The Ashes - First Test Preview: Can England turn the tide at the Gabba?

England and Australia renew their famous rivalry in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The Ashes - First Test Preview: Can England turn the tide at the Gabba?
The captains were all smiles before the hostilities commence (photo: Getty Images / Ryan Pierse)

Reminiscent of two heavyweight boxers preparing for a title fight, the build-up to the 70th edition of the Ashes has been dominated by the typical sledging associated with England and Australia.

The opening test in Brisbane is set to be a fiery affair with plenty at stake as both nations seek to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series. England are hoping to retain the famous urn, whilst Australia look to regain the smallest trophy in sport.

Scores level but the Gabba is an Australian fortress

After 69 previous series' spanning across 135 years, the scores are tied at 32-32. Yet Australia, who whitewashed England during their last visit four years ago, unsurprisingly lead 82-56 during Test matches Down Under.

However, it is the venue for the first Test this year, the Gabba, that has been somewhat of a fortress for the hosts. Australia have not lost a Test since 1989, winning 21 and drawing seven in the best record of any nation at a particular venue during that period. 

Much has been made of England's recent record in Brisbane, losing five and drawing two in their last seven visits, including a 381-run thrashing four years ago.

No less than four Australian batsman have averages above 50 at the Gabba and Nathan Lyon has taken 26 wickets in just six matches at the venue. However, Stuart Broad has picked up nine wickets in just two visits with an excellent average of 25.11.

In a relatively inexperienced England batting line-up, Alastair Cook holds the best record with willow in his hands, averaging an impressive 86.60 boosted by an unbeaten 235 seven years ago.

Could careers be ended this winter?

David Warner has been vocal before the contest, as is often the case, focussing his attention on Ben Stokes and how the all-rounder has "let his country down" after allegations of assault prevented Stokes from travelling.

Warner renews his rivalry with James Anderson with England's record wicket-taker dismissing the Australian opener seven times for the loss of 171 runs. However, only two of those wickets have been accrued on Australian soil, with Anderson averaging a hefty 89.80 at the Gabba.

Nathan Lyon has also taken to the media in the build-up, suggesting Australia are looking to "end the careers" of some England playersn. He has dismissed Cook five times at an average of 25.60.

England captain Joe Root has led a quiet response from the tourists, merely stating "we can't wait to get out there". England's number one batsman averages around 50 against Lyon and Josh Hazlewood but has been dismissed four times by Mitchell Starc who leads a fiery Aussie pace attack. 

Fitness concerns for the hosts

Australia have certainly talked the talk but can they walk the walk? Tim Paine is expected to don the gloves after nearly a decade in the international wilderness, whilst Glenn Maxwell has been called up as cover for both Warner and Shaun Marsh who are struggling with back and neck injuries respectively.

Meanwhile, Jake Ball has been selected to join England's bowling attack ahead of Craig Overton, despite bowling less than 16 overs during the warm-up matches.

Set your alarm clocks for midnight, this one is set to be a cracker!