England cricket star Stuart Broad has lit the fuse for a spicy home Ashes series after claiming Australia's emphatic triumph in 2021-22 doesn't count as "a real Ashes" series. The Aussies kept hold of the famous urn after a thumping England 4-0 in a series overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
England were comprehensively beaten in four of the five Tests in 2021-22, with only wet weather in Sydney saving them from a third series whitewash in 15 years. England had to endure a challenging quarantine period and the teams spent part of the tour in a bubble.
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For weeks until the series started, there were fears some players within the England camp would withdraw from the five-Test series if their families were not granted exemptions to enter Australia. Ultimately, Cricket Australia (CA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) came to a compromise that would allow the series to go ahead.
Speaking just seven weeks out from England's home Ashes series against Australia - starting at Edgbaston on June 16 - Broad says the previous series in Australia did not allow his side to give a true account of itself because of the myriad disruptions caused by Covid. "Nothing was harsher than the last Ashes series,' Broad told England's Daily Mail.
"But in my mind I don't class that as a real Ashes. The definition of Ashes cricket is elite sport with lots of passion and players at the top of their game.
"Nothing about that series was high-level performance because of the Covid restrictions. The training facilities, the travel, not being able to socialise. I've written it off as a void series."
Broad's comments are not the first complaints from the English camp about the last Ashes series in Australia. Apart from concerns around the players' families, England were also left frustrated that wet weather washed out almost all of their preparations leading into the first Test. Former coach Chris Silverwood was also unhappy with his quarantine conditions after he and other England support staffers tested positive for Covid during the Boxing Day Test.
Stuart Broad warns Aussies against playing 'Bazball'
In a lengthy interview, Broad also suggested Australia's batters will struggle to cope with England's up-tempo style. England's 'BazBall revolution' of attacking Test cricket has taken the world by storm, however, Broad has warned against the Aussies trying to replicate it themselves.
"It would be great for us if Australia try to take us on at our own game," Broad added. "If we can get them playing in a slightly different style they could make mistakes and that would be brilliant for us.
"Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja are all guys who like to bat time and accumulate. So if we can nibble away at them and just get them thinking, 'Why are we not scoring quicker? Why are we not moving the game forward? I'd love Smith to dance down the track and sky one to mid-off early doors. That would be classic."
England's preparations for the Ashes were dealt a blow this week after it was revealed fast bowler Jofra Archer reportedly went under the knife for a procedure on his troublesome right elbow. According to reports in the UK, Archer briefly left the Indian Premier League this month to visit a specialist in Belgium.
The England paceman has been conspicuous by his absence for Mumbai Indians, featuring in his side's season-opener on April 2 but missing their next four matches before returning to action on Saturday. Concerns were heightened by the revelation Archer was experiencing discomfort in a joint that required a couple of operations and contributed to him spending much of the last two years on the sidelines.
Archer returned to the IPL on the weekend and bowled his full four overs where he reached speeds of up to 145km/h against Punjab Kings, suggesting the issue is not another dramatic step back for him. The fast bowler admitted about the Ashes earlier in the year: "If I can play one (Ashes) game this summer, I'll be happy. If I play more than one, that's just a bonus."
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