Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane

Australia all talk, but can they back it up?

The Preview by Brydon Coverdale

November 20, 2013

Comments: 196 | Text size: A | A

Match facts


November 21-25, Gabba, Brisbane
Start time 1000 (0000 GMT)

George Dobell and Jarrod Kimber talk about the run up to the first Test

Big Picture

Three months ago - is that all? - England stood on a dais at The Oval and were presented with the Ashes urn amid fading light and fireworks. Under normal circumstances, they would have had 18 months to revel in their success before defending the prize, but 2013 is anything but a typical Ashes year. The presence of the World Cup in Australia on next summer's calendar meant a clash with the Ashes, and a rescheduling was required. As a result, Michael Clarke and his men have an almost immediate chance to redeem themselves, and there is a sense of optimism among Australian fans.

It is tempting to view that enthusiasm as misplaced, given Australia's 3-0 loss in England and the yawning gap in experience between the players of both sides. Make no mistake, England should win this series, for they are more settled, more experienced and more familiar with the winning feeling. Yes, Australia were on top in several Tests in England this year, but the fact that they let those winning positions slip is not an encouraging sign. Australia have not won a Test since Michael Hussey's retirement in January, and since the start of the last Australian summer, the only team they have beaten in a Test is Sri Lanka.

That the squad chosen for the Gabba Test was described by many observers as "stable" said more about Australia's shambolic year than anything else. George Bailey is uncapped, Shane Watson is an accidental No.3 due only to his hundred there at The Oval, Mitchell Johnson was not even on the Ashes tour to England, Darren Lehmann has been coach for less than six months. Only four of the XI from last summer's opening Gabba Test against South Africa - Clarke, David Warner, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon - are in this team. Stability is relative.

England are not immune to changes, including the Michael Carberry-Joe Root switch, but it is worth noting that 11 members of their Ashes squad played in their 2010-11 triumph in Australia. The conditions are not so foreign to England as they once might have been. At the Gabba last time, England piled up 1 for 517 in their second innings. In the lead-up to the first Test, Warner said he felt England might fear Australia given the way they played at times in England this year. It's easy to talk the talk, now Australia must walk the walk.

Form guide

England: DWDWW
Australia: DLDLL

Players to watch

For all the talk from within the Australian camp that Mitchell Johnson could win them the series, the fact is that he wouldn't have been part of this team but for injuries to James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and perhaps Jackson Bird. It is true that Johnson made several Indian batsmen jump with his pace and bounce during the recent ODIs and he does seem to be bowling quicker than ever, but sustaining that and maintaining accuracy through five days of a Test match is a vastly different challenge. Australia's best bet is to use Johnson in short, sharp spells.

One of the most encouraging things for England at home this year was that they won the Ashes comfortably without Alastair Cook reaching anything close to his best form. His top score in the series was 62, but his memories of the last series in Australia are exceptionally pleasing - he made three centuries including an unbeaten 235 in the opener at the Gabba. Regardless of the lack of top-class bowling England have faced in their warm-ups, his 154 against Australia A at Bellerive Oval and his 81 in Sydney last week are also positive signs.


Mitchell Johnson poses under stormy Brisbane skies, Brisbane, November 18, 2013
Mitchell Johnson has been talked up by the Australians, but he wouldn't have even been in the side if the frontline bowlers had been fit © Getty Images
Enlarge

Team news

Australia have chosen a 12-man squad, meaning their only decision is whether to include the allrounder James Faulkner as an extra bowling option. Shane Watson is expected to bowl only a small amount if at all due to his troublesome hamstring, which could encourage the selectors to take in an extra bowler, but the more likely scenario is three fast men, one spinner and George Bailey to make his debut at No.6.

Australia (probable) 1 Chris Rogers, 2 David Warner, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steven Smith, 6 George Bailey, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 Ryan Harris, 11 Nathan Lyon.

The main change from the England side that won at home this year is the inclusion of Michael Carberry at the top of the order to open with Alastair Cook, which was also allowed Joe Root to slide down to No.6, the position occupied by Jonny Bairstow for much of the home series. Matt Prior suffered a calf tear during the warm-up match in Hobart and remains in doubt, and Bairstow would keep wicket if Prior is ruled out. The other key decision is on which fast bowler will join James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and Chris Tremlett may have the edge over Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn.

England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Michael Carberry, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Joe Root, 7 Matt Prior / Jonny Bairstow (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Chris Tremlett, 11 James Anderson.

Pitch and conditions

The Gabba pitch is renowned for offering some pace and movement early, before flattening out for the batsmen, and this year should be no different. The forecast for Thursday is mostly sunny and 30C, but all four remaining days show the chance of a storm and showers. However, the drainage is so good at the Gabba that provided the covers are put on quickly, play can usually resume soon after the weather clears.

Stats and trivia

  • Kevin Pietersen will become the 10th man to reach the milestone of 100 Tests for England

  • Australia have not lost a Test at the Gabba since 1988-89

  • This will be Ryan Harris' first Test match at his adopted home ground

  • Since Richard Hadlee's famous 9 for 52 in 1985-86, the best innings figures by a visiting bowler at the Gabba were Steven Finn's 6 for 125 on the last Ashes tour, but he appears unlikely to play at the venue this time

Quotes

"Australia has a proud record at the Gabba. This is a record we want to enhance … The extra pace and bounce of the Gabba makes for exciting cricket."
Michael Clarke, Australia's captain

"We all know that despite all the hype beforehand, what happens in the lead-up is irrelevant. A lot of words are said, a lot of mind games supposedly happen, but come Thursday morning with the crowd behind them, that's when it counts."
Alastair Cook, the England captain

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

RSS Feeds: Brydon Coverdale

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Mitty2 on (November 25, 2013, 23:26 GMT)

LOL yes Byron I think we can "back it up" to the tune of 381 runs. Some of these comments.. Wow... A great read!

Posted by   on (November 23, 2013, 8:17 GMT)

Everyone talking about Johnson only being in the side due to injury, and pointing out that he wasn't in the top 15 for the touring side, should sit back and take a look at his record. His record in Australia is astounding, and away from Australia is less than great. So more often than not, he won't make the tour side, but will make the home side, there's no surprise there. And to @khansa06, Clarke is regarded as one of the best test captains in world cricket, as opposed to Bailey, who has always struggled with the longer form of the game at domestic level, let alone international, where after making his debut this test, now has an average of 18.5. Classy.

Posted by left_arm_unorthodox on (November 20, 2013, 23:53 GMT)

If Johnson needs to be used "in short, sharp spells", and Harris is prone to breaking down and Watson is unlikely to bowl much, I would not want to be Peter Siddle in this game, seeing as they've gone in without Faulkner. I think there's half a chance Australia finishes with only half a bowling attack and gifts England a draw or more likely a win.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 22:58 GMT)

My Aussie Team -1 Rogers -2 Warner -3 Watson -4 Clarke (c) -5 Smith -6 Bailey -7 Haddin (wk) -8 Faulkner -9 Johnson -10 Siddle -11 Harris

England Team -1 Cook (c) -2 Carberry -3 Trott -4 Root -5 Bell -6 Ballance -7 Prior (wk) -8 Broad -9 Swann -10 Anderson -11 Rankin

Posted by   on (November 20, 2013, 22:46 GMT)

830am in brisbane and i am already getting sunburnt! winning the toss could be very important to this game, a huge first day total in the humid sun followed by rain-hit 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings. cmon clarkey, lets win a toss for once

Posted by espncricinfomobile on (November 20, 2013, 22:04 GMT)

Have to laugh at some comments from the sub-continent here about the Ashes being "3rd vs 5th" in the world! Need I remind anyone here on the results home and away between England and India recently in tests series (yes 4-0 and 2-1) or do you want to continue celebrate beating the mighty West Indies? England are the proper 2nd ranked team in the world by any reckoning, grow up please. In any case, cannot wait for the Aussies v England, will be a close and well fought series to be sure. Just hope Alastair Cook will be given a bit more credit for being a winner as a captain at some point!

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (November 20, 2013, 21:45 GMT)

Australia are great at talking. The thing is, Australia do not have the same skill levels as England. That's why they have to try to talk louder. The reality is impossible to escape: all-but 4-0 last Ashes (to go with their 4-0 whitewash by India), 3-1 last time in Oz and a ODI whitewash at the hands of England in between that. They have a clueless captain who leads them to endless defeats, and a batting order that can't play outside their own country, and have a terrible record against their Ashes rivals. We all remember what happened the countless times these two teams have met in the recent past, and who is the better side is indisputable. If Aus don't win more than 1 of the 5 days of this 1st test they will lose the series (surely they can put in 1 day of good performances?). What happens to crowd attendance numbers in Australian cricket stadiums when the national team starts to lose ain't pretty.

Posted by khansa06 on (November 20, 2013, 21:41 GMT)

Bailey, faulkner and johnson will be the match winners for aussies.....hopefully Lyon will be at his best, which is still average but better than long hops. Anyway, Poms are in for a surprise.....cause aussies just returned from a tour playing the best team in world cricket ...only wish Bailey was the skipper and not ("bold" for the sake of being bold) Clarke.

Posted by WeirPicki on (November 20, 2013, 21:33 GMT)

I think the English batsmen will feast on the Australian bowlers. Johnson is only in the side due to injuries, Siddle is big hearted but limited, Lyon is ineffective leaving Harris as the only top class bowler.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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