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With no red-ball form, the only certainty at the Gabba is carnage

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Roar Guru
7th December, 2021
9

Justin Langer won’t be sidetracked by the bookies but most experts agree that Australia are morals heading into the Ashes opener in Brisbane.

Without meaningful red-ball form, it’s essentially a punt on England’s abysmal record on Australian soil extending into another decade.

Can 2019 series kingpins Ben Stokes and Steve Smith raise their bats on a diet of net bowlers alone?

Stokes will take guard in match conditions for the first time since July. Smith, a long form nuffy, hasn’t donned the whites in the first class arena since February.

Then there’s the white-ball charged Aussie paceman. Josh Hazlewood’s IPL form for the champion Super Kings and in Australia’s T20 World Cup success was class but alongside Pat Cummins and the rhythm challenged Mitch Starc, it’s been at least eight months since the trio gripped a red Kookaburra.

The unlucky man, Jhye Richardson, with 23 wickets in four Shield outings and the only man with kms in the legs, looks set to take his place in the stands.

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Jhye Richardson of Australia prepares to bowl.

Jhye Richardson. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

If only the Aussie physio had a third hand, come the end of Day 2 the cries for backup could drown out the Barmy Army.

There’s a tantalising aroma of Dencorub about the Poms too, with Jimmy Anderson already out. Injured or part of a crafty rotation? Either way, at 39, the thought of five Tests squeezed into six weeks has the swing king’s ageing pins screaming for ice.

Both sides, too, have been robbed of crucial time in the middle by Queensland’s persistent rains. But compared to the Aussies, at least the home summer series against India is fresh in English minds.

India may have stood triumphant but for skipper Joe Root, with 564 runs including three tons, the muscle memory counts.

It’s interesting what Australia’s chairman of selectors, George Bailey, and his team count in their ongoing attempts to stiffen a brittle top-order.

Usman Khawaja and Travis Head both have two tons this summer, but Khawaja’s 70 last month in a Queensland total of 129 on a Gabba green-top is arguably the innings of the season so far.

Head will bat at No.5 while Khawaja misses out. It’s a tough call on the Bulls captain, whose multifaceted skills could equally cover hit-and-miss opener Marcus Harris, particularly on what is expected to be another juicy pitch.

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There’s probably never been an Ashes build up like it.

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With its endless unknowns it makes for compulsive viewing and that’s without touching on the post Tim Paine captaincy era.

What is known, the toss is a fifty-fifty chance of heads or tails, but riddled with doubt, it’s probably the one thing each skipper will happily concede.

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