeing Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma playing. India's current internationals are not set to be involved.


So how does the second player draft work, then?

A draw will decide the order for what will be a snake draft later in the month, meaning positions will be reversed in alternate rounds. Therefore, if you are up first in round one, you will be last second time around.

Each team must pick two players from seven set salary bands, which range from £30,000 to £125,000. Captains, by the way, get a £10,000 bonus.

Players have chosen their own reserve price, meaning they may pitch themselves out of the draft. Still, the biggest names will expect to earn the big money.

A team can pick three overseas recruits and, just prior to the tournament, will complete their 15-man line-ups by adding a wildcard - most likely an individual who impressed in the domestic T20 Blast earlier in the same season.

Jonny Bairstow has been left out of England's Test squad for the tour of New Zealand in November.

The Yorkshire batsman is in the 15-man Twenty20 group but misses out on the two-match series against the Black Caps, having failed to impress during the 2-2 Ashes draw with Australia on home soil.

Dominic Sibley has won a first call-up after an exceptional County Championship with Warwickshire, alongside Matt Parkinson, Zak Crawley and Saqib Mahmood.

Lancashire's Parkinson and Worcestershire seamer Pat Brown are included in the T20 squad for the first time, as is Tom Banton, who hit 549 runs for Somerset in the Vitality Blast.

Injured trio James Anderson, Mark Wood and Olly Stone are left out, the former now working on being fit for the tour of South Africa, which starts in December.

The two Tests against New Zealand, due to start on November 21 and 29, do not form part of the ICC World Test Championship.

The five-match T20I series gets underway in Christchurch on November 1.

England Test squad:

Joe Root (captain), Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.

England T20 squad:

Eoin Morgan (captain), Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Pat Brown, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, James Vince.

Australia star Steve Smith accepted he was tricked by Jonny Bairstow during day two of the fifth Ashes Test against England.

Bairstow fooled Smith into diving to make his ground, pretending he was about to receive a throw as Jofra Archer took the ball at the bowler's end.

Smith, whose fine series continued as he made 80 and Australia were bowled out for 225 in response to England's 294, said Bairstow had tricked him.

"He got me there, didn't he? Dirtied my clothes. He didn't say anything I don't think, but he got me," the star batsman told a news conference.

"I didn't know where the ball was, bloody thing, he faked it. He got me, I don't know what else to say."

Smith revealed he battled the flu on Friday as Australia were left with a 69-run first-innings deficit.

Archer starred, taking 6-62, and England pushed into a lead of 78 runs at stumps to be well-placed in the fifth Test.

Smith praised the 24-year-old for his performance, saying: "He's a quality performer.

"We've seen him come out and he's got two five-fors in four Test matches. You don't get guys bowling 90 miles per hour growing on trees.

"With a skill set like he's got, he's a terrific bowler and there's no doubt he'll gain a lot of confidence from his first Test series, being an Ashes series, they're always huge as we know.

"Of course, he's got a very bright future."

Australia star Steve Smith accepted he was tricked by Jonny Bairstow during day two of the fifth Ashes Test against England.

Bairstow fooled Smith into diving to make his ground, pretending he was about to receive a throw as Jofra Archer took the ball at the bowler's end.

Smith, whose fine series continued as he made 80 and Australia were bowled out for 225 in response to England's 294, said Bairstow had tricked him.

"He got me there, didn't he? Dirtied my clothes. He didn't say anything I don't think, but he got me," the star batsman told a news conference.

"I didn't know where the ball was, bloody thing, he faked it. He got me, I don't know what else to say."

Smith revealed he battled the flu on Friday as Australia were left with a 69-run first-innings deficit.

Archer starred, taking 6-62, and England pushed into a lead of 78 runs at stumps to be well-placed in the fifth Test.

Smith praised the 24-year-old for his performance, saying: "He's a quality performer.

"We've seen him come out and he's got two five-fors in four Test matches. You don't get guys bowling 90 miles per hour growing on trees.

"With a skill set like he's got, he's a terrific bowler and there's no doubt he'll gain a lot of confidence from his first Test series, being an Ashes series, they're always huge as we know.

"Of course, he's got a very bright future."

Australia retained the Ashes on Sunday as a 185-run loss at Old Trafford dashed England's hopes of regaining the urn.

For the first time since 2002-03, Australia ensured the Ashes will remain in their grasp - Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Hazlewood dealing the final blows in a drawn-out defeat for the hosts.

While one Test remains for England to level the series, talk has already turned to where it all went wrong for Joe Root's side - Steve Smith's supreme batting aside.

The World Cup triumph, and even Ben Stokes' Headingley heroics, now seem distant memories, and here are three key areas England must address if they are to ensure this Ashes defeat does not derail their Test side for a long stretch.

TOP-ORDER TRIBULATIONS

An elephant in the room heading into the series was England's crippling lack of options at the top of the order. Jason Roy, impressive in England's World Cup campaign, was shoehorned in alongside Rory Burns, who - with high scores of 133, 53 and 81 - has proved his worth as an opener.

Roy has failed to do so, with the aggression which serves him well in one-day cricket proving his downfall in the longest form.

After making just 57 runs from the first three Tests, Roy shifted to four at Old Trafford, switching with Joe Denly, who showed his ability to adapt with an admirable display in the second innings. Roy made 22 and 31 and was bowled twice.

The question now is whether to stick or twist with one of Roy or Denly while Ollie Pope, who scored an unbeaten 221 for Surrey in August, could be reintroduced with the view to becoming Burns' long-term partner.

ROOT GAMBLE HAS NOT PAID OFF

Given the frailties at the top of England's batting order, it was decided captain Root would bite the bullet and move up from his preferred slot at four, coming in at three instead.

It is a risk which has failed to pay dividends, with Root having been dismissed for ducks in three of the four Tests so far.

Though he played captain's knocks at both Headingley and Old Trafford, after a decent 57 in the first Test, Root does not seem comfortable coming in at three, having had less time to rally himself - not to mention the dressing room - following what has typically been the loss of an early wicket.

TWO WICKETKEEPERS, TOO MUCH

A star of limited-overs cricket, Jos Buttler's ability with the bat cannot be called into question, but the Lancashire wicketkeeper had scored over 30 only once in the series prior to the fourth Test.

Buttler perked up with 41 and 34 at Old Trafford. His ability behind the stumps has not been called upon, with Jonny Bairstow handed the gloves for the series, and it has been an underwhelming series for the former Test vice-captain.

Yorkshireman Bairstow has also struggled with the bat - scoring a high of 52 in the first innings at Lord's.

Given England's issues higher up the order, now might be time for a more streamlined approach, and one - if not both - of the keepers may have to make way, especially with Ben Foakes waiting in the wings.

Mitchell Starc's brilliant new-ball burst in the morning session strengthened Australia's grip on the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

England resumed under grey skies in trouble on 200-5 in reply to the tourists' 497-8 declared, after Josh Hazlewood did late damage on the third day.

Joe Root's side were 278-8 at lunch on Saturday, with Jonny Bairstow (17) and Headingley hero Ben Stokes (26) dismissed by the excellent Starc (2-66) before Pat Cummins saw the back of Jofra Archer.

Jos Buttler was unbeaten on 26, but England trailed by a mammoth 219 and needed another 20 runs to avoid the follow-on as Australia scented a victory that would give them a 2-1 lead - and ensure they retain the urn.

Starc struggled on day three of his first match of the series, but showed his class with the second new ball by generating late swing to bowl Bairstow, who was punished for attempting an extravagant drive. 

Stokes rode his luck, almost chopping on before the dangerous Starc spilled him off his own bowling when he was on 19.

The all-rounder did not last much longer, though, and was furious with himself after edging Starc into the safe hands of Steve Smith, who took his third catch of the innings at second slip.

Archer was fortunate not to be run out casually going through for a single and it was no surprise when he was caught behind off Cummins with an ugly waft, reducing England to 256-8.

Buttler struck five boundaries as he took a positive approach and Stuart Broad was still there at the break after receiving treatment on his elbow, but Australia remained in complete control. 

Steve Smith continued to dominate England on day two of the fourth Ashes Test but Jonny Bairstow insists the hosts will not change their approach against the in-form Australia batsman.

After sitting out the one-wicket loss at Headingley that levelled the series due to concussion, Smith marked his return to the line-up by scoring a stunning 211 at Old Trafford on Thursday.

The former Australia captain was dropped on 65 and also granted a reprieve when he edged Jack Leach to Ben Stokes at slip on 118, only for replays to show the spinner had overstepped.

It was the third time Smith has reached triple figures in the series and his third double century in Tests – all of which have come against England.

Despite the top-ranked batsman again proving the main source of frustration for the hosts, who lost Joe Denly as they reached stumps at 23-1 in response to Australia's 497-8 declared, Bairstow does not anticipate Joe Root's men to alter the way they try to dismiss Smith.

Bairstow said: "Fair play to the way Smith has come out and played. He's obviously got the bit between his teeth and is in great form.

"You've got to give him a lot of credit for the way he's applied himself and scored the runs that he has.

"I am not sure we are the only team around the world who have tried a few different plans [to get him out]. We'll be sticking to the plans that we've got.

"He's played and missed to a few balls today which he hasn't previously in the series. On another day we get him out earlier."

England need a strong third day in Manchester to eat into Australia's 474-run advantage, but Bairstow is confident the hosts can turn the tide.

"There are three innings and three days of cricket left," he said. "If we can go out and apply ourselves tomorrow, bat for a long period of time like we did at Headingley there is no reason why not.

"Let's look at the next day, let's look at the next session and see where we get to."

Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow's unbroken 79-run stand had England believing they could keep the Ashes alive by recording an incredible win over Australia at Headingley.

Chasing 359 for victory in the third Test - a target which would represent England's highest successful chase in the longest format - only one wicket fell in the morning session as Stokes and Bairstow, unbeaten on 32 and 34 respectively, not only saw off the threat of the new ball but prospered.

The pendulum swung in Australia's favour when England captain Joe Root (77) charged at Nathan Lyon and an inside edge onto his pad looped over wicketkeeper Tim Paine before David Warner flung himself across to take a brilliant catch.

Just three runs had been added to the overnight total of 156-3 at that point but Stokes and Bairstow cut loose and darted between the wickets as Australia, seeking a victory that would ensure they retained the urn, became increasingly frustrated with England 238-4 at lunch, 121 runs from victory.

Stokes had made two from 50 deliveries on Saturday and was struck on the helmet by a Josh Hazlewood bouncer, the ball shattering the batsman's neck guard, during a 25-ball scoreless start to the first session.

However, after Root fell, both he and Bairstow looked to take the attack to Australia, with Stokes at one point pulling Pat Cummins for a maximum as England dared to dream.

Josh Hazlewood and his fellow seamers tore through England's fragile batting line-up on the second day of the third Test to leave Australia in a commanding position at lunch.

The hosts were 54-6 at Headingley - still 125 runs in arrears - as a combination of disciplined bowling from Hazlewood (3-26), and dismal shot-selection from England's batsmen left Joe Root's team firmly up against it.

In stark contrast to Thursday's gloomy weather, when Australia were all out for 179, England's innings began in glorious conditions for batting, not that they could take advantage.

The latest ill-advised drive from Jason Roy (9) to Hazlewood saw him pick out first slip David Warner, who then took a sharp chance from Root off the same bowler as England's captain made back-to-back ducks for the first time in his Test career.

Joe Denly was given a DRS reprieve when initially adjudged lbw four balls later, though England were soon 20-3 when Rory Burns (9) gloved a shorter delivery from Pat Cummins behind.

Ben Stokes (8) was guilty of the most head-scratching stroke of all, chasing a wide delivery from James Pattinson he could barely reach and giving Warner more cause for celebration.

Denly took 49 balls to make 12 but his race was run when his eyes lit up to width offered by Pattinson – wicketkeeper Tim Paine again taking the catch - and Hazlewood's persistent line and length lured Jonny Bairstow (4) into a tentative prod that Warner snaffled for his fourth catch of the day.

With Australia 1-0 up in the best-of-five series and knowing victory in Leeds would see them retain the urn, England were in desperate need of a productive partnership from Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes in the second session. 

Australia consolidated their commanding early position in the Ashes by dismissing England for 258 on day two of the second Test at Lord's.

Following a first-day washout, visiting captain Tim Paine won the toss and inserted England, with the frailties exposed in their 251-run defeat at Edgbaston again evident in the face of some supremely disciplined Australian bowling.

The tourists' attack was spearheaded by Josh Hazlewood (3-58), who missed out in Birmingham but set the tone with a high-class opening burst that accounted for Jason Roy and England captain Joe Root.

Pat Cummins (3-61) executed a short-pitched ploy impressively on a surface that showed a few signs of being two-paced, while England's first-Test tormentor Nathan Lyon (3-68) found turn to claim three scalps, including dismissing Ben Stokes for 13.

Half-centuries from Rory Burns (53) and Jonny Bairstow (52) gave England something vaguely useful to bowl at.

Stuart Broad dismissed David Warner for the third time in the series – a personal battle unquestionably going in England's favour. Nevertheless, as Australia closed on 30-1, the overall tide still felt some way from turning.

Paine's decision at the toss raised some eyebrows but Hazlewood was straight into his work, persuading Roy to fend into the slips with no runs on the board.

Root threaded two immaculate cover drives to the fence but was trapped plumb in front – Burns telling his skipper there was no point wasting a review.

Joe Denly and Burns saw England through to lunch at 76-2 before the former became Hazlewood's third victim for 30, edging a teasing delivery through to wicketkeeper Paine.

As was the case while making his maiden Test century at Edgbaston, Burns rode his luck at times and was put down by Usman Khawaja, but a sensational grab at short leg by Cameron Bancroft off Cummins ensured he would not cash in to the same extent.

That brought Jos Buttler and Stokes together, yet England's heroes on this ground a month ago in the Cricket World Cup final were denied the chance to produce similar heroics by Peter Siddle (1-48) and Lyon respectively.

Not for the first time of late, Chris Woakes came to the crease and batted with far more assurance than the specialists above him – adding 72 with Bairstow for the seventh wicket.

But Cummins struck the Warwickshire all-rounder with a painful blow to the helmet and he gloved the same bowler behind to bring in the tail.

Broad and Jofra Archer made breezy cameos alongside Bairstow, who was caught by Khawaja in the deep off Lyon to be the last man out, and the England pacemen set about the Australia top order.

Archer got the Lord's crowd going on his much-anticipated debut in the longest format and Broad brought one back through the gate to have more fun at Warner's expense. However, Bancroft just about survived to finish the day on five not out alongside Khawaja, who was unbeaten on 18 at stumps.

Australia capitalised on England's fragility with the bat by taking four wickets in the afternoon session on day two of the second Ashes Test at Lord's before Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes offered resistance.

Rory Burns (53) and Joe Denly (30) had steered England to 76-2 at lunch after the recalled Josh Hazlewood removed Jason Roy without scoring and Joe Root (14).

Burns, Denly, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes were then all dismissed in the space of 14 overs on a good track under blue skies as captain Root's side were reduced to 138-6 at one stage, Hazlewood the pick of the bowlers with 3-42 after Australia skipper Tim Paine won the toss.

Jonny Bairstow (36 not out) and Chris Woakes (25no) produced an unbroken stand of 63, but England - who brought in Jofra Archer and Jack Leach for James Anderson and Moeen Ali - remained in trouble on 201-6 at tea.

The home team are eyeing victory in London after losing the first Test at Edgbaston.

Roy nibbled behind off Hazlewood's third ball and Root was trapped leg before by the paceman, who replaced the rested James Pattinson and made up for lost time after day one was washed out.

Usman Khawaja dropped Burns in the gully on 16, and Australia might have been concerned that could be costly as he put on 66 with Denly until the number four nicked Hazlewood behind early in the afternoon session.

Cameron Bancroft took a brilliant catch at short leg off a fired-up Pat Cummins to see the back of Burns, and an out-of-sorts Buttler was caught behind off Peter Siddle with his feet rooted to the crease.

England were in all sorts of trouble when Stokes was snared leg before attempting to paddle-sweep Nathan Lyon, but Bairstow and Woakes played positively to take England beyond 200.

Paine wasted a second review when Steve Smith thought he had Bairstow lbw playing no shot, but it was proving still very much to be Australia's day.

England and Australia will spend the next seven weeks as fierce rivals with the Ashes on the line.

The return from suspension of three Australia star batsmen means the visitors are back up to full strength as they chase a first Test series win in England for 18 years.

The triumphant 2001 side was loaded with all-time greats including Steve and Mark Waugh, Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

Few of the England team of the day would have earned a place in Australia's side, such was the absurd strength of the tourists' squad.

However, the gap has closed considerably in the years since, and merging the teams for a combined Ashes XI in 2019 would test the judgment of any selector.

Here is a look at how such a team might look, with grovelling apologies to the strong contenders who missed the cut.


Cameron Bancroft (Australia)

Edgbaston will have a welcome waiting for the man who used sandpaper to tamper with the ball during Australia's Test with South Africa at Newlands last year. Bancroft has the runs for Durham this year to justify his return to Australia's ranks on form, even if many might feel uneasy about his presence after serving a nine-month ban. It could be touch and go whether he opens or bats in the middle order, but he gets the nod for this XI on the basis of England being in an opener crisis.

David Warner (Australia)

The brains behind the Newlands plot is also back in the Test arena. Warner is a mighty batsman, and nobody would question his ability. He comes into the Ashes off a fine World Cup performance, and his wicket will be a prized one within the England ranks. Described in one newspaper verdict of sandpapergate as "the most hated man in cricket", Warner is the man the home crowds would love to see fail, even if privately they would happily have him on their side.

Steve Smith (Australia)

Culled as captain, and banned along with Warner for a year, Smith did nothing to prevent Bancroft and Warner's actions and he will be braced for a barrage of flak during the Ashes. He has the batting chops and the temperament to handle sledging from the stands, however. Smith is the finest middle-order batsman of his generation, a rock of Australia's team and, past mistakes notwithstanding, a de facto leader.

Joe Root (England, captain)

If questions are asked of England's batting line-up, England's skipper usually finds an answer. He may need to provide the glue to bond together several unstable innings over the coming weeks, and there are few more accomplished anchor batsmen in world cricket. His team are the bookmakers' favourites to take the urn, with Root's contribution expected to be pivotal.

Jonny Bairstow (England)

A galvanising force behind England's glorious World Cup campaign, Bairstow has produced worrisome form in the longest format and went for a pair against Ireland. He averages 25.83 in 10 Tests over the past 12 months, dragging down his overall batting average. The Ashes might bring the best out of the Yorkshireman.

Ben Stokes (England)

Stokes will hope to enjoy August 2019 more than August 2018, when he faced the stress of a crown court trial on a charge of affray. Stokes cleared his name and has moved on, reinstated for the Ashes as England's vice-captain and hailed a national hero after his World Cup exploits. Many have crumbled in the face of comparisons to Ian Botham but Stokes thrives on the all-rounder role and could far surpass Beefy's achievements before his career is out. A man who seems made for an Ashes series.

Jos Buttler (England, wicketkeeper)

Tim Paine captains Australia, as well as keeping wicket, because in both senses he is considered a safe pair of hands. But Buttler gets the stumps role here, his explosive batting a tremendous complement to his skill with the gloves. Buttler has come on as a Test cricketer in the last year, as well as being a key component of the white-ball team that many expect him to captain before long. He gives back the Test vice-captaincy to Stokes for this series, but is unlikely to mind.

Pat Cummins (Australia)

Rated by the ICC as the world's number one bowler, Cummins has taken wickets at a prolific rate over the past couple of years. He would earn his place on that basis alone, but Cummins can bat too and made three scores in the forties in the last Ashes series. Years of injury woe are behind him, with the tall paceman capable of wreaking havoc in this series.

Jofra Archer (England)

Here's the wild card. Archer is launching his Test career in the Ashes but has already demonstrated he is a swimmer when tossed in at the deep end. The Barbados-born fast bowler enjoyed a terrific World Cup, defying a painful side strain to emerge as a star of the tournament. The 24-year-old looks like the man England have been waiting for, as the established Anderson-Broad axis enters its twilight days. He should thrive, and play in many of these series.

Nathan Lyon (Australia)

England have worries in the spin department when it comes to Tests, with neither Moeen Ali nor Adil Rashid establishing themselves as reliable wicket-taking slow bowlers at this level. Lyon's average is comfortably better than both England men, and with 86 Tests behind him the one-time Adelaide Oval groundsman has come a long way in the game. He has pouched 343 Test wickets and, regardless of conditions that should favour the seamers, will fancy taking more victims on this tour. A shoo-in for an Ashes dream team.

James Anderson (England)

This will be an Ashes farewell, surely, for Anderson. Few would doubt his capacity to go out in style, with the 37-year-old bidding to add to 575 Test wickets, 104 of which have accounted for Australians. He has succeeded McGrath as the preeminent paceman in the ongoing story of the Ashes, with few seamers capable of matching the craft of the man from Burnley. A late-summer Ashes, after the British heatwave, with plenty of cloud cover likely, could have been designed for Anderson.

England's Ashes preparations quickly hit the rocks as they were incredibly all out for 85 against Ireland in a humiliating start to this week's Test.

Three Cricket World Cup heroes went for ducks, Jason Roy made just five on debut and captain Joe Root added only two as the stunned hosts failed to make it to lunch at Lord's.

Tim Murtagh took figures of 5-13, earning his place on the honours board, as Ireland made hay in their first Test at the home of cricket.

The remarkable scenes should offer serious encouragement to Australia, themselves and Australia A meanwhile struggling with the bat in Southampton.

England looked to have recovered from Roy's shaky start that saw him edge to Paul Stirling in the slips, but Joe Denly, top-scoring on 23, went lbw to Mark Adair (3-32) to spark an astonishing collapse.

Rory Burns was caught behind for six and Adair got Root lbw before a remarkable run of ducks for England's ODI stars.

Jonny Bairstow was superb in the World Cup but his stumps were destroyed by Murtagh, who trapped Chris Woakes lbw - the review going with the umpire's decision - two balls later in a stunning two-wicket maiden.

Moeen Ali was caught behind and suddenly England were forced to work hard to avoid their record-low Test score (45 against Australia in 1887), doing so with boundaries met with sarcastic cheers.

The home side's fortunes did not improve, though, as Boyd Rankin (2-5) got a nick from Stuart Broad, before Sam Curran sent the same man to James McCollum at short leg.

Olly Stone, another debutant, got to 19 before Adair skittled him and England's innings was cut embarrassingly short just before the end of the session.

"I'm not quite sure what's happened over the past two hours, to be honest," Murtagh told Sky Sports.

Eoin Morgan confirmed England have a clean bill of health going into the Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand and says his players are "relaxed and excited" ahead of Sunday.

Hosts England thrashed Australia at Edgbaston on Thursday to book their place in the Lord's final, although star opener Jonny Bairstow was a slight fitness concern after he appeared to tweak his groin running.

Captain Morgan described the issue as "not very concerning" after the Australia match and he was able to bring a positive update on the eve of the showpiece fixture.

"Yeah, everybody is fit, so that's good news," he told a news conference.

With their strongest XI available, Morgan says the team are in high spirits and will not shy away from the excitement of a World Cup final.

"I feel pretty relaxed. It's nice to be home. I'm also very excited about tomorrow," he said. "We're going to enjoy the game regardless.

"We're going to take in as much as we can - it's a World Cup final, we're not going to shy away from that. As long as it doesn't affect performance, we're going to try to take it in."

And having put in the hard work and felt the support of the fans, Morgan is now hoping both England and the Black Caps can put on a show.

"It means a huge amount to me and everybody in the changing room," he said. "It's a culmination of four years of hard work, dedicated and a lot of planning. It presents a huge opportunity to go and try to win a World Cup.

"From everybody around the country, the support we've had throughout has been unquestionable. As a team, it makes you feel incredibly lucky to be part of a team that has that sort of support.

"It presents another opportunity for both teams and the ICC to sell the game on a huge platform. It's two very strong sides, who hopefully produce a really good game of cricket.

"It's on terrestrial television around the country and various outlets online, it presents a huge opportunity for us to sell this great game."

England's Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow walked to the crease with the eyes of the cricket world on them.

The pre-tournament favourites and hosts were on the brink of a surprising Cricket World Cup elimination, knowing victories against India - and then New Zealand - were virtually essential to book a place in the semi-finals.

A string of unexpected defeats, defined by unsuccessful run chases, had a nation on edge, but on this occasion at least, against India, Roy and Bairstow had the chance to write the script. The chance to set the tone. The chance to keep England's World Cup dreams alive.

A breathtaking 160-run partnership in just 22.1 overs followed, the England pair negotiating their way through a tricky opening period before freeing the arms in the fashion fans have come to expect.

Roy, back from a hamstring injury, had the best seat in the house as a fired-up Bairstow thrashed 10 fours and six sixes in a scintillating 111. 

Bairstow's opening partner fell for 66 but the damage was done, England pushing to a total of 337-7 that would prove far too much for India.

Another must-win match followed and so did a big opening partnership.

Roy (60) and Bairstow (106) added 123 in 18.4 overs on this occasion, again setting the platform for a 300-plus score that England's bowlers comfortably defended against New Zealand.

England then headed into a semi-final against the old enemy, Australia, with their mojo back. 

And the attacking brand of cricket that saw England claim the world number one ranking in the 50-over format was on full display in that contest, too.

Roy and Bairstow faced a different challenge, chasing on that occasion, but the result was exactly the same: another 100-plus partnership in quick time. 

Set 224 for victory, Roy was the main aggressor this time, walloping five sixes in a 65-ball 85 before an unjust dismissal. Bairstow added 34, too, as they wiped 124 from the target in 17.2 overs, effectively ending the game as a contest with a mix of timing, game awareness and, of course, customary aggression.

The contribution of new-ball bowlers Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer in England's recent resurgence cannot be denied, but it is Roy and Bairstow who have been the driving forces.

Of the 14 century-plus partnerships for the first wicket at the World Cup, Roy and Bairstow have provided four in just seven attempts. A 95-run partnership between the duo came in a clash against West Indies, too.

And the pair's importance to England was highlighted by the three matches that Roy missed. England lost two of those, stand-in James Vince and Bairstow combining for opening stands of 44, 1 and 0.

All of that means that the New Zealand camp will arrive at Lord's on Sunday having spent honours analysing, reviewing, fretting and plotting. Just how do they get Roy and Bairstow early?

England's success at the top of the order comes in stark contrast to New Zealand's early efforts with the bat.

The Black Caps have only produced only one opening stand of 100 runs or more at the World Cup, Martin Guptill and the now-dropped Colin Munro providing it against Sri Lanka in the third match of the tournament, almost six weeks ago.

Guptill and Munro combined for an unbeaten 137-run union on that occasion but the opening partnerships since - 35, 0, 12, 0, 5, 29, 2 and 1 - make grim reading for New Zealand fans.

Munro lost his place after a six-wicket defeat to Pakistan but his replacement, Henry Nicholls, has scored just 36 runs in three matches. Guptill, the leading run-scorer at the 2015 World Cup with 547, has managed only 167 in eight matches at the 2019 edition, and that tally includes a first-up 73 not out.

"No one is more frustrated than what I am," Guptill told 1 News.

The consequence of New Zealand's poor opening partnerships is an unhealthy reliance on captain Kane Williamson and, to a lesser extent, veteran Ross Taylor. And while the experienced pair have continued to dig their side out of trouble, another poor start in the final could prove costly.

Roy and Bairstow have provided England with an incredible source of momentum throughout this World Cup.

One more match-defining partnership from the pair will go a long way to helping England win the tournament for the first time.

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