25-year first shaking up this year’s Ashes
Australia's Ashes defence is set to feature a high powered off-field chess match where big-name bowlers are rotated throughout an historic six-Test summer.
Cricket Australia will on Wednesday confirm a robust Test match summer featuring the enchanting Afghanistan team visiting Australia for the first time for a Hobart Test from November 27, in which captain Tim Paine will finally get the chance to lead his country before his home-town audience.
Australia will begin its Ashes defence at the Gabba from December 8-12 ahead of a day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval (December 16-20) before heading to Melbourne (December 26-30), Sydney (January 5-9) and Perth (January 14-18), the first time in more than two decades the final Ashes Test will not be in Sydney.
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"There is no bigger stage than an Ashes series at home," Paine told News Corp.
"It was one thing to play last time, but now to captain my country in an Ashes at home is going to be very special.
"There's a huge amount of Test cricket to be played in two months, so we'll need to be very mindful and conscious of our players, particularly against the backdrop of playing in another COVID-affected summer.
"From my perspective, the more Tests I play the better. Given we've missed a few series, I just can't wait to play more Test cricket."
After the Ashes are concluded, Australia's men will then host nine ODI and T20 matches against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, while the Australian women's team will host India at the start of the summer before a standalone Ashes Test in Canberra in January.
The men's Ashes, which will start on a Wednesday in Brisbane, will feature five Tests in six weeks, putting the heat on an attack which may be shy of red-ball practice due to the T20 World Cup, which precedes the Australian summer.
Some Australian players may not have played a red ball game for eight months before the Test summer starts.
Chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, has already flagged the possibility of fast bowlers being rotated this season as part of the fallout from last summer's series loss to India where an unchanged Australian attack struggled to penetrate in the last two Tests.
Established trio Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are likely to start the series, but the selectors have flagged a key support role for lively James Pattinson while Michael Neser remains highly rated and is bowling splendidly in county cricket for Glamorgan.
Just as Australia are likely to shuffle their deck, so to are England with their ageless veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad likely to make their Ashes swansongs, but sure to be selectively used.
"Every time they have been written off they have answered it with a great series performance,'' said former England captain and Fox Cricket analyst Michael Vaughan.
"Anderson is getting better and better and what he did recently in India and Sri Lanka was ridiculous. He seems to have an aura over the batsmen.''
Australia's 32-year unbeaten run at the Gabba may have been ended by India but Vaughan still feels it will shape the summer.
While bumper local crowds are expected for the Ashes England's iconic support group - the Barmy Army - face significant challenges due to international travel restrictions.
"In a perfect world, we would welcome the Barmy Army back to these shores for a summer of singing and sportsmanship,'' interim Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley said.
"Of course, we will be guided by the Australian Government on all things related to international travel.
"The men's Ashes is one of the great global sporting rivalries and seems to grow ever larger with each series and generation. The most recent Ashes series was a remarkable contest that captured the imagination of the entire cricketing world and I expect this summer to be no different.
"We are also incredibly excited to welcome Afghanistan to our shores for a historic first Test match against Australia. The story of the Afghanistan cricket team is one of the most uplifting in international sport, and their record of three wins from their first six Tests prove they truly belong at this level.''
Originally published as 25-year first shaking up this year's Ashes