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England ready to reignite the most historic rivalry in cricket.
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The first Test of England’s much-anticipated Ashes clash with Australia begins at Edgbaston on Thursday, with the top spots in the PCA’s Most Valuable Player Rankings well and truly up for grabs.
The Three Lions are halfway to completing a dream summer, with the first day of the Ashes arriving just 18 days after the ODI squad lifted the ICC Cricket World Cup on an unforgettable afternoon at Lord’s.
With an ODI series victory against Pakistan and a Test win over Ireland at the home of cricket also already in the bag, the squad will be looking to secure a clean sweep this summer against their oldest rivals.
England will go into the series having taken some confidence from a competitive 143-run victory over Ireland last week. Opening bowlers Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes in particular found fantastic rhythm after combining to remove the tourists for 38 after just 15.4 overs.
Confidence will also be buoyed by a relatively successful winter, which saw England claim victory in four out of their six Test fixtures during tours of Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
However, with spin deciding the series in Sri Lanka and big fast bowlers dominating in the West Indies, the key battle in the upcoming series against Australia will most likely be between the seam bowlers and top order batsmen on each side.
The England MVP was designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players to identify the key influencers and match-winners in every game. The algorithm is reset before the start of every summer and winter season, giving two MVPs for each format as well as two cross-format Overall MVPs per year.
The innovation, which provides a more rigorous analysis of player performances than traditional batting and bowling averages, gives full credit to those players who improve a team’s chances of winning.
Opening bowler Woakes currently leads the Test MVP after his outstanding performance in England’s only Test of the summer so far against Ireland. The 30-year-old claimed a career best 6-17 in the second innings which helped him to 31.57 MVP points – the most of any England player.
He is closely followed by veteran Broad, who moved from 437 to 444 career Test wickets after returning match figures of 7-79 in the same game.
Both men’s place in the starting 11 for the Edgbaston Test, however, had been under threat after the inclusion of six seamers in the initial squad. Jofra Archer in particular was a star turn during England’s successful World Cup, and recovered from a side strain in time to make the grade.
An unusually large squad for a home Test left Broad, Woakes, Archer, James Anderson, Sam Curran and Olly Stone fighting it out for just three places with Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali completing the bowling line-up.
In the end, Archer, Curran and Stone were the ones to miss out after captain Joe Root named his side on Wednesday 31 July.
Curran will be disappointed as he sits third in the Test MVP after a typical performance against Ireland saw the all-rounder combine swing bowling with crashing lower order runs.
Below him, the Test MVP top five is completed by two more men who have missed out on the first Ashes fixture in the form of spinner Jack Leach, who made a fairytale 92 as nightwatchman against Ireland, and fast bowler Olly Stone, who impressed with his aggression in the same game.
The last player to win the Test MVP was Ali, after the spinning all-rounder proved to be the standout performer across England’s 2018/19 Test schedule.
Prior to that, legendary seamer Anderson claimed the award for summer 2018 after passing Glenn McGrath to become the most prolific fast bowler of all time in Test cricket.
In terms of the Overall MVP, Woakes once again leads the way. The Warwickshire man will be looking to secure an impressive ODI, Test and Overall MVP treble if he can accrue more MVP points than any other player during the Ashes.
In the Overall table, Woakes currently sits 17 points ahead of Test skipper Joe Root in second and 30 clear of Jason Roy, who will be eager to make a name for himself in Test cricket after impressing for so long in the shorter formats, in third.
Full England team for the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston: Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Joe Root (c), Joe Denly, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
View the England Men’s Test MVP Rankings here.
View the England Men’s Overall MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.