Sport By Numbers: The First Ashes Test in Brisbane

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Sport By Numbers: The First Ashes Test in Brisbane
Tom Shaw/Getty Images
The battle for the urn gets underway on Thursday

The First Ashes test between England and Australia gets underway tonight and while a win isn't essential for either side, a positive performance is. Here then are some of the key facts and figures any watcher needs to be armed with ahead of the first ball.

It's been well documented that The Gabba is the kind of fortress to Australia that Edgbaston is to England. Since 1986 they've only lost one test there, to the West Indies in 1988.

For England, however, the main problem has just been getting a foot in the door of the game. Australia have batted first in each of the last four tests and scored an average of 501 runs in those first innings. In contrast, England's batting has floundered, Mark Butcher's 116 in 1998 is the only century made by an English batsman in the last five games at the ground. If England are to avoid previous woes this statistic, is one in particular that has to change, which puts a heavy weight on the shoulders of Ian Bell who's breakout year has seen him average 71.50 in tests this year. 

The task facing the batsman maybe made easier by the retirement of Glenn McGrath. The pace man took a total of 22 wickets in the last three tests at the Gabba and was a constant thorn in the Poms side. Australia's hopes therefore rest on the shoulders of Mitchell Johnson. Personal problems that plagued him in 2009 aside he is a different character on home soil and in three tests in Brisbane has taken 17 wickets at an average of 16.17.   

How England's bowlers deal with conditions will be crucial, James Anderson is the only of England's first choice attack to have played a test at Brisbane. Back in 2006, he only took one wicket and summed up the struggles that have seen England fail to take all 20 Australian wickets in a match at the ground since their last victory in 1986.

It's clear from this that the numbers aren't kind to the visitors, if they manage to turn some of their Queensland nightmares around they may well be on the road to Ashes glory.   

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