The Ashes: Aussies take aim at England`s bid for history

AFP| Updated: Nov 19, 2013, 11:24 AM IST

Sydney: 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 Thursday.

Michael Clarke`s team went down 3-0 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 ground, 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 under Mike Gatting in 1986.

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

However Australia, strengthening under coach Darren Lehmann, believe they may now be ready to end England`s run of wins in 2007, 2010-2011 and earlier this year.

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

England did not reach 400 in the last series, yet mastered the Australians 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 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 one of our biggest goals.

"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."

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 ahead of his 100th Test.

England have also moved to address a weakness from the last 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 strong start to the tour with half-centuries in his three warm-up games.

Meanwhile Australia have chosen one-day skipper George Bailey to make his Test debut aged 31 in the problematic number six batting position.

And the enigmatic Mitchell Johnson is poised to share the new ball amid an injury list that includes pacemen James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird.

Johnson has been plagued by erratic line and length at Test level, and was the target of a merciless campaign by England`s `Barmy Army` travelling support in 2010/2011.

But Australian leg-spin great Shane Warne believes Johnson is now a changed bowler.

"He`s forced his way in through bowling some serious pace. He`s going to shake the English side up," Warne said.

The teams are playing twice in the same year, rather than once every other year as is traditional, to avoid having an Ashes series directly before the 2015 World Cup.

Australia must win the five-Test series to regain the Ashes, while England will keep the tiny urn -- said to contain the burnt remains of a bail -- if it ends in a draw.