Australia eyes Ashes warm-up with historic one-off Test against Afghanistan

Australia eyes Ashes warm-up with historic one-off Test against Afghanistan

The two sides were supposed to play the Test in November last year, although the Covid situation led to the rescheduling of the fixture.

Australia’s Nathan Lyon’s celebrates. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

Afghanistan is set to play their first-ever Test against Australia in what will be a warm-up of sorts for the latter for the iconic Ashes. Cricket Australia is planning to release the schedule for the upcoming summer next week, which is expected to be a jam-packed calendar with dates marked for fixtures starting from October this year to mid-February 2022.

The international season for the men’s team will kick start in Hobart in late November against Afghanistan, which will provide all the Australian red-ball stars with a chance to brush their webs and gear up for the longest format rivalry against the arch-rivals.

As per ICC’s Future Tour Programme (FTP), Australia and Afghanistan were supposed to play the one-off Test in November last year, after the T20 World Cup was shifted to 2021. Although, the Covid situation led to the rescheduling of the fixture.

Most first-choice players out of Test match practice

Meanwhile, Australia players will also be getting ample chances to prepare for the multi-day format in the Sheffield Shield, however, the mandatory two-week quarantine after the Twenty20 World Cup might spoil that to an extent for some of their limited-overs players.

With David Warner, Pat Cummins, Steve Smith all expected to be on duty for the T20 World Cup, only players such as captain Tim Paine, Nathan Lyon, and Cameron Green will have more than two months of Shield cricket under their belts. Even as, in the last summer, both Australia and India ran straight into an ODI game after quarantine, replicating that in Tests throws a bigger challenge owing to the demanding nature of the format.

Meanwhile, this is going to be the first time since 1995 that the Ashes finale will not be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Typically, an Australian Ashes series has the first Test in Brisbane, the second in Adelaide, the third in Perth, the fourth in Melbourne (the Boxing Day Test) and the fifth and last in Sydney (the New Year’s Test).

Australia will be out in the defense of urn at the Gabba this year – their fortress which was breached by a watered-down Indian team in January to hand them a defeat at the venue after 32 years. The series will then proceed to Adelaide for a day-night Test, where Australia has been invincible, having won all eight Tests under lights so far.

Melbourne and Sydney will host the Christmas and New Year’s fixture, although Perth – and not Sydney – will host the series final, having last hosted the conclusional Test in February 1994-95.