Quick singles: 10,000 Brits flock to Brisbane
Brisbane becomes Little Britain
There are so many England supporters in Queensland that Andrew Flintoff feels like he's back in Lancashire. It's not a surprise as Brisbane is currently Little Britain - conservative predictions are for an influx of 10,000 supporters for the Test. "The amount of people I've met from Preston, and anywhere really, has been amazing. I feel like I'm at home." If he's wondering whether he's in Blackpool or Brisbane he need only walk outside. The weather is forecast to be fine throughout the match with maximum temperatures of almost 30 degrees Celsius.
Langer gives summer the heads-up
Ian Healy used to be the dominant voice behind Australia's stumps and he has continued his chirpiness with a microphone. As the master of ceremonies at the official Test luncheon, Healy quickly took aim at his former team-mate Justin Langer. "Summer hasn't started until JL's been hit in the head," Healy said as he interviewed Langer, Ponting and Michael Hussey on stage. Langer, who remembers little of his 100th Test at Johannesburg courtesy of Makhaya Ntini's bouncer, said he'd been struck so many times it wouldn't be a surprise if he started slurring his words. He began his Test career with a knock from Ian Bishop and remembered a head-dominated conversation with Kerry Packer shortly before his death last year. "We went to dinner at Kerry's house and he was talking about luck being one of the greatest things you can have in life," Langer said. "Then he looked at me. As for you, you've had plenty of luck in your life ... lucky they invented helmets."
Punter's best performance
Ponting was asked by Healy to nominate his best innings and he picked the amazing 156 against England at Old Trafford in 2005 that forced a spine-tingling draw. "It was not the type of innings we're used to playing," he said. "I nearly got to the finish, staying for all but four overs, and I thought the game was gone because Glenn McGrath was going out." A message was sent to McGrath to tell him to bat a metre out of his crease and take out the lbw. "So Glenn does it," Ponting says, "the ball goes through to Geraint Jones, he throws it back to Matthew Hoggard, who was at short leg, and McGrath is still out of his crease because he hasn't thought to go back." The bails stayed on and McGrath helped guide Australia to safety.
Johnson pays out for charity
Mitchell Johnson has entered the game's big time over the past year but he has not forgotten his North Queensland values. While doing a photo shoot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Johnson was given an "Ashes urn pin" to show off on his lapel. The mini replicas are selling for $5, but Johnson would not accept the tiny freebie. He had nothing in his pocket at the time so he couriered the money back via a team official.
Fly Emirates, but only overseas
Australia will use Emirates as their official airline for the next three years, but the agreement won't help their internal travel or get them an easy passage to the West Indies for the World Cup. The company currently lists New York as its only destination in North, Central or South America, while Australian domestic ports also miss the flight path.
Battle of the brewers
Queensland figures have been involved in a series of beer wars in the lead-up to the first Test. Allan Border resigned as an Australian selector last month due to a conflict between Cricket Australia's major sponsor, the Foster's Group, and XXXX, which has a long-term deal with Border and is hosting a beach cricket series involving former Australia, England and West Indies greats early next year. Queensland Cricket is also heavily supported by the local brewers and there was pressure from Cricket Australia to remove any advertising references at the Gabba to the series on the sand. The state won the round and the signs are staying.