Everything you need to know ahead of the first Ashes Test
Last Updated: 20/11/13 6:19pm
It is less than three months since Alastair Cook and his team were celebrating the night away on The Oval outfield after securing a 3-0 victory but there has been little time to reflect on that triumph.
Instead, England have had to immediately re-focus on defending the urn, while Australia have been busy coming up with strategies to close the gap between the two sides.
No touring team has won a Test at The 'Gabba since 1988 and England's preparations have not run smoothly with injury scares to key players Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior - plus an unexpected reshuffle in the batting order.
Pietersen, who will be winning his 100th Test cap in the series opener, is ready for action after a cortisone injection in his knee but wicketkeeper Matt Prior will be a late decision due to a calf injury. Jonny Bairstow, who has played 12 times as a specialist batsman, will keep wicket if Prior's run of 57 straight Tests comes to an end.
England are also expected to change their batting order with Michael Carberry partnering Cook at the top of the order after his 153 in the warm-up fixture against Australia A.
Carberry, 33, won a solitary Test cap in Bangladesh almost four years ago and his inclusion would allow Joe Root to drop back down the order to No.6, where he enjoyed success in India and New Zealand last winter.
England's other selection decision concerns the identity of their third seamer; all the indications are that Chris Tremlett - a standout performer when England won 3-1 in Australia in 2010/11 - will be preferred to the Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin.
Australia have named a 12-man squad, including uncapped batsman George Bailey.
Bailey, a 31-year-old who has a superb ODI record but modest first-class career, will get his chance at number six and, with Shane Watson fit to bowl, James Faulkner appears to be the most likely drinks carrier.
England captain Alastair Cook has set his sights on ending Australia's impressive record at the Gabba. Australia have not lost at the Brisbane ground for 25 years - while England last tasted victory there in 1986. However Cook insists that the current squad will go into the series opener with no fear as they look to inflict a psychological blow on their hosts. "There's no reason to feel intimidated," said Cook. "A lot of players in the squad we have this year were here in 2010-11 so we've all got experience of winning in Australia and we're trying to use that to the best of our ability."
100 not out
Kevin Pietersen will become the 10th England player to earn a century of Test caps in the series opener at The 'Gabba. The Natal-born 33-year-old started with an Ashes-clinching century in his first Test series back in 2005 and has since been through many highs and lows. Pietersen faced the media - with whom his relationship has steadily deteriorated over the years - on Tuesday and laughed off suggestions he is arrogant: "I call it confidence". Pietersen has scored 7,887 runs in his 99 Tests and is closing on the England record, held by batting coach Graham Gooch, who would like to see his mark surpassed.
It's good to talk
For a side without a win in their last nine Tests, Australia's squad has not been short on bravado in the build-up. For reasons that were unclear, captain Michael Clarke attempted to channel his inner-Jose Mourinho by naming England's starting XI, coach Darren Lehmann hopes the crowd abuses Stuart Broad so that he "cries and goes home", while the recalled Mitchell Johnson has promised to rough up England's top order. "If I can get a few of those rearing balls towards the ribs or those throat balls, and if he gets in the way of it, that's his own fault," he said. "...If you can't get them out, that's the second option." On Thursday, the talking stops and the action begins.
The expert view
Our Ashes Panel of Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain, Sir Ian Botham, David Gower and Bob Willis got together to discuss their expectations and predictions for the series. There are mixed views on several subjects, not least the merits of George Bailey and Mitchell Johnson, but a unanimous verdict when it comes to picking a winner; all five are backing England to make it four in a row. You can also listen to our experts in our all-new Ashes podcast, including Nasser's view on what to do if you win the toss in Brisbane...
Stay up or catch up
You can follow the action from Australia this winter in more ways than ever. Every ball will be screened live on Sky Sports 2 but you can also watch wherever you are on your mobile, laptop and selected tablet devices via Sky Go. The Sky Sports Ashes Events Centre - which is available on both PC and iPad - allows you to get a totally different take on each day's play, offering live scorecards, match stats and player profiles - plus you can build your own analysis just like the commentators with Hawkeye, wagon wheels and more! If you can't stay up all night then there are plenty of ways to catch up. Simply press the red button on your TV to see highlights throughout the day or you can log on for highlights on skysports.com and on the Sky Sports iPad app. Wake up to The Ashes Breakfast every morning for extensive reaction to the night's action and our Verdict at Night show will provide in-depth analysis and discussion before The Ashes Extra - Live brings you all the build-up to the start of play.
This is Australia's fortress; it is 25 years since Viv Richards' West Indies became the last touring side to win a Test at The 'Gabba. The pitch is among the quickest in the world and offers something for everyone. The humid, tropical climate in Brisbane means the ball swings more than anywhere else in Australia, while the extra bounce on offer can benefit spinners (Shane Warne enjoyed plenty of success over the years). The 'Gabba is a multi-purpose stadium that regularly hosts cricket, Aussie Rules and both codes of rugby - and even used to have a greyhound track before a redevelopment. England have won four times in 19 visits, most recently in 1986.
The weather has been unsettled during the week with heavy rain on Monday disrupting preparations. But the sun was out on Tuesday allowing players to train outside in temperatures that rose above 30 degrees Celsius. The opening day of the series on Thursday is expected to be dry - there is an 18 per cent chance of rain - but not quite as hot with temperatures topping out at 27 degrees. The chance of rain and, in particular, thunderstorms increases as the Test wears on, although temperatures are also predicted to rise over the course of the contest and there should be plenty of time for a positive result.
The corresponding fixture three years ago ended in an eventful draw. England won the toss, chose to bat and promptly lost skipper Andrew Strauss for a duck to the third ball of the series. Later on the opening day, birthday boy Peter Siddle claimed a hat-trick, dismissing Cook, Prior and Broad as England were all out for 260. Australia were reduced to 143-5 in reply on day two before centuries from Mike Hussey (195) and Brad Haddin (136) got them up to 481 and a first-innings lead of 221. Staring yet another Brisbane defeat in the face, England's top order came to the rescue with Strauss (110), Cook (235no) and Trott (135no) batting for almost two full days against an increasingly demoralised bowling attack before the declaration came on 517-1. There was not enough time left for Australia to chase a target of 297 and they finished on 107-1 - but the tone of the series had been set.