Pope prepares Ashes’ baptism of fire as Buttler relishes’ ultimate test ‘


llie Pope will be steeped in the white heat of Ashes’ debut at Jonny Bairstow’s expense when the series kicks off tonight, with Jos Buttler calling on England to take on the challenge of the ultimate ‘bucket list round’.

England take the field against Australia at Gabba – where they haven’t won in 35 years – at midnight as they try to win the Ashes for the first time under Joe Root.

Although Australia named their squad on Sunday, England will be waiting for a final look at the conditions of the draw. The terrain is green, but the weather is improving a bit.

Leach is the favorite to play, which means this may be just the fourth time since 2007 that England have played a test without Anderson and Broad, who have not played for four months due to a calf tear. At least one of them has played in the last 37 games for the Ashes.

The rest of the offense will be Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood, with Ben Stokes not expected to take a heavy bowling burden as he plays his first test since March.

Anderson is prepared for the second test in Adelaide, the first of two day-night matches in this series. England took him out of the sights at a place where he is averaging 75, due to uncomfortable memories of the 2019 Ashes, when he limped out from a calf injury just four times in the first test.

In this match, Steve Smith made the wonderful twin centuries that put Australia on track to keep the ballot box in England for the first time in 18 years, with Anderson no longer playing any role.

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Pope, 23, gets the green light for Bairstow, 32, at No.6, as England vow to revisit Ashes’ experience. Bairstow is on his third Ashes tour and has a century in Perth in 2017 under his belt, but has struggled in recent times, averaging just 21 over the past three years, with particular concerns against the straight ball .

He returned to the Test team against India this summer, was involved in important partnerships, but failed to score a big score. Still, he looked in good shape and had to keep his place – ahead of Pope – for the postponed final test of the summer at Old Trafford.

That status quo looked likely to hold for the first test in Australia until last week’s two miserable training days in Brisbane. Pope made just 27 for the Lions, but Bairstow was sacked twice for 11 points the next day, and was reportedly outclassed by the youngster in the net.

Pope has yet to deliver on his abundant promises but has been impressive in South Africa two years ago and should have the game to adjust to Australian conditions.

Buttler will keep the wicket, but Stokes’ return means he’s no longer the English vice-captain of what, oddly enough, is his first Ashes tour.

The Ashes: first look at the test

“Yes, absolutely,” said Buttler, when asked if this is the ultimate test for an English cricketer. “Any English player who comes to tour Australia in the ashes is definitely on your bucket list.

“I remember coming here on a Lions tour in 2013 and came to watch a few days here in Brisbane. When you see it up close you understand the intensity and hostility of this environment – and it’s a shame for this particular tour that there isn’t the traveling support of the Barmy Army.

“As an individual, I am incredibly excited about the challenge. It’s going to be incredibly difficult, but that’s kind of what you want to play the game for. I’m going to go for it as much as I can and I know I have to be near my best to be successful.

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