Key Australian players for the Ashes series

Key Australian players for the Ashes series
Australian team honing their skills - FILE PHOTO (AFP)

As one of the most historic Test encounters, Ashes series, is about to get underway, here are the Australian players that can become a nightmare for the English side.

Steve Smith (captain)

The world’s number one ranked Test batsman took over the Test captaincy from Michael Clarke at the end of the last Ashes series in 2015, and will be leading Australia for the first time in Tests against England. Has scored 20 100s in 56 Tests at 59.66, with the highest score of 215 in the last Ashes series at Lord’s. The fidgety right-hander batting at four looms as his side’s big batting hope with his improvised shot-making. Quick-footed and adept at facing spin, but he is equally comfortable driving and pulling the fast bowlers. Scored five centuries in 18 Ashes Tests at 54.74. Outstanding slips fieldsman with 79 catches and as captain has won 50 percent of his 26 games in charge.

David Warner (vice-captain)

Pugnacious on-field character and opening batsman. Warner is the top-ranked opener in Tests and overall the fifth-ranked batsman. This is his fourth Ashes and second at home, and he possesses the rare ability to turn matches with his destructive hitting. Has scored 5,705 Test runs at 47.94 interspersed with 20 hundreds in his 66 Tests. A superb outfielder with incredible hands and the accuracy to throw down the stumps from distance. Warner has hit two centuries in 13 Tests against England, but he has an outstanding record at home with 14 tons in 33 Tests. Much depends on Warner and Smith to score heavily for Australia’s chances of victory. Warner’s highest Test score stands at 253 against New Zealand in Perth in 2015.

Mitchell Starc

Lethal left-arm quick who is Australia’s pace spearhead with an incredible strike-rate. In 36 Tests Starc has captured 148 wickets at 28.35, with 29 of those coming in eight Ashes Tests. This will be his first home Ashes series and he has taken half his Test wickets (74) in Australia. Starc gets alarming bounce from his 1.96m height and can swing the ball. Has taken six wickets in an innings three times, including 6-111 against England at Nottingham in 2015. Heads into the series with back-to-back hat-tricks for New South Wales in one Sheffield Shield match this season, and looks a key strike weapon bowling in tandem with new-ball partner Josh Hazlewood. Starc is no slouch with the bat either, with a swashbuckling 99 against India in Mohali in 2013 among his nine Test half-centuries.

Josh Hazlewood

Hazlewood represents a different threat to England’s batsmen with his metronomic line and length in the Glenn McGrath mold. The sixth-ranked bowler in Tests represents a handy foil to the explosiveness of new-ball partner Starc. In 31 Tests, the right fast-medium pacer has captured 118 wickets at 25.75, including 16 in four Ashes Tests at 25.75. Hazlewood has statistically kept pace with his boyhood idol McGrath, or near enough to it, during the early stages of his international career. Both made their Test debuts at 23 and Hazlewood reached 100 Test wickets in 46 innings, just one innings less than his idol. This is his second Ashes series, but the first at home.