England ready to storm Fortress Gabba
Brisbane: England are relishing the prospect of ending Australia`s 22-year unbeaten run at the Gabba in the first Ashes Test to make the best possible start to their campaign to retain the urn, captain Andrew Strauss said.
Determined not to leave hostages to fortune with his pre-series utterances, Strauss again peppered his comments with caveats but there was no betraying his confidence on Wednesday in England`s ability to win a series on Australian soil for the first time in almost quarter of a century.
"I think we have got a good opportunity, there`s no doubt about it," he told a news conference on the eve of the start of the series. "We started the tour well, we`re in a good place as a side, but at the same time we recognise it`s a tough assignment, not many sides come out here and win.
"We understand the size of the challenge ahead of us, but we couldn`t be in a better place mentally to take on that challenge.
"It`s going to take a lot of good cricket ... guys are going to have to dig pretty deep. But I`m fully confident we have the players to do it."
Australia have not lost a Test match in Brisbane since the West Indies beat them in 1988 and England`s last victory at the ground came in the 1986-87 Ashes series, the last the tourists won in Australia.
"It`s a very strong home ground for Australia but I think the prospect of maybe turning that record around excites us," he added.
"If the guys put their minds to it, it could be a very good start to the series to maybe overcome that record.
"In past years Australia have really hit the ground running strongly in the first Test match, they`ve made a conscious effort to go hard on the tourists in the first Test.
"Conditions here are slightly alien to touring sides, especially touring sides that are a bit under-cooked or underprepared."
In 2006, England arrived in Australia in possession of the Ashes and with a confident nation expecting a series as close as that in 2005, only to be comprehensively beaten 5-0.
Lessons were learned from that experience, not least in raising expectations about series victories before a ball has been bowled.
"To think of the finish line now is naive at best and dangerous at worst," the England opener said. "There`s so much cricket between now and then. If you want to win this Ashes series, you have to earn the right to do it over and over again.”
"I`m not looking at the finishing post now, I`m thinking about tomorrow and making a good start."
Strauss said there were no injury concerns for England and his players could not wait to get started on Thursday.
"We`re standing here on the edge of it, the guys are very keen to get amongst it and get off to a good start," he said.
"A lot of people have spent a lot of money to come here and support us and we thrive on the idea that we could pull off something pretty special."
Likely team - Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Marcus Prior, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steve Finn, Graeme Swann.