Venues for the Ashes series

Brisbane: Factbox on the five venues for the Ashes Test cricket series between Australia and England which begins on Thursday:

BRISBANE (First Test, Nov. 25-29)

Ground: The Gabba (capacity 42,000)

Last England Test win: 1986-87 series

Many a confident England touring side have pitched up at the Gabba, named for the Woolloongabba suburb that surrounds it, only to come a cropper.

Steve Harmison`s horrendous first-ball delivery to second slip set the tone for the 2006-07 whitewash and England will be determined to avoid a bad start this time.

A lively, green top wicket is expected at first, offering pace and bounce for the seamers, with spin coming into play as an attacking option if it stays dry and the strip deteriorates later in the match.

ADELAIDE (Second Test, Dec. 3-7)

Ground: Adelaide Oval (32,000)

Last England Test win: 1994-95 series

One of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world, the Adelaide Oval has usually offered one of the more batting-friendly surfaces in the series.

The flat pitch and high temperatures make for long, hard days for the quick bowlers so the spinners will be expected to give them frequent breaks and contribute a few wickets as well.

England`s Paul Collingwood hit a double century and Kevin Pietersen 158 in Adelaide on England`s last tour but Australia staged a sensational comeback to win the match.

PERTH (Third Test, Dec. 16-20)

Ground: WACA (20,000)

Last England Test win: 1978-79 series

The WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association) is the youngest and smallest of the venues and has a reputation as a wicket that pace bowlers love and batsmen fear.

The rock-hard wicket and blinding light can make for an intimidating time at the crease even if the pitch is not as quick as it once was.

The afternoon breeze, known locally as the Fremantle Doctor, helps the seamers and can also be of use to the spinners. England have won just once here in 11 Ashes Tests.

MELBOURNE (Fourth Test, Dec. 26-30)

Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) (100,000)

Last England Test win: 1998-99 series

Even in a sport steeped in history and tradition, a Boxing Day Ashes Test played out in front of 100,000 fans at one of the great cathedrals of the sporting world is something special.

The wicket used to be tricky on occasions but these days generally offers true bounce and a bit of pace, while it can take spin later in the match.

Mike Gatting`s side sealed England`s last Ashes victory in Australia at the MCG in 1986-87 and the tourists won again 12 years later.

SYDNEY (Fifth Test, Jan. 3-7)

Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) (46,000)

Last England Test win: 2002-03 series

The SCG ranks is one of the world`s most famous cricket grounds and this year will feature two huge, new video screens.

Even though the entire playing surface was re-turfed for the first time in a decade in September, it is still expected to offer the most spin-friendly wicket of the five venues.

This will be the Test that England`s Graeme Swann, and perhaps even back-up spinner Monty Panesar, will most look forward to, always assuming the series is not won or lost by then.

England`s most recent Test victory in Australia came at the SCG in 2003, one of only three since the last Ashes series victory by the tourists.

Bureau Report

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