Standard Sport cricket correspondent Will Macpherson is in Australia with just two days before the start of the Ashes. His daily journal keeps you up to date with everything going on Down Under …
Finally, Cricket Australia has confirmed the inevitable: that Perth will not host the fifth test in the series due to Western Australia’s hard-line border position which has reportedly seen players plunge back into a two-week quarantine.
CA said they were “disappointed” with the news and that “absolutely every effort” has been made to get the game going.
The location of the game, which will now take place between day and night, is still being decided. CA seems to like the idea of Hobart losing their test against Afghanistan through no fault of their own, but there are logistical challenges there, not least because Tasmania has yet to declare itself open. More likely is Melbourne, which would be quite an event.
A full process is underway to select the new location, with Sydney as an option as well. It will become political.
Late Sunday, Western Australia Sports Minister Tony Buti comically suggested that with just 10 days notice Perth and Adelaide (the second in the series) should simply trade try-outs. It was, he said, “obvious”. The South Australian Cricket Association had Buti laughing out of town, unsurprisingly.
There is, however, a bit of uncertainty around Adelaide: the South Australian border could close the week before the game, excluding many fans from across Australia, as well as media and administrators. Already, SA has capped crowds in Adelaide at 35,000.
Meanwhile, Queensland kindly opened its borders to other states on Monday, the day after its test match ended. You couldn’t make it up. Trying to get around Australia right now is a pretty crazy exercise.
The ECB made a nice four-part documentary called The Ultimate Test on the Ashes rivalry, interviewing a number of English players. He threw in some interesting lines on the heat of the Battle of Ashes.
This is Joe Root, on playing a test in Australia for the first time, eight years ago.
“He knew it was going to be brutal, I knew it was going to be hostile,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be… it almost sounded like real hatred towards me as an individual.”
“Absolutely, it intimidated me. I think if I had been asked the question five years ago I would have said no, it is not. But he did.
And here’s Stuart Broad: “When you wear that English cap, and the opposition players wear that Australian cap, and you’re out there, there’s hatred for each other, there’s no doubt about it. . “
Days later, Gabba’s pitch looks green, which is not surprising given the gloomy weather of the past few days. Joe Root is yet to decide which direction he will go in the toss, but he feels the color of the pitch is no surprise now that Pat Cummins is in the driver’s seat.
“I can say Pat has already put his mark on things as Australia’s fast bowling captain,” Root smirked, reminding us of the cheeky one of his youth.
Travis Head will beat number 5 for Australia and likely run up against Sussex teammate Ollie Robinson who looks very likely to start the series for England. Head will inform his Australian colleagues about Robinson, whose presence causes some ripples. Steve Smith and others have never faced him before.
“I played around with Ollie a bit,” he said. “He’s a great competitor. I know he came out the other day with a bit of an Aussie joke and that’s how he plays it. Aggressive play, aggressive bowling. This is what we are waiting for. He does it day after day in Hove. We saw it in Test cricket. He burst onto the scene and I think he will suit the conditions in Australia very well. We have to be 100% on our game for this.
“It helps to play with him, but we have so many streaks. He played Test cricket so we know what he’s going to come up with, I think every guy is going to do his research. I have a few experiences with him that I can chat with guys about if needed.
For Ben Stokes, the opening day of the Ashes will be poignant. It coincides with the first anniversary of his father’s death.
“He and my mother have always been my biggest supporters and I know he would have been extremely proud to see me again there to represent England, ready to face the Australians,” Stokes wrote in the Daily Mirror .
“It’s obviously not a great anniversary to remember.
“But I think it’s a positive little thing that I go back there and have my dad on my mind.
“It’s amazing how these things sometimes work. “