About the Match
The first test of the Ashes 2017-18 is about to get underway and the prospect of a truly great series lies ahead of us. History has shown that the first test of the Ashes series is very important. The only two times in the last couple of decades that England has been able to win the Ashes in Australia has been when they either won or drew the first test.
Australia takes pride in their record at the Gabba and the fact that they hit their opponents with the fastest, bounciest, and most ‘Australian’ pitch that they have to offer straight up. The ‘Gabbatoir’ as it is fondly referred to by the Aussies can be an intimidating venue for any team. Australia has played 59 matches here and won 39 of them but lost only 8. Their last loss was against a great West Indies team in 1988. There have been only 5 draws in the last 15 years at the ground.
Can this young English team stand up to the challenge or they going to be lambs to the slaughter?
Ashes 1st Test Match Preview
It has been clear from the build-up, the statements by the players, the pundits, and the team selection that Australia wants to recreate the conditions that resulted in a 5-0 victory for them in 2013-14.
That victory was of course fashioned to a great extent by Mitchell Johnson with the ball. He was fast, furious, and intimidated the English batsmen. Joe Root, the current England captain, actually ended up losing his place in the side because of the poor form he displayed.
Another huge factor for Australia in that series was David Warner. He scored centuries at a great pace and set the tone for his team. This time, David Warner will have Steve Smith for company.
The two players are going to be the biggest wickets for the opposition and Australia must be hoping that they can start off confidently. Cameron Bancroft seems certain to make his debut in the first match and will be under massive pressure.
The surface at the Gabba may be more familiar for the Aussies but the English bowlers will also enjoy bowling on it. Usman Khawaja was left out of the playing eleven against India, Shaun Marsh is making yet another comeback and is being ridiculed on social media, while the selection of Tim Paine has been called baffling by most former Australian players.
This is a team with plenty of doubts and a couple of wickets could well bring them to fore.
The bowling for Australia is much healthier. Mitchell Starc wants to be the enforcer like Mitchell Johnson was last time around, Josh Hazelwood wants to recreate McGrath in his prime, Pat Cummins is bowling with fire, and Nathan Lyon is in his prime as a spin bowler.
This is not an attack to be taken lightly. The only thing that Australia will worry about is whether this attack can hold on after a day in the sun without too much success. Do they have the stomach to bowl for hours on end when the going gets tough (which it certainly will)?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Some excellent performances in the warm-up matches have made England much more confident going into the first test than one might have imagined when they first landed. Mark Stoneman is being talked about as a potentially tougher cookie than Alastair Cook, Dawid Malan is feeling much more settled in the England team, and Joe Root is asking the Aussies to ‘bring it’.
It is not too surprising that the England batting has performed well because the depth that they possess is truly remarkable. Cook at the top, Root in the middle, followed by Bairstow, Ali, and Woakes in the lower middle order is terrifying for any team to come up against.
They have the ability to fight back from early losses or really stamp their authority when the top-order has done its job.
If there are people that were expecting England to be rolled over by some hostile pace bowling then they are mistaken. This is not the England of 2013-14 and they are not going to be caught out by the ferocity of the Aussie pace attack. In fact, England knows whats coming and will be prepared to fight fire with fire.
A look back at some of the innings that players like Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson played against Australia will help them get in the right frame of mind. Joe Root is compared to these players as one of the best in the world and he must prove that in this series.
The real problem for England seems to be their bowling attack. Yes, they did not play their full strength bowling attack in the practice matches but they were not up against the likes of David Warner and Steve Smith either.
The fact that England found it difficult to take wickets consistently does not bode well for them. James Anderson must find ways to make the ball talk, Stuart Broad must run in hard and fast all day long, and be well supported by the likes of Chris Woakes and Jake Ball.
Moeen Ali too will be required to play a vital role as the only spinner that England plays in some of the toughest conditions for visiting finger spinners.
England may be able to match the Aussies in the batting department but their bowling is definitely weaker on paper.
Pitch and Conditions
The weather forecast for the first test is a bit mixed. It is expected to start out clear but the chance of rain interrupting proceedings becomes more towards the latter half. We think England will start out looking for a draw while Australia will want to blast out their opposition and so rain taking time out from the game could be hugely advantageous for the visitors.
Australia to win