Brendon McCollum says “there is no greater chance” for England to prove themselves than the “tremendous” challenge of the Ashes series.
England meet Ireland in a one-off Test at Lord’s on Thursday before facing Australia at Edgbaston on June 16.
They will be looking to regain the urn after a year in which the swashbuckling style claimed 10 wins from 12 Tests.
“That’s what you play for,” England manager McCollum said. “You want to play the best, on the biggest stage.”
The New Zealander told BBC Sport: “Australia are a very good team for a long period of time.
“They’re going to be a massive challenge for us, but it’s one we’re really looking forward to. There is no greater opportunity than what lies ahead in the next six to eight weeks.”
England haven’t lost an Ashes series at home in 22 years, but they also haven’t won any of the past three competitions against Australia, including a humbling 4-0 18 months ago.
It came as part of a miserable run of one win in 17 Tests, before McCollum and captain Ben Stokes took over, sending scores soaring in dramatic fashion.
Now, in what may have been the most eagerly anticipated Ashes series since England’s epic victory in 2005, the hosts will be looking to take their batting attack to an Australian attack that is perhaps the best in the world.
“Our style won’t be described as often,” said the 41-year-old McCollum. “It is about being free from the mind and being able to live in the present and whatever comes our way.
“If that’s a high scoring rate, great. If not, great too. We’ll just see what happens.”
“Who knows if we’ll win this summer, but I know we’ll go through it with the right attitude, the right environment and a team that thinks it’s got a chance.”
McCollum confirmed that bowlers James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, who have thigh and ankle joints respectively, would sit out the four-day Test against Ireland, but both would likely be suitable to open the Ashes.
Chris Woakes, who hasn’t played a Test in over a year, and Matthew Potts are likely to join Stuart Broad in England’s pace attack.
Captain Stokes did not run in England’s final Test – Defeat against New Zealand in Wellington Because of a knee injury. Since then, he has been suffering from toe and heel problems during his time in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with Chennai Super Kings.
McCollum could not confirm whether Stokes would be fit to play against Ireland, but said the captain would play a role with the ball during the Ashes.
“He looks really fit and in good shape,” said McCollum. “He has a big smile on his face. He’s happy to be back in the group. As a captain with that kind of energy it’s great.
“He’s going to run around at some point all summer, no doubt. What he’s been able to achieve all summer and winter away, the way he’s managed all his players and when he’s been able to play a role with the ball has been fantastic, very effective. We have a really great balance on our side. He’s a world-class player.” level. If he can run, great. If not, we’ll find a way.”
England’s only previous Test came against Ireland before The Ashes in 2019. Although England won by 143 runs, with Ireland bowling just 38 runs, the hosts themselves were dismissed for 85 on the first morning.
“It’s a good opportunity against Ireland, who will no doubt be eager to play in a full Test,” said McCollum. “Hopefully we can do our best, play the style of cricket we want and we’ll see where we end up with the score we want.”
Jonny Bairstow, who is fit again after nine months playing in international cricket, will keep a Test wicket for England for the first time since 2021.
He replaced Ben Fox, who was England’s first-choice wicket-keeper for most of Stokes-McCollum’s tenure.
“International sport is really tough and sometimes tough calls have to be made,” said McCollum. “There are always one or two people who can consider themselves unlucky. Fuki is one of those guys.
“It’s a tough call, but we went to the side that gives us our best chance. Fouke was great when I called him. He was naturally frustrated. He’s still a big part of this team, and it’s a shame he was the one he missed this time.”