First Test preview: England v Australia

Australia

There are so many storylines heading into this first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge that it resembles a particularly complex episode of Game of Thrones (or book, if you prefer) and the excitement from the players has been palpable.

There are so many storylines heading into this first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge that it resembles a particularly complex episode of Game of Thrones (or book, if you prefer) and the excitement from the players has been palpable.

The first narrative is the Australian coaching situation. Will the hiring of Darren Lehmann just two weeks before the series make any difference to the side's chances, given most pundits assume they will lose and the only question is by how much.

'Boof' has been praised from all quarters for injecting a new sense of fun and team spirit into the camp, but that won't matter if Phil Hughes can't find a way to combat Graeme Swann, or Shane Watson can't convert a fifty to a ton. Will a 'fake it till you make it' attitude be enough? All <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' class='instorylink'><b>those who enjoy a bit of a flutter</b></a> will be praying for a closer series than is being predicted.

Secondly, the question surrounding the opening partnerships of both teams has been a highlight of the build-up. Both sides have one opener that will be feeling the pressure, with Joe Root needing to show he's more suited to the job than Nick Compton, and Chris Rogers looking to justify his second chance at the age of 35.

Both have had good warm-up matches, but Root will probably have the better time of it as his partner is skipper Alastair Cook, who is as solid as they come, while Rogers will bizarrely have to keep senior partner Watson on task.

Connected to the above point, Australia's batting line-up is still in flux, and Lehmann is happy for it to be that way. He has confirmed Watson and Rogers as openers, but has avoided saying whether, or where, David Warner, Ed Cowan, Usman Khajawa or Phil Hughes will feature in the middle order with Michael Clarke.

The fourth concern is the wrapping of certain players in cotton wool, recently recovered as they are from injuries. The most pressing of these is Aussie skipper Clarke, whose fitness could dictate the outcome, though probably just score line, of the series.

He only recently came back from a lower back injury that saw him miss the end of the India tour, and while he made a century and a half ton against Worcestershire, the coaches will be eager to reduce the pressure on him to score all the runs.

For England, Kevin Pietersen has shown no ill effects since returning from his long-term knee knack, and he will be a big fan drawcard in his first home series for England since the disaster that was Headingley's press conference last year.

As for the home bowlers, everyone has been assured that spinner Graeme Swann is fully fit after his elbow surgery and subsequent Essex scare, while Stuart Broad's shoulder niggle has been resolved and Tim Bresnan's elbow is fine too. Not that Bresnan is expected to play, but still.

Finally, the question on everyone's minds over the past week has been: Will Billy the trumpeter be given a last-minute reprieve after being banned from the venue? So far the outlook is bleaker than a Stark's chance of reaching old age.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For England, all eyes will be on fast bowler <b>James Anderson</b>, who loves Trent Bridge and only needs two wickets to become the top bowler there. Betting sites like <a href='http://www.paddypower.com' class='instorylink'><b>Paddy Power</b></a> would not get many takers for such a bet. Reports are that the swing conditions aren't as extreme these days, and the weather doesn't appear to be headed for cloudy, but Anderson is still expected to dominate the pace attack.

The Aussies have had the same 'key player' in these previews for months, namely <b>Michael Clarke</b>. He came back from injury and a long lay-off to score a flood of runs, and getting him out early will be England's most important goal to achieve. Graeme Swann called him the 'head of the serpent' so someone better have the Sword of Gryffindor handy.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2011 5th Ashes Test: England won by an innings and 83 runs in Sydney<br>2010 4th Ashes Test: England won by an innings and 157 runs in Melbourne<br>2010 3rd Ashes Test: Australia won by 267 runs in Perth<br>2010 2nd Ashes Test: England won by an innings and 171 runs in Adelaide<br>2010 1st Ashes Test: Match drawn in Brisbane

<b>Squads</b><br><i>England:</i> Alastair Cook (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott

<i>Australia:</i> Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.

<b>Dates:</b> 10-14 July<br><b>Morning session:</b> 11:00-13:00 (10:00-12:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:40-15:40 (12:40-14:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 16:00-18:00 (15:00-17:00 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Aleem Dar, Kumar Dharmasena<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Marais Erasmus<br><b>Match referee:</b> Ranjan Madugalle

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