Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Ashes series 2010/11- Brisbane cricket ground
With the Ashes series just under three months away, I would look at covering every minute detail of the upcoming Ashes series and maybe a bit about the great history too. Yes, just like other cricket fans, the ongoing spot-fixing allegations have dampened my enthusiasm for cricket yet, it is too difficult not to think of the Ashes series.
Anyway, first up in the series of articles, let us look at the conditions in Australia
Every-time the upcoming Ashes series is mentioned, I do see someone mentioning that conditions in Australia won't be similar to what one sees in England and it is going to be an herculean task for England to adjust to the different wickets that are found in Australia. So, let us see how difficult it can be for a visiting team to play in Australia.
Just like before, England would start their Ashes campaign with a test match at Brisbane with Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney hosting the subsequent tests.
Today, we would look at Brisbane cricket ground
The ground at Gabba has seen drastic changes as nowadays those grassy banks are all gone and instead we would see concrete stands. The pitch too has changed in its character as from a bowl first wicket, it has become a good track for batting with most teams looking to bat first.
A few facts about the Brisbane ground
Gordoninportsmouth who knows a thing or two about cricket on the cricket-match-special.com,
"The groundsmen at present is Kevin Mitchell ( his father Mitchell snr was the groundman up until 1990). Back in the 1980s, the Gabba always had loads of 1st day moisture left in it. It always started as a seamers paradise before flattening into the most perfect batting pitch from Day 3 and spinners didn't even got a look in. The Gabba then was always a cast iron bowl first pitch.
Here is the run of how the Brisbane tests in the 1980s panned out:
1980-81 - NZ. bat first, bowled out for 225, lose by 10 wickets
1981-82 - Pak. bat first, bowled out for 291, lose by 10 wickets
1982-83 - Eng. bat first, bowled out for 219, lose by 7 wickets
1983-84 - Pak. bat first, bowled out for 156, only near 2-days solid rain saves them from losing by millions
1984-85 - Aus. bat first, bowled out for 175, WI win by 8 wickets
1985-86 - Aus. bat first, bowled out for 179, NZ win by an innings and 41.
1986-85 - Eng. bat first, score 456 and win the match(worst bowling I have ever seen by an Australian bowling attack in Australian conditions)
1987-88 - NZ. bat first, bowled out for 186, lose by 9 wickets
1988-89 - Aus. bat first, bowled out for 167, WI win by 9 wickets
1989-90 - Aus. bat first, against an incredibly weak SL bowling line up and manage to get 367 yet the Lankans still go on to dominate the test and the match ends in a draw.
1990-91 - Eng. bat first, bowled out for 194, lost by 10 wickets
1991-92 - Ind. bat first, bowled out for 239, lost by 10 wickets
Between the 1974-75 Ashes test (when Jeff Thomson was first unleashed on England) and the Ashes test 20 years later (when Michael Slater creamed the England seamers from ball one) only two tests were won by the side batting first - the aforementioned Australian bowling debacle of 1986-87 and the 1977-78 test, when India just failed by 16 runs.
Since 1994-95, the Gabba has been a bat first pitch as only 3 times has the side batting second won the game and Warne has been the most successful bowler"
Occasionally, captains have looked to bowl first like Hussain in 2002/03 and Mahela in 07/08, but they were perhaps thinking of the past. The one encouraging factor for England's bowlers is, both in 08/09 and in 09/10, the groundsmen left a bit of grass on the wicket. The rumour has it, the Australian board have instructed the groundsmen to make it more bowler friendly. In 08/09, Southee and co. gave a golden chance for the Kiwis to upset the applecart against the marauding Aussies by getting them out cheaply, but only for the fragile Kiwi batting line-up to again fall like a pack of cards and hand over the victory to Australia. Last year, Jerome Taylor started well for the Windies team by bowling a fuller length to get Watson's wicket, but for some reason, he and Rampaul suddenly started testing middle of the pitch and the Windies got hammered.
I still think if Strauss wins the toss, he should bat first, but if the groundsmen leave a bit of grass on the wicket and if the conditions are overcast, then Strauss may bowl first.
Australia at Brisbane
The Brisbane cricket ground has been like a fortress for Australia as not since 1988/89, when they lost to the mighty West Indies side have they lost at Brisbane. Since that loss against the Windies team, they have won sixteen matches and have drawn five game which is an unbelievably good record! Actually, they have won all their last six tests which just shows that England have their task cut out at Brisbane. Shane Warne has been very successful for Australia at Brisbane as he used the bounce on offer to good effect.
England at Brisbane
As expected, just like other teams England have performed poorly at Brisbane with four losses and just a draw in their last five games at the ground. It is clear that neither the bowlers were able to get their lengths right, or the batsmen were able to counter the bounce. In 94/95, both McCague and Defraites bowled rubbish, in 98/99, Gough and Cork tried too hard and as a result couldn't get it right, in 02/03, Hussain made the mistake of electing to bowl first and paid the price and in 06/07, Harmison's first ball wide would be enough to describe England's bowling effort. On the other hand, batsmen have struggled to counter the bounce with only Butcher as he can play horizontal bat shots and to a lesser extent, Colly and KP succeeding at the ground.
From the above points, it is crystal clear that bowlers have to get their lengths right with the new kookaburra ball. It is easier said than done as even the great Wasim Akram either bowled short or too full in 95/96. The basic length of course would be to target the good length spot with Anderson trying to bowl a fuller length with the new ball as he is a swing bowler. I just hope that taller bowlers in the side like Broad and Finn won't get too excited by the bounce on offer and bowl short as the new ball is the key in Australia. The trump card of course would be Swann as he can use the bounce to good effect. Actually, after a longtime, England have a spinner, who can bowl over spin which would no doubt help England at Brisbane.
As far as the batsmen are concerned, it is clear that it is all about getting acclimatised to the bounce that one would see on Australian wickets. I just hope that they would play with a positive attitude as Australian wickets are good for batting, but batsmen should be ready to play horizontal bat shots.
I would just say that England have a task on their hands, when they take on the Aussies at Gabba as beating Australia at Brisbane is one helleva task.