England are still basking in the glow of an epic World Cup triumph but if anything can throw cold water over their memorable summer it would be a first home Ashes series loss to Australia for 18 years. Battle commences at Edgbaston on Thursday and the last time Australia won there was the opening match
Reigning champions Australia are already through to the semi-finals, while South Africa cannot qualify for the last four.
Ball-tamperers Steve Smith and David Warner were on Monday selected for Australia’s World Cup squad, but there was no room for Josh Hazlewood or Peter Handscomb.
Australia batsman David Warner on Tuesday predicted a high-scoring World Cup in the uncertain English conditions. Warner headed off to the Australian camp after ending his Indian Premier League with a 56-ball 81 to help Sunrisers Hyderabad thrash Kings XI Punjab by 45 runs on Monday.
Captain Aaron Finch warned Australia will embark on their World Cup defence next month with confidence riding high after completing an ODI sweep against Pakistan on Sunday hot on the heels of a series victory in India.
Powerful all-rounder Shane Watson retired from Australia's Twenty20 Big Bash League on Friday, but will continue playing select overseas tournaments.
Steve Smith plundered an unbeaten 91 and Glenn Maxwell hit 70 Friday before bad light stopped play, with Australia winning their final warm-up game before leaving for England to defend their World Cup title. They were handed victory by five wickets courtesy of the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method after amassing 248 for five off 44
Australia’s cricketers were headed on Saturday to the battlefields of Gallipoli for inspiration to kick off a gruelling four-month tour taking in the defence of their World Cup crown and an Ashes series.
Steve Smith hit an attractive unbeaten 89 but David Warner was out for a duck as Australia made 277 for six against a New Zealand XI in a World Cup warm-up on Wednesday.