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The Ashes Rivals

Root v Smith

No two wickets are going to be more highly prized than those of the two baby-faced Ashes captains. Root's classically trained stance lends grace and languidity to his very millennial range of strokes. Smith is a fidgety bundle of energy at the crease, his apparent tics and foibles disguising his power, balance and timing. Smith's record in Australia is astonishing ‐ ten centuries in 24 Tests at an average of 68.65. And Root, last summer, matched AB de Villiers' world record of 12 consecutive Tests with at least a half-century. In the absence of Ben Stokes, a continuation of that form will be vital.

Cook v Warner

The outstanding batsmen from the last two Ashes tours of Australia were a pair of world-class left-handed openers, and sometime captains. And yet it is hard to imagine two more different characters than Alastair Cook and David Warner. Cook, a former choirboy and a pillar of England's Test team for 145 consecutive Tests, used a technique as attritional as the midday Brisbane heat to rack up an astonishing 766 runs in 2010-11. Three years later, Warner hit back in beastly fashion - consecutive onslaughts of 124, 83 not out and 112 trampling England's prostrate morale underfoot to set up a crushing 5-0 win.

Moeen v Lyon

Beware the under-estimated. In an era of apparently slim spin-bowling pickings, the careers of Moeen and Lyon would be the envy of many more heralded forebears. Lyon went from being a groundsman to a Test cricketer in the space of seven remarkable months in 2010-11, and has gone on to become their second-most prolific spinner of all time, behind the matchless Shane Warne, with 269 wickets at 31.83. Moeen, meanwhile, claimed 25 wickets at 15.64 to overcome South Africa earlier this year, including a ten-wicket haul at Lord's ... and the small matter of 252 runs, the most prolific allround haul in any four-Test series.

Broad v Hazlewood

Even Glenn McGrath never produced innings figures quite as astonishing as those of the Englishman whose methods ‐ and career wickets tally ‐ most closely resemble his own. Stuart Broad, a dead-ringer for Draco Malfoy, claimed an astonishing haul of 8 for 15 at Trent Bridge in 2015, and Australia's players, fans and media are sure to be gunning for vengeance this winter. Hazlewood, "The Hoff" to his mates, claimed 16 wickets at 25.75 in his maiden Ashes in 2015 ‐ but at the age of 26, and with a slightly burlier but no less effective approach, he's rapidly entering his prime.

Anderson v Starc

In their vastly contrasting styles, Anderson and Starc are among the world's most skilful manipulators of a cricket ball. At the age of 35, Anderson is arguably at the very top of his game. With peerless command of seam and swing, he took 39 wickets in seven Tests against South Africa and West Indies this summer, including a career-best 7 for 42 at Lord's. Starc missed his last home Ashes with a stress fracture but, at the age of 27, he is galloping into his prime. His cloud-snagging left-arm line is a rare and awkward challenge for batsmen the world over.

Root v Smith

No two wickets are going to be more highly prized than those of the two baby-faced Ashes captains. Root's classically trained stance lends grace and languidity to his very millennial range of strokes. Smith is a fidgety bundle of energy at the crease, his apparent tics and foibles disguising his power, balance and timing. Smith's record in Australia is astonishing ‐ ten centuries in 24 Tests at an average of 68.65. And Root, last summer, matched AB de Villiers' world record of 12 consecutive Tests with at least a half-century. In the absence of Ben Stokes, a continuation of that form will be vital.

Cook v Warner

The outstanding batsmen from the last two Ashes tours of Australia were a pair of world-class left-handed openers, and sometime captains. And yet it is hard to imagine two more different characters than Alastair Cook and David Warner. Cook, a former choirboy and a pillar of England's Test team for 145 consecutive Tests, used a technique as attritional as the midday Brisbane heat to rack up an astonishing 766 runs in 2010-11. Three years later, Warner hit back in beastly fashion - consecutive onslaughts of 124, 83 not out and 112 trampling England's prostrate morale underfoot to set up a crushing 5-0 win.

Moeen v Lyon

Beware the under-estimated. In an era of apparently slim spin-bowling pickings, the careers of Moeen and Lyon would be the envy of many more heralded forebears. Lyon went from being a groundsman to a Test cricketer in the space of seven remarkable months in 2010-11, and has gone on to become their second-most prolific spinner of all time, behind the matchless Shane Warne, with 269 wickets at 31.83. Moeen, meanwhile, claimed 25 wickets at 15.64 to overcome South Africa earlier this year, including a ten-wicket haul at Lord's ... and the small matter of 252 runs, the most prolific allround haul in any four-Test series.

Broad v Hazlewood

Even Glenn McGrath never produced innings figures quite as astonishing as those of the Englishman whose methods ‐ and career wickets tally ‐ most closely resemble his own. Stuart Broad, a dead-ringer for Draco Malfoy, claimed an astonishing haul of 8 for 15 at Trent Bridge in 2015, and Australia's players, fans and media are sure to be gunning for vengeance this winter. Hazlewood, "The Hoff" to his mates, claimed 16 wickets at 25.75 in his maiden Ashes in 2015 ‐ but at the age of 26, and with a slightly burlier but no less effective approach, he's rapidly entering his prime.

Anderson v Starc

In their vastly contrasting styles, Anderson and Starc are among the world's most skilful manipulators of a cricket ball. At the age of 35, Anderson is arguably at the very top of his game. With peerless command of seam and swing, he took 39 wickets in seven Tests against South Africa and West Indies this summer, including a career-best 7 for 42 at Lord's. Starc missed his last home Ashes with a stress fracture but, at the age of 27, he is galloping into his prime. His cloud-snagging left-arm line is a rare and awkward challenge for batsmen the world over.

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