The second leg of an Ashes double-header unique in the 131 years of such contests gets underway in Brisbane on Thursday with everything bar the eternal optimism of the Australian nation pointing to a fourth successive England triumph. With the dominant 3-0 success on home soil fresh in the memory,England can justifiably approach this trip with more confidence than at any time since the 1970s,when World Series cricket tore the heart out of the home side.
The core of an England side unbeaten in Tests this year has very happy memories of their last trip in 2010-11,when they hammered Australia 3-1 to win the Ashes on foreign soil for the first time in 24 years. That feeling has been compounded by the conviction that they won in England with something to spare and their vaunted batting line-up can only do better than they did in the five home Tests.
I think Australia will suit our batsmen a bit more than English conditions, England paceman Stuart Broad said last week. We had these sort of slow,turning wickets that are quite hard to score on and weve got guys who cut and pull,free-scoring players,and I think our batsmen are very excited to play here and will thrive in the Australian conditions.
And yet,despite losing seven of their last nine Tests and drawing the other two,there is also a growing feeling of confidence in Australia. The hosts feel the series in England was closer than the scoreline suggested,their batting line-up is more settled than it has been for a while and that if their bowlers can fire on the hard home decks,they can really trouble England.