Travis Head and Mitchell Starc in Australia team for Ashes opener against England

New captain Cummins reveals early call on starting line-up ahead of Gabba clash

Australia's new captain Patrick Cummins, left, alongside his England counterpart Joe Root with the Ashes trophy at the Gabba in Brisbane on December 5, 2021. AFP

New Australia captain Pat Cummins has confirmed batsman Travis Head and fast bowler Mitchell Starc will play in the first Ashes Test against England.

Cummins said that Head is set to be picked before Usman Khawaja in this week’s first Test at the Gabba, while the early call on left-arm quick Mitchell Starc means the hosts have now settled on a line-up well before Wednesday’s toss.

“It was a tight one, the selectors make the call, but both are really good options, with really strong form,” said Cummins at a pre-series event with England counterpart Joe Root on Sunday. “Experience is great from Uzzie [Khawaja] and we’re really lucky to have that in the squad.”

“But Trav’s been playing a lot for us the last couple of years, churned out runs in England and Australia and is ready to go.”

Cummins said he was leaning towards allowing Starc to join Josh Hazelwood as the new ball pairing in Brisbane.

“No [I haven’t decided] is the honest answer; I probably won’t [open] first-up, but we’ve been quite fluid in recent years, pending the situation,” he said. “Maybe [I will if it’s] late in the day and with only a couple of overs to bowl and I feel I want to have a crack.”

“Starcy’s great … we knew we had three weeks building up and he’s been building up nicely, he was fast [in training on Saturday], swinging the ball big."

Root, meanwhile, has declared himself ready for an Ashes series that will “define my captaincy”.

Statistically Root is already his country’s most successful Test leader, overtaking Michael Vaughan in the summer when he oversaw a 27th victory over India at Headingley.

But he has yet to get the better of Australia, having suffered a 4-0 defeat in his previous campaign Down Under followed by a 2-2 draw in 2019 which saw the tourists retain the urn.

“Of course it will define my captaincy, I’m not naive enough to think it won’t,” Root said, with England not following Australia's lead by naming their starting line-up for the opener.

“If you look how hard it’s been for English captains and English teams [to win in Australia] over the years, it has been something which doesn’t happen very often.

“But what a great opportunity. I’m very excited about it and can’t wait for the series to get going.”

England have triumphed just once behind enemy lines in the last eight trips, losing nine of their last 10 Tests and drawing the other.

The standout success of 2010-11, when Andrew Strauss fronted a famous 3-1 win, accounts for half of their Test victories in Australia over the past 30 years.

Updated: December 5th 2021, 11:58 AM