The Ashes will take place after a gap of 2 years. The first of the five-match test series will kick-off under the leadership of Joe Root and Steve Smith at the Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday. England will be try to retain Ashes title they won in 2015 by 3-2.

Australia is unbeaten in last 28 tests at Brisbane and is the favorites to win this time. Joe Root will be looking to start his ambitious career by winning at Gabba where England is yet to register a victory since 1986. Steve Smith will be looking some for some extra bounce as home advantage.

When it comes to the current form, England have won 4 of last 5 tests and have the momentum but Aussies have lost 3 and drawn with a single win in last 5 tests. Here are few important points ahead of the important clash:

Batting Line-up

Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell, and Matthew Wade were dropped from their last Test against Bangladesh back in September while uncapped opener Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and wicket-keeper Tim Paine make their way in the squad for Australia.

England batting line-up of Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes of England is probably stronger than Australia. Jonny Bairstow, in particular, has scored 389 runs at an average of 32.41 while Moeen Ali has scored 361 runs at an average of 32.81 in 12 innings each. Woakes too has got a career batting average of 32 at number8.

Key Players- Stats speaks for itself

Key players like David Warner and Steve Smith for Australia while Alastair Cook and Joe Root for England can set the tone of the game on themselves and could be the difference in win/loss.

Steve Smith has scored 701 runs in 14 innings this year at an average of 53.92 while David Warner has scored 612 runs at an average of 43.71 in equal no of innings. Similarly, for England, their skipper Joe Root averages 60.75 with 729 runs in 12 innings and Alaister Cook averaging 44 with 572 runs in 13 innings with a double hundred to his name against West Indies in August.

In the bowling front, Anderson and Broad have scalped 59 wickets between them in 7 tests that England have played this year. Among pacers, Australia is yet to flourish apart from Pat Cummins but When in spin, Nathan Lyon has picked 46 wickets on his own for Australia but England too have got Moeen Ali as a spin allrounder.

Pitch & Conditions

Aussie pacers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazelwood will be trying to use the home conditions to their advantage while English bowlers James Anderson, Woakes and Stuart Broad will be trying to adjust to the conditions quickly.

Gabba is renowned as one of the best cricket wickets in Australia, possessing pace and extra bounce which rewards both batsman and bowlers. Wet weather conditions are expected in the game that can be of help to the England players.

Team Expectation

Australia might play just four bowlers with pacers Cummins, Starc, Hazelwood and off-spinner Nathan Lyon. They don’t have an allrounder as of England in the form of Moeen Ali. On the batting front, Usman Khawaja will bat at number three with Smith at four, Peter Handscomb at five and then Marsh at six. Warner is expected to be fit for the Match, it means Maxwell might not get a place in the XI.

The fourth seamer alongside Anderson, Woakes and Broad will be confirmed after the toss. Jake Ball has recovered from a sprained ankle sustained in the second warm-up match in Adelaide can occupy Craig Overton’s place after getting fit. The batting slots were decided early in the tour with James Vince at three and Dawid Malan at five. Gary Ballance is expected to be on the bench.

Ben Stokes participation delayed

Ben Stokes will remain in the UK awaiting the result of a police investigation. Stokes, 26, was arrested in September on suspicion of actual bodily harm after an incident outside a Bristol nightclub. England will be without Stokes for the first Test in Brisbane, will be unavailable for selection by the England and Wales Cricket Board “until further notice”.

His replacement Finn who sustained knee injury while batting in the nets in Perth and ruled out of the all-important tour Down. 22-year-old Tom Curran has been named as Steve Finn’s replacement for the Ashes hasn’t played Test cricket yet but has debuted for England in T20I and ODI last summer. He finished with five wickets in T20s against South Africa. In first-class cricket, Curran has taken 171 wickets in 51 matches for Surrey.

Note: The match will kickoff at 5:30 IST.

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