BRISBANE (Reuters) - England captain Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat first in the opening Ashes test against Australia in Brisbane on Thursday, with the hosts confirming opener David Warner and batsman Shaun Marsh were fit to play.
Australia’s vaunted pace attack will therefore have first crack at the England batsmen on a green-tinged Gabba pitch and under a cloudy sky as the tourists bid for their first win at the Brisbane fortress since 1986.
“Maybe slightly softer than we anticipated coming here but I’m sure it’ll harden up as the day goes on and as the match goes on,” Root said of the wicket.
“You can’t play on what’s happened in history, you’ve got to play what’s in front of you and it looks like a good wicket so try and bat first and bat big.”
England have picked Jake Ball as their fourth seamer and he joins James Anderson, Stuart Broad and all-rounder Chris Woakes in their pace attack.
Ball will be flung into the Gabba cauldron in just his fourth test despite suffering an ankle strain that disrupted his preparations in the leadup.
“We’ve gone with Ball, both of them have bowled really well in the run-up to this game but he’s the nod ahead of Craig (Overton) on this occasion and hopefully he can fight,” added Root.
Australia captain Smith confirmed vice-captain Warner and Marsh would play after they suffered neck and back strains respectively.
“All good, good to go, I think we’ve got an exciting top six, we’ve got an exciting team and I think the boys are ready to put on a good show,” he said.
“I would have had a bat too, but it’s a tough one, there’s a bit of grass, there’s a bit moisture in the wicket so hopefully this cloud can stick around for a while and we can get the ball moving around.
“Hopefully we can make good use of the new ball this morning, I think it’ll be hard work for the batters, I think it’ll be a bit slow this morning.
“We need to hit our right lengths and if we do that, hopefully there’ll be a few wickets.”
England hold the Ashes after winning 3-2 on home soil in 2015. Australia won the last series Down Under 5-0 in 2013/14.
Australia team: David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon
England team: Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root (capt), Dawid Malan, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Jake Ball.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney