Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane
November 22, 2006
An Australian fortress
A stats preview ahead of Thursday's Ashes opener at Brisbane
Brett Lee: a batting average of 85, and a bowling average of 17 at the Gabba
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When Ricky Ponting and Andrew Flintoff walk out for the toss at the Gabba on Thursday, it'll be the 312th Test match between Australia and England. In their 311 previous clashes, Australia hold a 126-97 lead. Most of that 29-game advantage, though, has come about in the last 17 years, a period in which Australia have - till their defeat in that memorable series last year - dominated relentlessly, winning 29 of the last 48 Tests.
For an England side already hit by injuries and illness, the numbers below will offer little relief. They start off their defence of the Ashes at the Gabba, a venue where Australia have been absolutely unbeatable over a decade and more: the last time they lost a Test there was in November 1988, when West Indies beat them by nine wickets. Since then, they have won 12 out of 17 matches. England, on the other hand, last won a Test at Brisbane 20 years back, in 1986. Since then, they have lost three times and drawn once.
Such awesome results for Australia suggest that almost all their players relish the opportunity of playing at this venue, and a look at the numbers indicate that is exactly the case. Let's examine the batsmen first. Matthew Hayden leads the way, with four hundreds in six Tests and an average of nearly 80; Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist aren't too far behind, averaging 62 each, while Damien Martyn manages 46 runs per innings here. Even Shane Warne has three half-centuries and an average of nearly 35 at this ground, but what might really depress England's supporters is this next stat: in three innings here, Brett Lee has two fifties to his credit and an average of - hold your breath - 85.
It doesn't get much better for England when the focus shifts to the Australian bowlers. Warne leads the way, with 64 wickets in ten Tests and an average of 19 (15 of those wickets have come in two Tests against England), while Lee's bowling average here is a fifth of his batting numbers. And at a venue where the Australians have had such spectacular results, how can one forget Glenn McGrath? Fifty-eight wickets at 22.60 tell the story of just how much McGrath has enjoyed the pace and bounce which has traditionally been on offer at the Gabba.
Australia's dominance at Brisbane can be gleaned by the number of runs they score and concede per wicket. Since 1990, their average partnership with the bat is 46.93, but when the opposition come out to bat, that number is whittled down to 24.31.
Contrary to popular perception, the pitch here isn't just conducive to fast bowling; the spinners have had their say too. In all Tests since 1995, fast bowlers concede 35.63 runs per wicket, marginally worse than the spinners' 34.78. Not surprisingly, the Australian bowlers have done much better - their fast bowlers average 25.91 and their spinners 23.28.
One of the problems for England at this ground has been the lack of a solid opening partnership, and the withdrawal of Marcus Trescothick won't help matters: in their last eight innings here, the average opening stand is only 25.25, with just one fifty-plus partnership.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo
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