England to lay siege on fortress Brisbane
England approach the first Ashes Test at Brisbane mindful that their opponents have been trying to put them under pressure with mind games.
Australia players past and present and sections of the Aussie press have attempted to convince Joe Root’s charges that what lies ahead of them is more than just a Test match.
But that is exactly what it is and for the most part England have been eager to enjoy their tour and focus on playing cricket while occasionally giving pause to shrug off one or other ludicrous assertion made by David Warner or Nathan Lyon.
At the end of this match we will no doubt have countless talking points but what really matters is the result and results are where England have the edge over Australia.
In recent times England have knocked over South Africa home and away and won consecutive home series in their summer.
Australia endured a difficult 2017 with trips to India and Bangladesh yielding just two wins in six matches.
Both teams have top order holes but if Warner is not passed fit to play at the GABBA you feel that the scales tip in favour of the tourists who sport Alastair Cook and Root while also seeing Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan ton up in warm-up matches.
The return to form of Chris Woakes adds an extra dimension to an England team that may yet miss Ben Stokes more for his impact a s a bowler than for his swashbuckling batting.
Each side has suffered injuries to frontline fast bowlers although Australia are set to field a first choice front three pacemen.
Australia may yet be stung by their lack of a top six allrounder, though Glenn Maxwell was called into the squad as cover for David Warner it seems unlikely that he would bowl much in Brisbane having been used sparingly if at all in Asia.
For England this means keeping the hosts out in the field will be a priority.
England have confirmed their XI while Australia wait on late fitness tests for Shaun Marsh and Warner.
Based on playing personnel England would have the edge under most circumstances but the pressure of playing in the Ashes can do strange things to a man as we have seen before.
Steve Smith will shoulder the responsibility of holding the Australia top order together but he will be hoping that Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb are at their best and offer him support should the openers fail.
Cameron Bancroft will almost certainly debut and looks likely to open with either Warner or Marsh or bat at six if Smith prefers to use the senior pair.
Smith will likely need to produce runs if Australia are to do well and he has shown himself more than capable of some magic with the willow.
Josh Hazlewood’s role in this attack will be to provide a steady line and length to allow Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins to attack something likely to go unheralded should it go right but it will be noticed if he fails at his job.
England will look to Root to lead from the front and provide buckets of runs, something he has managed to do will great regularity since regaining his place in the team after a torrid 2013/14 Ashes.
Woakes could prove to be England’s go-to partnership breaker and we might see him on early if Stuart Broad doesn’t find his radar up front.
Much will depend on how much damage Australia’s quicks can do up front but England will need to be wary of wiley Lyon who has bagged 26 Test wickets at this venue especially as the match wears on.
The team winning the toss will likely bat first though they will need to weather a storm up front, those opening salvos could prove vital although Tests at the GABBA have traditionally proved tight affairs that favour the hosts.
It feels as if we have already felt this series shift back and forth and it hasn’t even started yet we expect more of the same as the series progresses.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers, Glenn Maxwell.
England XI: Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root (c), Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Jake Ball
Hours of play: 10.00 start (0:00 GMT, 2:00 SAST), Lunch 12.00-12.40, Tea 14.40-15.00, Close 17.00
Match days: 23-27 November 2017
Umpires: Aleem Dar, Marais Erasmus
TV Umpires: Chris Gaffaney
Reserve Umpire: Paul Wilson
Match Referee: Sir Richie Richardson
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