England kick-off their Ashes campaign with a four-day warm-up match against Essex, which starts on Sunday. 

As has already been well documented, Nick Compton - England's opening batsmen since Andrew Strauss' retirement in August last year, has been left out of England's 14-man squad, with Joe Root set to open alongside captain Alastair Cook. 

Kevin Pietersen should make his first England appearance since March, slotting into the middle order alongside Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, while Root's Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow will keep his place at number six.  

Pietersen should have made his return in yesterday's T20 international with New Zealand, but that game was eventually abandoned after only two balls had been bowled.  

It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in the bowling department with the regular quartet of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Steve Finn set to be put under pressure by the presence of Graham Onions, Tim Bresnan and Boyd Rankin - a surprise inclusion, with the 28-year-old Irishman having only made his international debut on Tuesday. 

England will be hoping that their opponents put up more of a fight than they did in their County Championship match against Lancashire, when they were bowled out for just 20, their lowest ever first-class score, losing by an innings and 105 runs. 

New Zealand international Hamish Rutherford, Dutchman Ryan ten Doeschate and former England players Owais Shah, James Foster and Sajid Mahmood all played for Essex in that game. 

Australia have already started their preparations and are currently playing out their third day of a practice match against Somerset who, ironically, have Compton as their opening batsmen. 

The deposed England star scored 81 as the hosts made 320 in their first innings, but the Aussies recovered well, having at one stage been bowling to a Somerset team on 304-2. 

Shane Watson (90), Michael Clarke (45) and Phillip Hughes (76 no) all impressed as the tourists compiled 321-5 declared in response. 

The first Ashes Test gets underway at Trent Bridge on the 10th July.    


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Topics:
#England cricket
#The Ashes
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