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England v Ireland: What we learned ahead of the Ashes

England started their Test summer with a 10-wicket victory over Ireland at Lord's and next up is the first of five Ashes Tests against Australia.

That series begins at Edgbaston on 16th June, following Australia's World Test Championship final against India, and we have picked out some Ashes pointers from England’s comprehensive victory against Ireland.

WhatEngland v Australia - 1st Test
WhereEdgbaston, Birmingham
WhenFriday 16th June to Tuesday 20th June
How to watchSky Sports Cricket
OddsEngland 5/4, Australia 11/8, Draw 4/1

England bowlers must sharpen up against the tail

An 11th win in 13 Tests under coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes was the ideal warm-up for the Ashes, but England's lack of ruthlessness with the ball is a slight concern.

They had lost their previous Test against New Zealand in February, despite enforcing the follow-on, and should have comfortably sealed an innings victory against Ireland.

However, number eight Andy McBrine (86 not out) and number nine Mark Adair (88 off 76 balls) helped the tourists reach 362 in their second innings and England cannot afford to let Australia's tail wag in the Ashes.

Wicketkeeper Alex Carey, all-rounders Cameron Green and Mitchell Marsh, and fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are all capable of scoring quick runs, so England must improve their bowling at Australia’s lower-order batters.

Middle-order stars short of Ashes prep time

Churning out runs in the County Championship has been the traditional preparation for an Ashes Test series, but injuries and IPL contracts mean that has not been an option for several of England's top-order batters.

Joe Root, a bit-part player for Rajasthan Royals at the IPL, made a brisk 56 at Lord's, where a huge second-wicket stand between Ben Duckett (182) and Ollie Pope (205) meant skipper Stokes could declare the first innings on 524-4.

Harry Brook, whose IPL season ended with a run of three ducks in four innings for Sunrisers Hyderabad, faced only seven balls before the declaration while Stokes and the returning Jonny Bairstow did not bat at all.

Bairstow had a brilliant year in Test cricket in 2022 before suffering a broken leg while playing golf, but he has made 20 not out, 0, 27 and 36 in four Championship innings this summer.

Stokes played one of the great Test innings in England's 2019 Ashes victory at Headingley, but like Bairstow, has been short of time in the middle and his highest score in 10 innings on the winter tours of Pakistan and New Zealand was just 41.

Leach injury leaves England short of spin

England have had to cope with plenty of fast-bowling injuries over the past few years and Jofra Archer, another star of the 2019 Ashes, has been ruled out of this summer's series.

However, the news that spinner Jack Leach will also miss the Ashes due to a stress fracture of the back is a major blow to the balance of the side.

Leach made a fine start to the Ireland Test, dismissing dangerous trio Paul Stirling, Lorcan Tucker and Curtis Campher in a characteristically tidy first-innings spell.

The left-armer has played all 13 matches of the Stokes-McCullum era, taking career-best match figures of 10-166 in last June's Headingley win over New Zealand, and his consistency means there are no standout candidates to replace him.

Will Jacks and Liam Livingstone would strengthen the batting, but are unlikely to offer the same control and threat with the ball as Leach, while Australia's batters would undoubtedly target teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed.

Moeen Ali, who confirmed his retirement from Test cricket last year, had a tough time against Australia, taking 20 wickets in 11 Ashes appearances at an average of nearly 65, and Leach's injury leaves England with a big decision to make.

Duckett delivers in long-awaited home Test bow

Zak Crawley sealed England's 10-wicket victory over Ireland with three fours in four balls in the first over of the second innings, but his opening partner Ben Duckett had an even more memorable Lord's Test.

Duckett made his second Test century in the first innings, finishing with 182 off just 178 deliveries, and he should go into the first Ashes Test with great confidence.

That was his first Test innings in England, having played four matches in Bangladesh and India in 2016, before returning for the 2022/23 tours of Pakistan and New Zealand.

Duckett averages 69 after 12 innings of the second act of his Test career, scoring 690 runs off just 710 balls, and he is unlikely to temper that attacking approach in the Ashes despite the quality of Australia's fast bowlers.

He is 5/1 to be England's Team - Top 1st Inns Batter in the series opener against Australia at Edgbaston.

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