LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Australia celebrate with the Urn after Australia drew the series to retain the Ashes during day four of the 5th Specsavers Ashes Test between England and Australia at The Kia Oval on September 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Ashes have arrived, with Australia and England finally set to renew hostilities in Brisbane on Wednesday.

Australia will undoubtedly enter the home Ashes series as the red-hot favourites, and conditions in Brisbane are set to only spur that on further.

A wicket which will do plenty for bowlers is expected following a fortnight of driving rain in the Queensland capital, which has cleared up just enough for the ground staff to get a pitch ready to go.

RELATED: "Green monster": First look at Gabba pitch reveals bowling paradise

That pitch could have a large say on the course of the match, and while batting conditions will improve the longer it bakes in the Brisbane sun - with temperatures expected to be 29, 30 and 30 degrees across the first three days despite afternoon rain and storms - the first session could be a nightmare.

That said, it's the first time in years a captain winning the toss may elect to bowl first.

No matter which way the toss goes though, Australia should have all the running here. With a part of their squad coming off a winning T20 World Cup, and the other part having played Sheffield Shield cricket, the balance should be there.

The problem of course if that those players who took part in the T20 World Cup haven't played a single red ball game in almost 12 months. That includes the entire first-choice pace bowling attack of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, as well as key batsmen David Warner and Steve Smith.

Australia also have the question mark regarding new captain Cummins in his first Test, and whether that could upset the squad heading into the opening match of the series.

England come to Australia without the form in red ball games though. They were pasted by India on home soil during their home summer, losing two of the four Tests and drawing another, and while they had a big win in the third Test, that won't be enough to hide fears over what their true form looks like.

Joe Root has essentially carried England through the year, scoring 1455 runs in 12 Tests. Rory Burns has scored the next most runs with 479 for England, and that is a major issue when facing one of the best bowling attacks in the world in conditions which can prove challenging without the regular experience of playing in them as Australia have.

The Teams

1. David Warner
2. Marcus Harris
3. Marnus Labuschagne
4. Steve Smith (vc)
5. Travis Head
6. Cameron Green
7. Alex Carey (wk)
8. Pat Cummins (c)
9. Mitchell Starc
10. Nathan Lyon
11. Josh Hazlewood

Australia have locked in their XI for the first Test, leaving Jhye Richardson out of the side alongside Usman Khawaja.

It had originally been thought that Khawaja could play as either an opener or number five, but he missed out to both Marcus Harris and Travis Head.

Richardson has been in fine form during the Sheffield Shield, but the selectors went for the status quo by picking Mitchell Starc to partner Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in the side.

The rest of the side is incredibly settled, although Cummins' first Test as captain could be intriguing.

England (likely)
1. Rory Burns
2. Zak Crawley
3. Dawid Malan
4. Joe Root (c)
5. Ollie Pope
6. Ben Stokes
7. Jos Buttler (wk)
8. Chris Woakes
9. Ollie Robinson
10. Mark Wood
11. Stuart Broad

While some consideration may be given to bowling first by English skipper Joe Root if he wins the toss, it's highly unlikely given the English are set to run with four pace bowlers.

James Anderson has pulled out with a calf injury, but they are set to run with Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood instead, leaving Jack Leach out of the side.

The only question in the batting order is whether Jonny Bairstow can force his way into the side over one of the middle order batsmen, but it would be expected that won't be the case.

Ben Stokes' unexpected return is a major boost for England however, and the all-rounder found form with the ball in England's only day of play against the England Lions in their second tour match as they battled the rain.

The history

Ashes series: Played 71, Australia 33, England 32, drawn 6
Ashes Tests: Played 335, Australia 136, England 108, drawn 91
Australia vs England at the Gabba: Played 21, Australia 12, England 4, drawn 5

The keys to victory


The top order firing
Austrlaia's top order must score runs. It's as simple as that.

While Marcus Harris's spot was up for debate, the other trio are experienced cricketers who have become focal points of Australia's batting line-up.

David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith simply must get the Ashes series off to a positive start and build momentum against England's bowlers.

The bulk of the scoring simply can't be left to Travis Head, Cameron Green and Alex Carey, who will be followed by the bowlers.

In bad news for England though, the trio average 61, 60, and 99 at the Gabba respectively, with Warner and Smith both making a century once in every four innings at the ground, while Labuschagne has two in four innings.

Mitchell Starc's bowling
While ordinarily Nathan Lyon's place would be under fire here too, spinners don't appear as if they'll have all that big of a role to play at the Gabba.

In fact, it looks as if England will go into the Test without a spinner - period.

That means that while Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are likely to put up the usual production, Starc's role as the enforcer must be done efficiently.

Starc has been under the pump for his perceived lack of good bowling, and while the Gabba hasn't been his best ground, a poor performance here could see him dumped for the second Test.

But not only that, a poor performance will let the pressure off England's batting line up, which is already under the gun, and could set the tone for the entire series.


Joe Root going big
It goes without saying just how important Root is to England's chances in this Ashes series.

His nearly 1500 runs for the calendar year in just 12 Tests has him on track to break all sorts of record, but the ultimate test is to play in Australia.

And he must do it well. This series could be the lasting legacy of his entire career, and his tenure as captain of the England cricket team.

Simply put, England barely have enough runs in them to be competitive with Root batting well. If he fails even once in this first Test, it'll be curtains.

Rory Burns blunting the new ball
As much as it could be important to talk about England's bowling attack, they are going to run with four quicks who all have the ability to get it right.

But even if they do get it right, it will be exactly zero use unless Joe Root can enter the game in a circumstance where the pressure isn't on, and unless he can find a supporting cast to provide plenty of runs.

That supporting cast needs to be led by Rory Burns.

He scored some runs against the England Lions on the opening day of the tour, but his style is exactly what England need - someone to blunt the new ball and the normal early enthusiasm that will come from a bowling and fielding line up.

Burns' role is critical. He simply must be there and bat out the first session of England's innings for his team to have a fighting chance.

England v England Lions - Tour Match: Day 1


Australia are so hard to beat at home. England have won just four Tests in their history at the Gabba, and it's hard to see that changing here.

The only real question for the Aussies is whether the players who haven't had a red ball game in 12 months manage to perform to an acceptable standard, but England's Test form hasn't been good enough at home, let alone on the road.

That won't change here, and they would need something of a Joe Root miracle to be competitive, let alone take the win at a ground they simply hate.

Australia to take an early lead with a commanding win.

Key information

Dates: Wednesday, December 8 - Sunday, December 12
Start time: 11am (AEDT) - 10am (local)
Session times: First session: 11am - 1pm, Second Session: 1:40pm - 3:40pm, Third Session, 4pm - 6pm (times AEDT)
Venue: The Gabba, Brisbane
Umpires: On-field: Paul Reiffel and Rod Tucker, Third Umpire: Paul Wilson, Reserve Umpire: Sam Nogajski, Match Referee: David Boon