The Ashes gets underway 1st August. What is it, and how can I watch it?
It's been an incredible season for English cricket, with the side's thrilling Super Over victory over New Zealand securing their first World Cup in 44 years of trying, in what's already being hailed as the greatest game of cricket ever played.
With a combined audience of 8.5 million tuning in to see Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer take England over the line, many people will have a newfound passion for the sport — and want to know what’s next for cricket.
The good news is that the World Cup victory is only the start of a great summer of cricket, and in August, the longest form of the game is back as England face their oldest rivals for the biggest series in the sport: the Ashes.
What is the Ashes?
Taking place roughly every two years, the Ashes is one of the oldest and most prestigious competitions in any sport. It can trace its roots all the way back to 1882, when an Australian team touring England had a shocking win against their hosts. The Times went on to print a mock obituary mourning the death of English cricket, which noted: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia."
When England toured Australia themselves later that year, it was billed as a quest to recover the ashes, and a legend was born. A group of Australians created a tiny urn said to contain the actual ashes of a burned set of bails as a trophy, and England and Australia have been scrapping over it ever since.
Since then, there have been many memorable moments. The infamous 'Bodyline' series in 1932-33 almost caused a diplomatic incident as England peppered the Aussies with aggressive, short-pitched bowling. In 1981, Ian Botham almost single-handedly regained the urn in what became known as 'Botham's Ashes', and in 1993, a young Shane Warne announced his arrival on the world stage with the 'Ball of the Century' spinning past Mike Gatting. A lot of fuss for a trophy barely four inches high!
What's exciting about the 2019 Ashes?
This year's edition is set to be another hugely exciting prospect. England are out to restore some pride after getting thrashed 4-0 in the last series in 2017-18, while Australia have a reputation of their own to rebuild, with former captain Steve Smith and destructive opener David Warner back in the test side after serving one-year bans for ball-tampering. Expect a chorus of boos to follow those two all around the country.
In the England side, there are a few questions to be answered. Will Jofra Archer follow up a sensational World Cup with a test debut? And can the team finally find a reliable opener to replace the retired Alastair Cook - perhaps in the form of one-day specialist Jason Roy?
When is the 2019 Ashes?
Whatever happens, it's set to be a tight, tense series, and it all gets underway on August 1st, so cricket fans old and new won't want to miss it. There are five tests in total, and the schedule is below.
- 1st Test, Aug 1st-5th at Edgbaston, Birmingham
- 2nd Test, Aug 14th-18th at Lord's, London
- 3rd Test, Aug 22nd-26th at Headingley, Leeds
- 4th Test, Sep 4th-8th at Old Trafford, Manchester
- 5th Test, Sep 12th-16th at The Oval, London
How can I watch the Ashes?
While new fans may have got a taste of cricket with the World Cup final being screened on Channel 4, the Ashes go back to Sky Sports, which means you'll need a subscription to the service in order to catch all the action.
A full Sky Sports package costs £23 a month on top of the standard Entertainment package and comes with an 18-month contract. If you're only interested in the cricket, you can get the Sky Sports Cricket channel without the rest of the sports offerings for £18 per month.
The full range of Sky Sports channels can also be accessed on Virgin Media as part of its Full House Sports TV and broadband package, though this will cost £65 a month for a 12-month contract.
If you don't want to commit to a long-term contract, you don't have to miss out. You can also access the Ashes via a NOW TV Sports Pass. A weekly pass that will let you watch all five days of a test will cost £14.99 while a monthly pass will cost £33.99, with no contract.
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