Ashes: It’s Cummins vs Root as stage is set for the biggest rivalry in cricket

England have lost nine of the 10 Tests it has played in Australia since 2010-11. The kangaroos, on the other hand, haven’t played a Test since a drubbing by India in January

Pat Cummins and Joe Root with the Ashes trophy ahead of the first Test at Gabba, which starts on Wednesday (5.30 am IST). Pic: Twitter

The famed Ashes starts at the Gabba in Brisbane in a few hours (Wednesday, 5.30 am IST) with the Australian team led by a fast bowler (Pat Cummins) for the first time since 1956 while Joe Root takes up the mantle of the England team in a series he says could define his career.

English wicketkeeper Jos Buttler build up the tempo ahead of the first Test on Tuesday (December 7) when he tweeted: “A bowling captain for Australia and a batting captain for England two captains going toe to toe will be great.”

For records, Pat Cummins is the no. 1 ranked bowler in the world while Englishman Root is the no. 1 batsman in the world.

England heads into this series having lost nine of the 10 Tests it has played in Australia since 2010-11. In fact, Root had led the team that lost 4-0 in the 2017-18 Ashes tour.


Even as the Englishmen would like to look at this as a fresh start, Gabba, the venue for the first Test, isn’t a very lucky hunting ground for the visitors. England has not won a Test match here since 1986 and has won only two matches here since 1946.

If Root wants to leave a mark as captain, he should be looking at the formidable statistics of former English captain Alastair Cook, who scored 67, 235 not out, 148, 82, 189, and 244 not out in the three wins and two draws interspersed among 15 defeats.

The English team would pin their hopes on opener Rory Burns for getting a good start. The left-hander had made his presence felt against Australia in the 2019 Ashes, but that was back in England. Burns scored a hundred at Edgbaston and topped it up with two half-centuries later to blunt the Aussie pace attack.

Root definitely has high expectations from two of his most experienced fast bowlers — James Anderson and Stuart Broad — on their fifth and fourth tours of Australia respectively. However, reports suggest Anderson is set to miss the first Test due to injury.

While the English team has been playing a lot of Test cricket over the last few months, the Australians haven’t played a Test since the 2-1 series loss to India in January. Meanwhile, England toured India and Sri Lanka and hosted New Zealand and India later.

Also read: Ravi Shastri wants to forget this match, but remember the series

Pat Cummins, 28, landed the captain’s job accidentally when Tim Paine quit in November following media reports on investigations against him by Cricket Australia for sending an explicit text to a work colleague.

The new captain will rely a lot on his experienced deputy, Steve Smith, who was replaced as Test captain by Paine in 2018 after the infamous Sandpapergate scandal in South Africa.

Cummins’ record as a bowler is formidable. He has been taking a wicket every 48 balls, giving away 20 runs. Lyon, Hazlewood and Starc concede 46, 36 and 45 runs before eventual success.

Captain Cummins is looking forward to a keen contest with his English counterpart, Root. “I don’t know if the captaincy brings a different element for me, but the last few series we’ve played against him (Root) he’s always been our prized wicket,” Cummins said. “Not necessarily the one we talk about the most, but he’s No. 1 batter in the world at the moment and he’s their captain, so it’s going to be a big battle for us,” Cummins told

Root has an average of 39 against Australia. He has been dismissed seven times in Test matches by Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Cummins. Starc has his scalp on five occasions.

Root, however, won’t be an easy catch for the Aussies, if his statistics are anything to go by. He is the leading Test batsman in the world, having scored 1,455 runs in 12 Tests in 2021 at an average of 66.

Australian media reports suggest Cummins won’t be playing Usman Khawaja in the first Test. Travis Head, Marcus Harris will open while Alex Carey would stand behind the wickets.

The new captain said that choosing Travis Head, batsman-bowler, over Khawaja was a tough decision.

While it may look that England has an advantage with the amount of Test cricket it has played of late, quarantine restrictions and wet weather mean both teams go to Gabba on Wednesday morning with less-than-expected practice with the red ball.

Australia squad for the Gabba Test: Pat Cummins (C), Steve Smith, Alex Carey (WK), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner.

England squad: Joe Root (C), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.