Ashes 2019: 'England-Australia series will be dominated by the ball'

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Highlights: Ireland all out for 38 as England avoid upset
Men's Ashes 2019: England v Australia, first Specsavers Ashes Test
Venue: Edgbaston Dates: 1-5 August Start time: 11:00 BST
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sport website, plus in-play highlights and text commentary

It is a measure of Jofra Archer's impact in one-day cricket for England that he was a near-certainty to be named in the squad for the first Ashes Test.

Having taken 20 wickets during the triumphant World Cup campaign - and bowled that super over in the final - it would have been a surprise had the pace bowler been overlooked for the opener at Edgbaston, starting on Thursday.

We know Archer has had a side problem, and he has admitted he was in "excruciating" pain during the World Cup.

As a former bowler, I know how tricky those types of injuries can be, and how players can sometimes struggle to shake them off.

Archer took 2-21 from four overs on his comeback for Sussex in the T20 Blast against Surrey on Friday (another game that ended in a tie, incidentally).

But side injuries are not to be messed with, and I see no reason to risk playing him in Birmingham.

England have so much depth in their bowling - more on that shortly - plus there are eight days between the first Test finishing and the second Test starting, so there is plenty of time to get Archer 100% fit if he is not already.

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Watch the moment England won the World Cup

England batsmen fluff their lines in Ashes rehearsal

The Test against Ireland did not go to plan for England.

Yes, they won it, but it was supposed to be about having a springboard for the Ashes, building on the momentum of the World Cup.

They showed they possess fight and character, and that bowlers like Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes are masters of their craft in English conditions - they took all 10 wickets as Ireland were bowled out for 38 on the third morning.

But we knew all that already.

What England really wanted was for the top three to be in the runs, to have confidence going into the first Ashes Test.

Bar Jason Roy getting 72 on debut, it did not happen, so here we are again talking about England's batting.

Some people might point out that there was another member of England's top three who made a score in the second innings.

Congratulations to Jack Leach, not only for scoring 92 as a nightwatchman, but for also showing the others the way.

On a surface that was trustworthy and with no-one fizzing the ball around his ears, Leach batted within his limitations. He played straight and never allowed himself to get carried away.

The others played big, booming, firm-footed drives, displaying major technical flaws brought about by the diet of white-ball cricket.

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Highlights: Ireland bowl England out for 85 before lunch

When I interviewed coach Trevor Bayliss after the game, we talked about the number of years for which England have been searching for a settled top three.

It is a real shame that nobody has the technique or mental discipline to bat at the top of the order against the new ball.

Batting problems are not exclusive to England, though. If Australia's low-scoring game among themselves in Southampton is anything to go by, they too have a paucity of top-order options.

Like England, they have two or three key players, then it is a bit of a lottery.

For that reason, we could be in for an Ashes series where ball dominates bat and the winning team is the one that can scramble enough runs.

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Six for Woakes as Ireland are bowled out for 38

Think of the bowlers who will be on show: Archer, Broad, Woakes, James Anderson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson.

With that array of talent, we may constantly be inspecting conditions, wondering if whatever is up above or down below will be conducive to run-scoring or perfect for the fast bowlers.

If it is the latter, and they bowl in the channel that challenges the off stump, the techniques of the batsmen are in for a real examination.

Those who are ill-equipped to deal with it will be exposed and you suspect all of the batsmen will have to work doubly hard for their runs.

If that really is the case, it is interesting to consider the players who might decide the series.

A prospect of runs being at a premium could mean that the class batsmen on either side turn out to be the match-winners.

Can Joe Root, Steve Smith and David Warner find a way to nullify the bowling and eke out enough runs for their respective teams?

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Opener Burns out cheaply as England trail Ireland

From an Australia point of view, they will think they have a chance of running through England if they can get rid of captain Root.

Likewise, England will cherish the wickets of Smith and Warner above all others.

Can we say that an Ashes series likely belonging to the bowlers will be exciting? Perhaps, but the lack of quality Test batsmanship does frustrate me.

We always ask for a good, even contest between bat and ball. So, just as if the bowlers are asked to toil on a featherbed while the runs pile up, so too can it be disappointing when the batsmen are not able to stand up to the bowlers.

For so long, Ashes series have been dominated by the home team. England have won only once down under since 1986-87 and Australia have not taken a series in the UK in 18 years.

But, whereas England were blown away 4-0 on their last tour, Australia seem much closer to curing their travel sickness because their bowlers are much more capable of causing damage than on recent tours.

I would be surprised if many of the five Tests make it to the final day.

Strap yourself in.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Stephan Shemilt.