England v Australia, 1st Test November 23, 2006

The Gabba uncovered



A violent electrical storm stopped play at Brisbane during the 1st Test in the 1998-99 Ashes series © Getty Images

Capacity 41,000
Record Tests 17, Australia 8, England 5, Drawn 4

Weather
Cricket coincides with the storm season in Queensland. The thunder and lightning are spectacular but the heat means things dry out very quickly. A remarkable electrical storm prematurely ended the Test in 1998-99 and in 1992-93 Dean Jones, Australia's 12th man, wore a helmet to protect himself from hailstones.

What to expect
Traditionally, this is a fast-bowlers' pitch although under Kevin Mitchell junior, the second-generation curator, it has become one of the fairest in the world. The fast men get a good chance on the first day, the batsmen enjoy the flat surface on days two to four, and Shane Warne loves the extra bounce.

What they players think
Matthew Hayden - "The pitch is great and it's been passed through generations of curators, from Kevin Mitchell senior to Kevin Mitchell junior. It's the thing I enjoy about the ground because it is the same - everything else about the ground has changed since I first started playing."

Devon Malcolm - "This is my favourite place in Australia. But the best part of it is not the Test ground but the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane. In 1990-91, we played in Carrara - when David Gower had his Tiger Moth 'buzz the ground' moment: it is beautiful, the beach stretches for miles, there are nice places to eat and drink - it was a pity we had to play cricket! As for the Gabba, it is a good place to play. They have extended the changing rooms - the last time I was there we had 16 players plus management stuck in a corner. There is usually a big crowd and, as in most places in Australia, if you do well and compete, the crowd are more generous. I can't remember going to a place in Brisbane that I didn't like. It was a clean city, with good places to eat. There was freshly-cooked Chinese food on the street outside our hotel. I roomed with Chris Lewis who eats irregularly - he'd have a sleep, then at 11.30pm pop downstairs and have fresh Chinese food. It was great."



Matthew Hayden: 'The pitch is what I enjoy about the ground because it is the same - everything else about the ground has changed since I first started playing' © Getty Images

Ground history
The city's second Test ground - the Exhibition Ground was used until 1928-29 - it is situated in the Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba - it's shortened to the Gabba - and has gone through some drastic redevelopment during the last decade. The grassy banks, Moreton Bay figs and dogtrack have been replaced with modern, concrete stands, which may have removed some charm, but mean the ground offers superb facilities for the players and public. However, the most famous moment on the ground is one firmly from the past. The image of the deciding run-out in the tied Test of 1960-61, between Australia and West Indies, is one of the best known cricketing images of all time. In more recent times it has become a favourite haunt of Shane Warne, with the extra bounce from the often excellent wickets helping his legspin. In early 2006 a record crowd of 38,894 watched the first Twenty20 international in the country. This mark was promptly beaten six days later when Australia played South Africa in a full ODI. If everyone who has bought tickets turns up, the record aggregate attendance of 92,863 for England's 1932-33 Test, will be surpassed on the third day.

Ashes moments Although traditionally home to the first Test of the series, Brisbane's inaugural Test was the fourth in the 1932-33 Bodyline series - England secured the Ashes in a tight match notable for Eddie Paynter rising off his hospital bed to score 83 and rescue his side from a crisis. The 1946-47 series got off to a controversial start when England claimed Don Bradman was caught at slip when he had made a scratchy 28 - he stood his ground, the umpire gave him the benefit, and he went on the to score a big hundred and Australia won by an innings. In 1974-75 a beach bum called Jeff Thomson blew England away with some ferocious fast bowling, and in 2002-03 Nasser Hussain stunned a nation when he inserted Australia and watched his bowlers flogged into submission.

Ashes stats
In both 1954-55 and 2002-03 England captains - Len Hutton and Hussain - won the toss, sent in Australia and lived to regret it. England's last win - in 1986-87 - came when Australia stuck them in and ended up losing by seven wickets. So win the toss and bat seems to be the mantra.

Where to go after play?
Matthew Hayden - "The Queensland boys enjoy going to the Story Bridge Hotel. There's a good publican there and the Bulls popped in after their last Pura Cup victory."

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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