Following the inaugural Calendar Ashes series down under, England will now seek to regain the urn at home.
Temperatures are starting to climb around Australia, rain is becoming scarcer and talk of how good the snow season is has completely evaporated, which can only mean one thing: summer is coming.
And as every true Australian knows, with summer comes a new cricket season.
In just six weeks the first Test will kick off the Australian international summer, returning to its traditional starting point at the Gabba against the seventh ranked Test team in the world: Pakistan.
Australia will play their first Test since their triumphant tour of England, retaining the Ashes in a 2-2 drawn series. The tour will mostly by remembered by Australians for Steve Smith’s heroics with willow in hand, and Pat Cummins terrorising the English batting line-up with the ball.
Pakistan will enter the series cold, with their most recent series being a 3-0 loss on their visit to South Africa way back in January this year. Ten months since their last tour, Pakistan will enter this two-match series as severe underdogs, after showing an inability to handle South Africa’s pace attack.
With still several One-Day Cup and Sheffield Shield matches to be played out before this Test, trying to predict Australia’s starting XI for the first hit-out of summer will be difficult – particularly the bowling attack.
The Gabba is well renowned for being Australia’s fortress in cricket. Their last loss at the venue came in November 1988 against the West Indies. Since then, Australia has played in 30 Tests at the ground for 23 wins and seven draws, a perfect starting point for any series.
The Gabba has also been well known for serving up bouncy and lively wickets, evident in the most recent Test at the venue with Pat Cummins taking ten of the possible 20 wickets. It has provided pitches that have suited tall, quick bowlers and Australia have an abundance of them in their artillery.
Over the past five Test matches at the Gabba, quick bowlers have accounted for 79 per cent of the wickets taken. Nathan Lyon – the lone spinner – has taken just 18 wickets in those 5 Tests, and run-outs accounted for the other wickets.
The most recent Test at the Gabba was in January this year, when Sri Lanka visited Brisbane in a very one-sided contest. The pace contingent for that Test was made up of Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc and debutant Jhye Richardson, the latter taking five wickets in an impressive first Test performance. Other line-ups from the previous five outings have included Jackson Bird, Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Marsh.
In the last Test at the Gabba, Sri Lanka failed to make 300 runs combined between both innings, with Australia’s pace attack terrorising the top order as they so often do. Meanwhile, Pakistan lost all 60 wickets during their South African tour to pace bowlers, proving that they truly could not handle the pace on lively and quick wickets.
Pakistan failed to have a centurion from all six innings in South Africa too, so look for Australia to place an emphasis on knocking over the top order cheap.
So what can we expect Australia’s bowling set-up to look like?
Although quicks are important at the Gabba, Nathan Lyon is too good of a bowler to leave out in favour of a four-pronged pace attack. Pat Cummins is a certain starter if fit, and Josh Hazlewood should be also.
The final spot should be given to the form bowler in the domestic competitions. If Mitch Starc can prove himself, then having a left-arm variation will provide a good balance for the attack.
Other options to keep an eye on include Michael Neser, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, who all travelled England as a part of Australia’s Ashes squad.
But at this stage, expect to see Starc lining up in Brisbane and Australia to go back to their long-preferred bowling attack of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon.