Stats Analysis

Fortress Gabba, and key head-to-heads

Stats preview to the opening Ashes clash at the Gabba

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
22-Nov-2017
Australia have been unstoppable at the Gabba in the last 28 years, winning 21 Tests and losing none, November 21, 2017

Australia have been unstoppable at the Gabba in the last 28 years, winning 21 Tests and losing none  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Australia's record at the Gabba is mentioned prominently every time they begin a home season, but it bears repeating just because of its sheer magnitude and magnificence. In 28 Test matches at the ground since January 1989, they have won 21 and drawn seven. Of those 21 wins, six have been by an innings, four by nine or ten wickets, and five by margins of 200 or more runs.
At no other venue has any team been so dominant in these 29 years. With a cut-off of 15 Tests, the next-best win-loss record since the start of 1989 is South Africa's 17-2 at SuperSport Park, Centurion; with a cut-off of 10, the only other venue where a team hasn't lost a Test is Feroz Shah Kotla, where India have won 10 and drawn one Test.
Australia's Gabba record is reminiscent of West Indies' stats in Barbados during their pomp: between 1948 and 1993, they went 27 consecutive Tests without a defeat, winning 16 and drawing 11. Australia's wins to draws ratio is even better.
England have tried their luck at this ground seven times during this period, losing five and drawing two. Alastair Cook made a fair point when he said that all records will eventually be broken, but for that to happen England will have to do much than they did the last time around, when they were drubbed by 381 runs in 2013. If they want some source of encouragement, they can find it in the fact that Pakistan almost achieved the impossible last year, going down by just 39 runs after an incredible run-chase in the day-night Test.
The players who have made it happen
Among the batsmen in Australia's current squad, their top order has all enjoyed batting at the Gabba, with most of them averaging above 50 here. Steven Smith scored 130 and 63 last year against Pakistan, while David Warner notched up a hundred in each innings in 2015 against New Zealand. That was also the match in which Usman Khawaja made his highest Test score of 174.
Among the bowlers, none of the current lot have a record as fearful as Mitchell Johnson's at this ground (34 wickets in seven Tests at 25.08), but they have all done reasonably well, averaging in the early 30s, while Nathan Lyon has proved that there is room for a spinner at the Gabba, taking 26 wickets in six Tests at 27.46.
Australian batsmen at the Gabba
Player Tests Runs Ave SR 100s
 DA Warner  6  550  55.00  77.13  3
 SPD Smith  4  434  54.25  64.97  2
 UT Khawaja  3  299  74.75  66.89  1
 PSP Handscomb  1  140  140.00  52.63  1
 MA Starc  4  94  47.00  78.33  0
 SE Marsh  1  49  24.50  56.32  0
Australian bowlers at the Gabba
Player Tests Wkts Ave SR
 NM Lyon  6  26  27.46  52.1
 MA Starc  4  17  31.82  51.1
 JR Hazlewood  3  13  30.84  62.0
 JM Bird  1  6  22.16  45.0
Another left-hander whose highest Test score came at the Gabba is Alastair Cook, the only England batsman from the current squad who has played more than one Test here. Cook famously made an unbeaten 235 here in 2010, and also has three other 40-plus scores here, which gives him an average of 86.80 at this venue, his best among all grounds where he has batted at least five times. England's batsmen can do worse than look to him for advise on how to tackle the conditions here.
Among the bowlers, England's two experienced quick bowlers have both played at least two Tests here, but their numbers are chalk and cheese: Stuart Broad has nine wickets from two Tests, and averages 25.11, while James Anderson has struggled, taking only five wickets from three Tests at 89.80. That's one record he will want to set right, in what will almost certainly be his last Test at the Gabba.
The head-to-heads to watch out for
Both teams have several players with very little Ashes experience, but also a few who have been involved in plenty of these battles. Here are the key ones to look out for.
Warner and Smith v Anderson and Broad
The numbers here are quite unusual and topsy-turvy. In England, Warner has struggled against Anderson, scoring only 65 runs and being dismissed five times, while Smith has found Broad quite uncomfortable to face. Smith, though, has fared superbly against Anderson, while Warner has handled Broad very well.
In Australia, the tables are turned. Warner averages more than 50 against Anderson but 34 against Broad, while Smith averages only 26 against Anderson. However, most of Smith's dismissals against Anderson in Australia came in the 2010-11 series, when Smith wasn't the batsmen he has become now: in that series, Anderson dismissed him three times conceding only 41 runs. In 2013-14, Smith scored 63 runs off 156 balls, and was dismissed by Anderson just once.
Cook and Root v Starc, Hazlewood and Lyon
None of Australia's current pace attack has played a home Test against England, which means the head-to-head stats for Cook and Joe Root against Starc and Hazlewood are all from their tours to England. Both Cook and Root have been troubled by Starc - they average less than 35 against him - but Hazlewood hasn't been as effective against either.
The other number that stands out is Lyon's record against Cook. They have played each other in three series - 2013, 2013-14, and 2015 - and in each of the last two, Lyon has been dominant: in the 2013-14 series in Australia, he dismissed Cook twice, conceding 33 runs in 80 balls, and in 2015 in England, he had figures of three for 59 off 186 balls against Cook. With numbers like these, expect him to come into play early if Cook survives the new-ball onslaught.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats