The independent voice of cricket


Warring captains unfazed by Edgbaston history

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Edgbaston, the venue for the first Ashes Test, has seen contrasting fortunes for the game’s oldest rivals.

While England have a superlative record in the Birmingham ground, being undefeated in each of their last eight Tests at the venue, Australia have managed just three wins in 14 appearances.

However, that piece of history didn’t appear to faze the two captains on the eve of the first Test. “I don’t see this ground as intimidating, I think it’s a great place to play cricket,” said England captain Joe Root, who has scores of 136 and 80 in his last two Tests here.

“I might see it from a slightly different point of view, but one thing that’s for sure is that the crowd here, you’re very aware they’re in full support of England. That’s great for us.”

The 28-year-old reminisced about his team’s success at the World Cup, which they lifted for the first time last month, but added that the Ashes are no less significant. “Some of the noise throughout that semi-final [against Australia], it was great to play in a game like that with that sort of atmosphere, and I can see that being very similar here,” Root said.

“To have that carrot in front of us is a great motivator for the whole squad. But, ultimately, it comes down to how we go about that, how we’re going to break down Australia, and how we’re going to win enough games to win the series.”

For Australia, despite their poor Test record at the venue, Edgbaston holds significance as the site of some of their greatest results across ODI and Test cricket in the last 20 years. Their famous tied 1999 World Cup semi-final against South Africa was the catalyst of their dominance at the marquee event, marking the start of an unbeaten run that ended in a hat-trick of triumphs.

Likewise, their performances in Birmingham have determined their course in past Ashes series. The seeds for their last series win in England, back in 2001, were sown at Edgbaston, when they crushed the home team by an innings and 118 runs in the series opener. In 2005, when England famously reclaimed the urn after 18 years, the series slipped out of Australia’s grasp after their narrow two-run loss here, while the three-day capitulation in 2015 underpinned the home team’s superiority.

Paine, though, refused to be bogged down by history. “I could name you 15,” he said, when asked if there is a more intimidating ground in world cricket. “England haven’t lost here in how long? I don’t even know, I haven’t looked at it, it doesn’t concern us at all.

“I know a lot of the times, when teams come to Australia and they have to go to the Gabba or the WACA, it plays on their mind. I’ve seen it work in reverse. It doesn’t affect us. We’ve got our plans individually, plans as a team, and it’s about us going out on Thursday and executing that skill.

“We think our best cricket is good enough and the Edgbaston pitch or crowd or the grandstand certainly won’t play a part in deciding this Test match.”

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99