The Gabba: History against England in the first Test

In one of the stories about the origins of the informal name of the Brisbane cricket ground it means “fight talk place.” That is apparently the translation of the word Woolloongabba, actually the name of the suburb where the ground stands and known to all and sundry as The Gabba.

It conjures up an image of Australian cricket and cricketers and how they conduct themselves. They fight to the very end and sometimes they talk on the way.

The Gabba has become a fortress. Australia have lost none of their last 21 matches there but they had lost only eight of 31 before that. They consider it home and that is why they like starting there.

It is only in recent years that its reputation for being the fastest pitch in the world has emerged. Bowlers know they can get carry and bounce, batsmen that they get value for their shots.

Known officially as the Brisbane Cricket Ground it has a minimum of character except in the names of its ends, the Stanley Street End and the Vulture Street End where fast bowlers must simply ache to take wickets.

Like every ground in Australia, it has been redeveloped to within an inch of its life and shares its favours with rugby league and Aussie Rules.

England last won at the Gabba when they last won the Ashes, in 1986 since when Australia have lost there only once to the West Indies two years later. In that England win, Ian Botham scored the last of his 14 Test centuries after England were inserted. Graham Dilley took five wickets in Australia's first innings and after they followed on John Emburey took five in the second.

There have been 10 victories in all by sides who bowled after winning the toss but two of the most infamous England results concern losing after doing so. Eight years ago, Nasser Hussain chose to bowl and Australia were 364 for two after the first day. England never recovered and lost the series 4-1.

In 1954, Len Hutton, who knew lots, also bowled and Australia made 601 for eight and won by an innings and 154 runs. Frank Tyson took one for 160. However, England and Tyson, off as shortened run, recovered. He bowled like the wind, England won 3-1.

Only four England cricketers have scored hundreds at the Gabba, the highest being Botham's 138. Perhaps the most celebrated was Tony Greig's defiant 110 in the first innings in 1974 when Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson first entered the public consciouness as Lilian Thomson.

He stood tall and kept wafting the ball deliberately and bravely over the slips where most of his 17 fours came from. But the new pace pair cleaned up, taking 13 wickets between them and Australia were on their way. They usually are at the Gabba. England keep clinging on to Lord's last year where Australia had not lost for 75 years. History can be changed.

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