Players gear up for "Battle of the Tashes"

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Not since the days when Merv Hughes marauded on the test stage and David Boon hunkered down at the crease will so much facial hair be on display as at the upcoming Ashes series between England and Australia.

The surge in moustachioed players is not the result of changing fashions, however, but in aid of the “Movember” initiative which encourages men to populate their upper lips in November to raise funds and awareness for men’s health issues.

Australian fast bowlers Mitch Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus have agreed to take on England’s Kevin Pietersen in the hirsute challenge which Cricket Australia, who support the charity, are calling the “Battle of the Tashes.”

“I’ve got a little bit of a problem with growing hair,” Siddle said in a news release. “I’ll see what I can muster up on top of here. It could be a bit of a joke but it’s all for a good cause and hopefully I can get a bit of support along the way.”

Pietersen has been posting pictures of his growth on his twitter feed (kevinpp24) and asking for nominations for lookalikes.

The first Ashes test begins in Brisbane next Thursday.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; editing by Alastair Himmer