Steve Waugh has said the Ashes series will be closely fought with both sides having a 50-50 chance. (Image credit: Getty Images)
England has enjoyed a glorious summer of 2019 so far. Eoin Morgan's side won the series against Pakistan 4-0 and then scaled the pinnacle of the sport by winning the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time. With England finally achieving white-ball success, the focus now shifts to Joe Root and the all-important Ashes contest beginning on August 1. The upcoming five-match series will be even more vital as it is the first series in the newly formed World Test championship which will culminate with a clash between the top two teams in the final in June 2021 at Lord's. With England winning the one-off Test against Ireland, Root's side will be aiming to sustain the momentum but according to former Australia cricket skipper Steve Waugh, the World Cup win will have no impact on the Ashes contest.
"One-day cricket is irrelevant to Test cricket. They're different teams, different captains. It's a different sport really. If you compare Test cricket and one-day cricket you're almost not playing the same sport. It's played in a totally different way. England will say it's important for everyone and sure if you win that's great but when it comes to the first Test at Edgbaston it's not going to matter what happened in the one-day World Cup," Waugh said.
The Ashes contests in the 21st century have been dominated at home. Australia has not won in England since 2001, having lost four consecutive series in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015. On the other hand, England has won only once in Australia in 2010/11 and have suffered losses of 5-0, 5-0 and 4-0 in 2006, 2013 and 2017. The first Test match, in Edgbaston, is a fortress for England with the hosts not having lost a single game at the venue since 2008. However, Waugh, who is mentoring the Australian players, has urged them to not think about past records.
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"I've won there in Ashes contests. I think if you start believing something and building it up it becomes true but in my mind, it shouldn't be an issue. We've come up against some really good England sides in those last 18 years. We've had some tight series and moments when we could have won the series, probably a bit like the other way round for England in that period where they lost a lot," Waugh said.
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With both teams having come out of a punishing ODI schedule, Waugh believes the five-match Ashes series will take a toll on fast bowlers from both sides with an injury to one of their key fast bowlers upsetting the composition of the side. "I really believe it's a big ask for the fast bowlers on both sides to play five Tests in six weeks and that could have a big impact on the whole series, so, for instance, Jimmy Anderson gets injured, or Mitchell Starc gets injured for us, it could really affect the line-up. Depth in the squad will be important but I honestly think if I was a betting man I wouldn't back either side because I don't know who's going to win. It's going to be that even. I think it's going to be a fantastic series," Waugh said.
The Australian side sees the return of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, the trio playing their first series since the infamous ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town against South Africa which saw them getting suspended from international cricket. Waugh believes the side had turned the corner and were playing competitive cricket. "Things culminated in Cape Town and were out of control there and there was a couple of ordinary series between different sides... It did get to the point when it was over the top and something needed to be done so unfortunately for the guys involved they were the ones that paid the price," Waugh said.