Wednesday, November 24, 2010

England feel burden of history in Brisbane

They may have had the almost perfect build up but England have to rewrite the history books if they are to get off to the perfect start at the Gabba.

Andrew Strauss' men haven't won at Australia's Queensland home since 1986, when Mike Gatting led England to a seven-wicket win in a series that the tourists would eventually win 2-1.

Since that victory, England have lost four out of five Test matches at Brisbane, with a solitary draw coming in 1998, in fact Australia have not been defeated in a Test match at the ground against any team since a nine-wicket loss to the West Indies in 1988.

If England are to retain the Ashes then a good start is essential, going 1-0 down early on would make their task extremely difficult and the best Ashes odds reflect this.

That was certainly the case four years ago, when Steve Harmison opened up the series with a wide delivery to second slip, setting the tone for a disastrous match and series.

England have certainly worked hard to ensure the same doesn't happen again though, with Andy Flower's meticulous preparations resulting in two wins and a draw from their warm-up games and a team full of in-form players and the Ashes betting suggests they have an excellent chance of clinching the series.

The pitch could yet trip up the England players. The unseasonal wet weather has added a green tinge to a track that has already proved a minefield in a recent domestic Sheffield Shield game and it still isn't clear what Strauss will do should he win the toss on Thursday.

But in terms of preparation England have ticked all the boxes and have given themselves the best possible chance of finally retaining that famous little urn.

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