Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - The Ashes: Down low, Down Under. The No 1 Test bowler in the world and the No 1 Test batter in the world will go out to toss at Gabba
The No 1 Test bowler in the world and the No 1 Test batter in the world will go out to toss at Gabba
You actually wondered how Joe Root had managed to spot the solitary onlooker with an English cap on. Not only was she stood a far distance away, courtesy the barricaded area behind the net; she was also decently off limits from the England captain's line of vision. Or so you'd have thought. And most importantly, Root had been so extremely immersed in his quest to perfect his alignment and trigger movements at the crease, that you wouldn't have expected him to notice anything apart from where his shoulder and feet were going after the ball was delivered.
But there he was a few minutes later, unsuccessfully trying to chuck a pair of his gloves over to his new-found fan. As we know now, it wasn't his best performance, and it was left to the Englishwoman and her friend to retrieve the unexpected Christmas presents from the England Test skipper.
Maybe we shouldn't be that surprised that an England cap would have caught Root's eye or that he immediately felt the urge to thank them for being there. There has been a serious dearth of them of course in Brisbane, at least in context of what would have been the case for an Ashes series in a pre-pandemic world. By now, the Barmy Army would have taken over sections of Brisbane, planting their flag wherever they went. Hundreds of them, meanwhile, would have returned from the Queensland coast, with significant tans, ready to make a lot of noise on the opening day of the Ashes. There would also have been a massive media presence from England, which will make its way for the second Test in Adelaide.
Like with everything else in the world, it's been a strange year, a strange summer and clearly a strange build-up to the Ashes. There are of course the various off-field issues that have dogged both England and Australia, and they did take some sheen off the usual anticipation around the biggest sporting rivalry in this part of the world. But while the Brisbane Barmies have promised to make up for the thousands of their compatriots who couldn't make it into Australia, that palpable intensity is yet to seep through. And though it'd be unfair to call this the hype-less Ashes, it has felt so far like the less-hyped Ashes.
Things will certainly heat up, you'd think, once the No 1 Test bowler in the world and the No 1 Test batter in the world will go out to toss at the centre of the Gabba on Wednesday (December 8). To both teams' credit, regardless of whether it's felt like the Ashes on the outside or not, the Aussies and the English have gone about their preparation like they would in any other Ashes year. That is whenever Brisbane weather, and the schedule, has permitted them some time out.
That continued right into Tuesday with some players on either side making the most of their optional training sessions. Marnus Labuschagne was in there, facing his Queensland teammates Michael Neser and Mitch Swepson, who tested him out with their seam-spin combination. Labuschagne, who has tinkered quite a bit with his technique in recent months, was trying his best to get one pat in. There were a few plays and misses but eventually he seemed pleased with what he'd settled down with. Marcus Harris was another one spending time in the nets, working extensively on driving deliveries both pitched full and slightly shorter than that length.
Much like Root later in the day, Jos Buttler was another English batter who wasn't completely at ease with some bits of his batting. And it wasn't easy to overcome them either, considering you had James Anderson, fresh off the news of being rested, steaming in and getting the ball to talk. Buttler ended up having multiple discussions with Anderson himself about some issues he wanted to address, especially regarding driving on the up.
Dawid Malan, meanwhile, was more focused on the more obvious short of length attack that the Aussies might employ to him, talking at great detail with Graham Thorpe about the positions he would like to get into for playing both the pull and cut shots.
The two captains too played their expected parts to talk up the importance of the series and what the Ashes meant to each nation, and their own respective futures. And perhaps, for once, the hysteria around an Ashes series will have to come from within, by those actually playing the central characters rather than those cheering for them. And both teams have plenty of those with the highest pedigree to make sure that does happen over the next month and a half, starting with the Gabba. It should only be a matter of time then that there'll be many more English caps for Root & Co to take notice and to acknowledge.
When: Australia v England, 1st Test, December 8-12, 10.00 AM Local Time, 05:30 AM IST
Where: The Gabba, Brisbane
What to expect: For starters, there's been no mention of the Gabbatoir in Brisbane this time around. Perhaps it was the incessant rain that cast doubts over the match itself. Certainly, India's Gabba raid earlier in the year would have a lot to do with it too. The excess rain last week though has meant that the pitch had to stay under covers, which has taken some of its customary greenness away, leaving it strawy green. Dave Sandurski still believes that there'll be the typical bounce off this Gabba pitch, which true to form should quicken up as the first day wears on. The first couple of days are expected to stay overcast and muggy, with thunderstorms expected to hit the Gabba towards the third session of play. The weather does clear from Day 3 onward, making sure that a win for either team is totally on the cards.
Pat Cummins has spoken about a fresher approach to captaincy and the overall functioning of the team. Maybe, announcing the playing XI a few days out from the Test, and thereby washing away any insecurity that might exist within the camp, could be a part of it. It'll be the first time in a while that two South Australians will don the Baggy Green in the same Test, as Travis Head returns and Alex Carey arrives.
Playing XI: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith (vc), Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
The visitors' decision to rest Anderson in the opening Test was met with some scepticism and a lot of support. It was also a sign of England's impressive pool of fast bowlers. And Chris Woakes, who bowled in tandem with Anderson two days out from the Test, will create similar threats as the ageless veteran when he gets the new ball in his hand. Ollie Pope's retention at No 6 comes on the back of some eye-catching outings against India at home. Ollie Robinson is expected to turn heads, but we'll have to wait and see if England go with a spinner, or they have Stuart Broad start the series to round-up a all-pace attack. The return of Ben Stokes is meanwhile exactly the fillip that the Ashes needs on and off the field.
Probable XI: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad/Jack Leach
What they said:
“I think the environment we created in the World Cup is a blueprint. It's slightly different, T20s and Test cricket, (and) the demands, but I think the relaxed environment, empowering everyone to do it their own way (is the same). I think most people play their best when they're relaxed and focused – Pat Cummins
Of course it (this Ashes) will define my captaincy, I'm not naive enough to think it won't. If you look how hard it's been for English captains and English teams [to win in Australia] over the years, it has been something which doesn't happen very often – Joe Root