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England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?

BEN STOKES wants to concentrate on England’s triumphs in 2022 — but also admits he has one eye on next summer’s home Ashes.

Under Stokes, England’s attacking “We don’t do draws” mindset is transforming more than a century of Test-match tradition.

Ben Stokes led England to a historic Test series win over Pakistan – now the skipper has one eye on next summer’s Ashes

Australia have had the best of things in recent Ashes series with England last winning the famous urn in 2015

But can they play that way in The Ashes?

Here, SunSport assesses the state of play with the showdown fast approaching, giving each team a mark out of ten in every department.

BATTING

ENGLAND – 8 (out of ten)

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AUSTRALIA – 8

ENGLAND’S new explosive batting is reshaping the way Test cricket is played.

They started the series in Pakistan by scoring 506-4 in 75 overs on day one of the First Test — and when many of the players were still feeling rough from a virus which hit the camp.

England won the series 3-0 with Joe Root — who carried the batting for the previous couple of years — finishing eighth in the averages.

Harry Brook emerged as a star, Ben Duckett resurrected his Test career and the likes of Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope have bought into the Stokes’ philosophy and made progress.

Jonny Bairstow, hero of the summer, was missing with a broken leg.

Australia’s middle-order is powerful with Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Travis Head piling on runs in the recent series against West Indies.

They fill three of the top four in the world rankings. But opener David Warner has not scored a Test century since January 2020 and his place is under threat.

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, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
Harry Brook was England’s Player of the Series in the 3-0 Test series win over Pakistan

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
David Warner hasn’t scored a Test century in close to two years

BOWLING

ENGLAND – 8

AUSTRALIA – 8

STOKES went into full funky mode in Pakistan — Jack Leach opening the bowling, James Anderson coming on third change — because of the conditions.

But he will be back to three slips and a gully in The Ashes with the swinging, seaming Dukes ball.

Anderson shows no signs of decline, Ollie Robinson is accurate and highly skilled, plus Stuart Broad returns to the England fold after paternity leave.

Hopefully, Jofra Archer can add to the mix following his injury misery.

Bowling is Australia’s strength.

Any team that considers leaving out a fit-again Josh Hazlewood — as they are contemplating for the Boxing Day Test with South Africa — must have good resources.

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Can England play “Bazball” against Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon and Co? Fascinating.

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
Ben Stokes will likely lean heavily on Jimmy Anderson in swinging English conditions

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are part of Australia’s fearsome bowling attack

CAPTAINS

ENGLAND – 9

AUSTRALIA – 8

VICTORY in The Ashes will confirm Stokes as one of England’s greatest captains… perhaps THE best.

He is redefining Test cricket by eliminating the fear of failure.

Can he help England’s players relax in The Ashes? No reason why not.

It is difficult to dislike Cummins, who is handsome, charming and talented — plus his wife Becky is English!

He showed solidarity with Aussie team-mates after former coach Justin Langer criticised his players.

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Stokes and Cummins both see the bigger picture and have donated generously to charity in cricket-playing countries — Stokes to Pakistan flood relief, Cummins to the fight against Covid in India.

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
Ben Stokes has helped revolutionise Test cricket with England’s ‘win-at-all-costs’ approach

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
Pat Cummins is one of Australia’s more likeable captains in recent decades

COACHES

ENGLAND – 9

AUSTRALIA – 7

BRENDON McCULLUM does not like the word “Bazball” because he thinks it is corny and gives him, rather than the players, too much credit. But it has stuck.

Baz was a dynamic New Zealand captain, a gambler, wine drinker and horse owner. He claims he does, “Bugger all” but crucially he has helped create the free-wheeling dressing-room atmosphere.

This month, the Aussies put up a sign on the players’ balcony saying “Ronball”. Their coach is Andrew McDonald — nicknamed Ronald — and it was a gentle leg-pull at England’s expense.

But “Ronball” does not quite trip off the tongue like “Bazball”, does it? McDonald is well regarded — but just does not have the charisma of McCullum.

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
Brendon McCullum has helped Ben Stokes introduce the ‘Bazball’ style of play

, England’s Bazball heroes already have one eye on Ashes – but how do Ben Stokes and Co stack up vs Australia rivals?
Andrew McDonald is well regarded but lacks the charisma of Brendon McCullum

FORM

ENGLAND – 8

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AUSTRALIA – 8

JUST a year ago, England were being humiliated in The Ashes (4-0 and it would have been 5-0 but for the weather) plus were then beaten in the Caribbean.

Root quit as captain after a sequence of one win in 17 Tests. But since then… wow!

England have won nine out of ten Tests against four different opponents.

Before The Ashes, they travel to New Zealand for two Tests — including a day-nighter — in February and face Ireland in a four-day Test at Lord’s at the start of June.

Australia have just thrashed a weak West Indies team 2-0 and saw off South Africa inside two days on a green Gabba pitch in the first of three matches.

They play four Tests in India in February and March. The Aussies routinely hammer England on home soil — but have not won an Ashes series over here since 2001.

SUNSPORT ASHES VERDICT

ENGLAND – 42 (out of 50)

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AUSTRALIA – 39

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