Kevin Pietersen and his teammates start their defence of the urn in Brisbane tonight looking to be the first England team to win four consecutive Ashes series in 123 years.
The maverick is set to appear in his 100th Test Match for his country at the Gabba as England look to retain the Ashes after a 3-0 victory over Australia in the summer.
The batsman made his debut against Australia in 2005 and played a crucial role in winning the series after a wait of 18 years. Pietersen top scored in the series which included scoring 158 on the final day of the fifth Test at the Oval to guide his side to a draw and sparked wild celebrations.
Since his debut he has helped guide the three lions to four wins from five series with the only exception the 5-0 hammering down under in 06/07 but both sides have changed remarkably since.
England are on the hunt to become the number one Test side in the world again after they were knocked off their perch by South Africa in 2012 after only months in top spot. The feeling is England will have to perform much better than they did in the summer if they want to win four Ashes in a row for the first time since 1890.
Head Coach Andy Flower and captain Alastair Cook are expected to make two changes to the side that played the majority of the summer with Michael Carberry replacing Jonny Bairstow while Chris Tremlett appears to be the favourite to fill the last bowling spot.
Vice-captain Matt Prior is also a slight doubt after suffering a groin injury in the second of three warm-up games which led to Bairstow keeping wicket in Sydney last week. However, the Sussex glove man is expected to be fit which would provide a huge boost to the team given his experience on the international stage.
Joe Root is all set to move down the order to fill the number six spot after Carberry has impressed in the tour games ahead of the opening Test. The Yorkshireman scored one superb century at Lord’s but the management clearly feel he will be better suited down the order at this stage of his career.
Meanwhile, Australia look a much stronger proposition after Darren Lehmann now has his feet under the table in his role as head coach and their XI has more stability than it did in July.
31-year-old T20 captain George Bailey will be given his Test debut after impressing in the recent One Day International Series in India where he also captained his country in the absence of Michael Clarke. However, the main headline from the Australian camp is the return of fast bowler Mitchell Johnson. He is in-line to return to the five-day format after finding form in the limited overs fixtures against England and India in recent months.
The Australians haven’t won a Test Match in 2013 but showed glimpses of doing so at the Oval in August with Shane Watson and Shaun Smith both hitting centuries and Ryan Harris in great form opening the bowling. Clarke will need Harris to stay injury free and hope Watson is fit enough to fill the all-rounder berth for his team if they are to win back the Ashes over the next seven weeks while the Decision Review System could also be crucial.
It has been confirmed DRS will be used in this series with Hotspot, Real Time Snicko and Hawk-Eye being used to aid the on field umpires across the five Tests. The technology came under scrutiny in England due to a host of questionable decisions but this will be helped by the inclusion of Snicko for the first time.
All the talking and pre-Ashes ‘war of words’ between the camps is over and both teams can finally get down to business as England look to win at the Gabba for the first time since 1986 and head to Adelaide with a 1-0 lead.
Australia (from): Michael Clarke (captain), Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin (vice-captain, wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon, James Faulkner.
England (from): Alastair Cook (capt), Michael Carberry, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matt Prior (vice-captain, wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes, Monty Panesar.
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