Australia hope Gabba track record can stymie England

AFP, BRISBANE, Australia

Wed, Nov 20, 2013 - Page 19

Australia hope their impregnable record at the Gabba will help them seize early momentum as they bid to stop England completing their best Ashes run in 123 years from tomorrow.

Michael Clarke’s team went down 0-3 just three months ago in England, leaving them in danger of losing four Ashes series in a row — a fate they have not suffered since 1890.

However, Australia now appear more settled and they will also take heart from their performances at Brisbane’s Gabba, where they are unbeaten in a quarter of a century.

Australia have not lost on the famously fast, bouncy pitch since 1988, against a Viv Richards-led West Indies, and England’s last win there was in 1986.

While history favors the hosts, a Brisbane victory by Alastair Cook’s England would deal psychological damage to a team trying to rebuild after a long slump.

Australia, strengthening under coach Darren Lehmann, believe they may now be ready to end England’s run of wins in 2009, 2010-2011 and earlier this year.

England’s 3-1 victory in the 2010-2011 season was their first in Australia for 24 years, pointing to a much tighter contest than the Tests in July and August.

England did not reach 400 in the past series, yet mastered Australia with inspired spells in the key moments at Trent Bridge, Lord’s, Chester-le-Street and The Oval.

All-rounder Shane Watson, who must overcome a hamstring injury to play in the first Test, believes Australia need to test the endurance of England’s four-man bowling attack.

“That is the way we are going to win the Ashes,” Watson said. “As a batting unit we are going to bat for a long period of time, especially in the first couple of Tests. We will see where they are at physically and mentally. That is our biggest goal.”

“We have no doubt they will keep coming, but at what level? We haven’t been able to challenge that level. Keep them coming back, get them fatigued and try to keep them that way as well. Don’t let them off by batting badly and getting a rest,” he added.

England are yet to decide on their third seamer to supplement James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but Chris Tremlett, a success on the last Ashes tour here, looks likely to play, along with penetrating off-spinner Graeme Swann.

The tourists also have injury concerns, with first-choice wicketkeeper Matt Prior nursing a calf strain and star batsman Kevin Pietersen needing a cortisone injection for a troublesome knee.

England have also moved to address a weakness from the past series, when they were three wickets down for less than 65 on five occasions.

Opener Joe Root has been bumped down the order to six to accommodate Hampshire’s Michael Carberry, after his half-centuries in three warm-up games.