England newcomers James Vince (left) and Mark Stoneman were far from overawed at the Gabba on Thursday.
England newcomers James Vince (left) and Mark Stoneman were far from overawed at the Gabba on Thursday.

Series could be an Ashes cagefight

AUSTRALIA may well win the Ashes this summer but it won't simply be a matter of huffing and puffing and blowing England's house down.

Fasten your seat belts folks.

If first indications count for anything this could be a wonderful Ashes series, one of the rare ones in Australia which actually sways in different directions.

It's been more than 30 years since there's been a seesawing, dogfight of an Ashes series on our shores.

Someone normally cracks and gets crunched. Mostly it is England. Twice in three decades it's been Australia.

But Ashes series in Australia in recent times are barely ever ding-dongers.

The Ashes are overdue for a series in Australia in which two evenly matched teams kick and scrap and scratch and claw and it goes right down to the wire.

Maybe this is it.

Shane Warne said last week that England no longer fear Australia and the comment gained more credence when Mark Stoneman and James Vince were constructing a century stand and Dawid Malan was fighting hard in lengthening shadows.

All three had been earmarked pre-tour as the weakest links in a so-so team.

For that reason alone it was a day of significant progress for England but Australia still finished almost dead level on the scoreboard.

There was no sign this England team - particularly their lesser known players - were nerve-wracked in the way they were four years ago when Mitchell Johnson had Kevin Pietersen thinking "I could be killed at the Gabbatoir'' as he waited to bat in the dressing room.

Nor do they seemed to be fazed by any headlines suggesting their key players could be about to be shunted into retirement.

Australian spinner Nathan Lyon is in fine form.
Australian spinner Nathan Lyon is in fine form.

This is not one of the great England teams but there is a quiet confidence about them.

It's just a matter of whether they have the class to resist the class of the Australian attack when they are at their best which they were not quite at on a pitch devoid of treachery on day one. It should not be forgotten that day one was the first home soil Ashes Test for all three fast bowlers. They will be better for the run.

Nathan Lyon will surely strike pay-dirt soon for he has rarely bowled better and Mitchell Starc versus the England tail sometime on day two will also be incisive viewing.

Instead of being the mortar gun assault everyone expected the first day of the Ashes was like one of those old fashioned Ashes Tests which creep along like a gently rising tide.

It was hard work. So it should be. It's an Ashes Test on a flat deck.

With Australia playing just four bowlers there is an intriguing attritional element to it. Every over England bat they take a little bit of petrol out of an Australian attack which will know they are alive playing five Tests in seven weeks.

England, by contrast, have five bowlers including four fast men.

If England could kick on to a 400-plus total today it could have major benefits in the second innings and beyond.

The pitch should be faster today and with the second new ball just an over old Australia have the chance to seize the early initiative.