The 72nd Ashes series between Australia and England was scheduled to begin, like most of its predecessors held Down Under, in the late southern spring but for the first time since 1978-79 the start date has been pushed back into December, this time because of disruptions to the global schedule caused by Covid-19 and Cricket Australia’s understandable desire to leave it long enough to allow the maximum feasible number of spectators into each ground.
The hosts hold the Ashes, having won them back by winning the 2017-18 series 4-0 and retaining them with the 2-2 draw in England during the summer of 2019. England have won only four of 13 series in Australia in the past 50 years and have not won a Test in the country in their past 10 attempts, losing nine and drawing one since their victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 2011.
Indeed, on three of the last four tours they failed to win a single Test match, the 3-1 triumph under Andrew Strauss being preceded by a 5-0 whitewash under Andrew Flintoff and succeeded by another 5-0 during Alastair Cook’s captaincy and Joe Root’s 4-0 defeat four years ago.
As per the tradition of the last 40 years for tours of Australia, there should be five Test matches held in the usual places, the five largest cities in the five largest states: Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
Ashes Tour 2021-22 Test matches
First Test December 8-12 – the Gabba, Brisbane
Second Test December 16-20 – Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (day/night)
Third Test December 26-30 – MCG, Melbourne
Fourth Test January 5-9 – SCG, Sydney
Fifth Test January 14-18 – Optus Stadium, Perth
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What time do the matches start?
The first, third and fourth Tests at the Gabba, MCG and SCG begin at 11.30pm GMT. NB this means that in the UK they actually commence on the day before they do in Australia – ie at 11.30pm on Dec 7, Christmas Day and Jan 4.
Play at the second Test, a pink-ball day-nighter at the Adelaide Oval, starts at the brutal time of 3am for a UK audience though it does have the benefit of having a long evening session which is a perfect breakfast accompaniment for the lily-livered normal risers who don’t watch through the night.
The fifth Test at the new Optus Stadium takes place in the Australian Western Standard Time zone which means a 2.30am start for those watching in the UK.