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Will 2019’s heroes shape the 2023 Ashes?

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The 2023 Test cricket calendar has already got off to a brilliant start. We have seen India retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for the fourth consecutive time.

Then we saw New Zealand and England tie their Test series held in The Land of the Long White Cloud with one victory apiece, and the Kiwis’ victory was by just one solitary run after following on. As far as Test cricket goes, that’s as good as it gets. Well, until the summer at least. That’s because England and Australia will once again do battle in cricket’s oldest rivalry, and oddschecker, which compares cricket odds and offers, cannot split the pair.

The two rivals will fight out for the honour of the tiny Ashes trophy, with the five-Test series being held in the northern hemisphere.

The 2023 Ashes series is perhaps the most highly anticipated cricketing event of the year, and here are two men that could steal the show.

Ben Stokes – England

England’s knight in shining armour without a doubt is Ben Stokes. The all-rounder has been the country’s hero on so many occasions it beggars belief, but things could have been very different. That’s because it was Stokes who bowled the final over in the 2016 T20 World Cup final against the West Indies.

Just three years later, Stokes was the star of the show in the 50-over World Cup, hitting a match-tying 84 not out. He would then hit more runs in the super over which led to England’s eventual victory and their maiden World Cup triumph. Barely six weeks on from his finest hour, Stokes was at it again. He hit a blistering 135 not out, with the final 74 of those runs coming off just 47 balls in a final-wicket stand with Jack Leach. Stokes hammered the Australian bowlers around each corner of Headingley to single-handedly keep the 2019 Ashes series alive, for one Test at least.

Now he’s in charge of England’s Test team, spearheading a revolution that saw a run of one win in 17 before he took charge become nine wins in 10 afterwards. But an Ashes challenge will be completely different.

Steve Smith – Australia

Has any Australian cricketer ever performed better on English soil than Steve Smith did back in 2019? Perhaps Shane Warne’s leg-spin heroics in 2005 come close, but if we’re solely discussing Australian batters, then it’s hard to think of a single player who performed as admirably as the New South Welshman did four years ago.

His ball-tampering ban having come to an end, Smith followed up a decent but not outstanding World Cup with two centuries in the opener at Edgbaston, helping Australia recover from 122-8 to seal a comfortable win. He was stopped eight runs short of a century at Lord’s, and a blow to the head from Jofra Archer during that innings ruled him out of the Second Miracle at Headingley. But he was back for Old Trafford, a double century putting the Aussies on course to retain the urn. Two more 80-odds followed, before he finally fell for less than 80 in his final innings of the series, caught at leg gully off Stuart Broad.

He hasn’t quite been his relentless self since then, but Smith has always managed to raise himself against England.

Will one of these two men define the 2019 Ashes? Or will someone else emerge to set the series alight?

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