Come the second week of December, it will, in all likelihood, be Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns walking down the famous Gabba steps to open England’s Ashes batting account.
The Brisbane ground is the traditional Ashes curtain raiser Down Under and an Aussie fortress – not since 1986 have England won at the Gabba, and only twice have Australia lost there since.
It was Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman in 2017, Cook and Michael Carberry in 2013 and Andrew Strauss and Cook in 2010. Those six batters collectively hit 175 runs for their six wickets, hardly a resounding return.
The effort in 2010 played a small part in a draw, while the 2013 contribution could only limit Australia’s win to 381 runs. Last time out? A 10-wicket Green and Gold rout. It’s fair to say England haven’t scored nearly enough in Brisbane but in this year’s edition, they have openers who simply need to dig in and make runs.
Hameed and Burns finished 53 not out and 39 not out respectively in a warm-up match against the England Lions. And while the match was abandoned this week because of rain, the signs looked promising.
History teaches that Ashes openers batting long and building a first innings score hasn’t been too important at the Gabba, but that raises the question of what sort of total a side can achieve if their openers form a 100 partnership.
In India’s sensational win at the famous cricket ground in January, again with supremely poor openers for both sides, the Gabba’s wicket proved a vulnerability for Australia for the first time in decades.
The ground is synonymous with Australian cricket but seemingly less so with impressive opening scores, and that, of course, plays into the hands of the Baggy Greens.
There, though, is England’s opportunity. A chance to build, block and drive their way to a solid opening day score – if they bat, that is.
Test cricket is never won on the opening day, but the psychological battle is already in full flow.
Hameed has the temperament, proved in the aftermath of a duck at Lords on his return to the side, and Burns has the staying power.
In an environment such as an away Ashes series, that’s not enough. Runs count for a lot.
It must have been tempting to throw the book at this series and take some of the in-form County players. After all, England cannot rely on the batting mastery of Joe root.
Coach Chris Silverwood and captain Root, however, have chosen to stick to the status quo in their attempt to bring the urn home – and, quite simply, they won’t without more runs from the first two men at the crease.