Australia aim to start busy Test summer at full-strength against Afghanistan

Australia aim to start busy Test summer at full-strength against Afghanistan

Australia hope to unleash a full-strength side for the opening Test of the summer against Afghanistan, their only red-ball hit out before the Ashes. Cricket Australia announced its 2021-22 international schedule on Wednesday with the one-off match against Afghanistan in Hobart the first of six men’s Tests to be played within a two-month period.

Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns has already flagged Australia’s lack of red-ball cricket in the lead up to the Ashes as a concern. But skipper Tim Paine brushed aside the suggestion his side could be underdone for the five-match Test series against England starting on 8 December in Brisbane.

“We went into an Ashes series in England three, two years ago and the only red-ball game we had was against each other,” he said. “That’s part-and-parcel for us, you’ve got to be adaptable.”

Paine said Australia are aiming to field their best XI against Afghanistan – who only became a Test-playing nation in 2018 – in the match beginning on 27 November. “From my point of view, a preparation point of view, it’s going to be a really important Test match to set us up for the Ashes,” he said.

Adelaide Oval will host the only pink-ball Test of the summer, slated for 16-20 December, before the Ashes series continues in Melbourne and Sydney. Perth’s Optus Stadium, having been snubbed throughout the previous summer, will host the fifth Ashes Test on 14-18 January.

There is a three-day break between the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests while Australia’s pace attack face a five-day turnaround after the Boxing Day Test and then a four-day turnaround after the SCG Test.

Hohns has called for closer monitoring of weary fast bowlers, which will be vital for the Ashes series which has been squeezed into less than seven weeks.

Australia’s most recent Test in Hobart was the December 2016 rout at the hands of South Africa, which prompted a major shake-up of the side. The Afghanistan match begins soon after the Twenty20 World Cup, likely to be held in the United Arab Emirates, although dates and the tournament’s host nation remain uncertain due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

T20 World Cup squad members will have to spend a fortnight in hotel quarantine upon their return to Australia, creating a logistical nightmare for CA. After the Ashes, New Zealand and Sri Lanka’s white-ball squads will arrive for a combined three ODIs and six T20s against Australia.

The women’s program starts against India, the final venues and dates of which are still being finalised. The multi-format series is expected to feature a red-ball match, marking just the second women’s Test between Australia and India since 1991.

Australian players will then take part in the women’s Big Bash League before donning the whites against England. Manuka Oval will host the women’s Ashes Test on 27-30 January before the white-ball matches.

The three T20s between Australia and England will be played at North Sydney Oval (4 and 6 February) and Adelaide Oval (10 February). ODIs at Adelaide Oval (13 February) and Melbourne’s Junction Oval (16 and 19 February) will conclude the seven-match series for the Meg Lanning-led Australians against England. Lanning’s team then depart for New Zealand, seeking to reclaim the one-day World Cup.