Battle of captains looms as key Ashes duel

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Never before has the battle of two Ashes captain shaped as so crucial.

Not just tactically, but in a legitimate head-to-head showdown that is likely to dominate this summer's series.

In Pat Cummins, Australia have the best bowler in the world for the past three years at the helm.

In Joe Root, England have the No.1 batsman in charge after he assumed the No.1 ranking from Kane Williamson in August.

"I honestly hadn't thought of that until (now)," Cummins responded when the looming on-field clash of captains was put to him on Friday.

"He (Root) is batting really well, he's had a really good year for England.

"He's no doubt going to be probably their biggest wicket, being the captain, being their most in-form batsman."

So rare is it that a bowler captains in Test cricket, historical ICC data shows it is the first time an Ashes series has seen the world's best batter and bowler face off as leaders.

But Cummins and Root are no strangers to Test duels, with the Australian quick holding the upper hand.

The ball Cummins bowled to take the top of Root's off-stump at Old Trafford two years ago remains one of the best of his career.

In total, Cummins has knocked Root over seven times in 10 Tests, with the English star averaging just 23.10 against Australia's new captain.

Root is also yet to find his best in Australia, going without a century in all Ashes Tests in this country and yet to win a Test on two tours to here.

But he appears a man in better form headed into this summer, averaging 66.13 in Tests this year and eyeing off the most prolific 12 months of his career.

"I'm a big believer in sorting out your own game, thinking about your own game," Cummins said of his looming battle with Root.

"Not getting too caught up in the opposition. And that's how I've been preparing and I will until the Test match.

"Trying to make sure I keep doing what I do well in Test cricket.

"And when I walk out there, I'll be thinking about myself and how to bowl well as opposed to really in-depth thinking about the opposition

"But I don't think being a captain myself puts any added responsibility or adds to the contest."

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