/Project Ashes: How Englands men have prepared for Australia

Project Ashes: How Englands men have prepared for Australia

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Episodes on 16, 19, 23, 26, 30 November and 3 December – listen on BBC Sounds or download from your usual podcast provider

Now the Men’s T20 World Cup is over, England’s focus is firmly on a five-Test Ashes series in Australia, which begins in Brisbane on 8 December.

The players won’t need to be reminded about what comes next – it’s been at the back of everyone’s mind for two years.

The time, energy and resources which goes into planning an Ashes series dwarfs everything else in English cricket and, to try and tell some of that story, we have produced a six-part podcast series called Project Ashes.

We have spoken to people involved in decisions on and off the pitch, and to many of the England players themselves.

One of those we spoke to was fast bowler Olly Stone. He was looking forward to playing, and he was going well, but then he was ruled out with a stress fracture of the back… that was quite a sad interview.

I also interviewed Mark Wood – he has been elevated from being one of three, alongside Stone and Jofra Archer, to being the only bowler in the England squad who can bowl at a consistently high pace… a key and necessary attribute on tours of Australia where the pitches are harder and bouncier.

He is interesting to talk to, and we’re joined by his wife Sarah too.

Nutritionist Emma Gardner, medical services lead Ben Langley and strength and conditioning lead Rob Ahmun all feature in the series.

It was really interesting learning about the nutrition of the players. Emma was very frank about her input and revealed that at some hotels, she has to get down to breakfast first and clear some of the buffet away.

She is not ruling with a rod of iron, she isn’t like a matron at a hospital that comes round and keeps everybody in order but she has to keep an eye on what these young men are eating.

I had a really good conversation with the performance director Mo Bobat – he really is the planner and the architect.

He was the man who came up with the idea of rest and rotation for the players – that was a controversial tool because the players didn’t like it. I must admit I wouldn’t have liked it as a player either, because you want to play.

Whether it is right or wrong it is just interesting to chart all those decisions that have been made – often months in advance – with the simple aim of helping England bring home that famous little urn.

The most interesting thing I learnt was that England have chosen to take their Lions squad to Australia too, and for the youngsters to be the opponents for the senior team before the first Test.

I assumed that was because they couldn’t travel and play state matches but it is clearly a reflection of what England have thought about the quality of the warm-up games on previous tours.

I expect it to be very competitive because there will be some of the Lions who will be looking to make a name for themselves and maybe force their way into the main squad if they play really well – England are not tied to things.

I’ve spoken to numerous players during the last year, including Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Dawid Malan. I interviewed captain Joe Root in January, when the team were in Sri Lanka, and then in the last few weeks.

I was quite surprised that in January he more or less had the squad that he’d be taking in his mind, but of course then you lose people along the way. They have lost key players and personnel so the adjustments that had to be made were interesting.

It has been a good experience to have charted everything through from January to November, and to have seen and heard a little bit of what happens behind the scenes.

Hopefully you enjoy the podcast too, and it whets the appetite for England’s latest assignment down under.

Listen to ball-by-ball commentary of the Ashes on BBC Sounds, BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website and app from 8 December.

Jonathan Agnew was talking to BBC Sport’s Callum Matthews.

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