Pitch battle: Paine surprised by Edgbaston surface
Australia’s captain and coach discuss the centre wicket in Birmingham as the tourists look to end their 17-year drought at Edgbaston
Sam Ferris in Birmingham
31 July 2019, 05:00 PM AEST
The Edgbaston pitch for the first Test has left Australia captain Tim Paine stumped less than two days out from the Ashes series opener.
Australia had a good look at the pitch on Monday as it baked under brilliant sunshine, but Tuesday was a different story as a bleak forecast and heavy rain forced the wicket square to be covered for the entire day.
But when Paine did get a look at the surface, which is adjacent to venue's dead-centre pitch that was used for the recent World Cup semi-final between the Ashes rivals, the skipper was left surprised.
"The pitch looked a bit different," Paine said on Tuesday in Birmingham. "I must admit I was expecting a bit of a green top – it’s certainly a different colour than I expected but there is a thick covering of grass on it.
"Given there’s been a lot of rain, and the overcast (skies) here, I think the Dukes ball is going to swing around and it looks like, if anything, there might be a bit more pace in it than I was expecting, which again might suit us."
Paine and coach Justin Langer have usually been on the same page as captain and coach, but on this occasion the pair differ in what they are anticipating for the Birmingham pitch.
Langer said it reminded him of the World Cup semi-final pitch, on which his side was reduced to 3-15 after electing to bat.
But what is different to the pitch for the first Test and that of the semi-final on July 11 is the colour of the grass. And despite the heavy rainfall on Tuesday with more showers forecast for match eve, Langer cannot see the pitch getting any greener.
"The wicket doesn't surprise me, that's what I was expecting here," he said on Monday.
"The grass is so brown, there's no green grass on it, and it's so hard – it's rock hard – and quite dry underneath.
"I'm not a horticulturalist but I honestly can't see how it's going to green up."
The pitch is just one challenge standing in front, or beneath, the Australians as they aim to reverse a horror record at Edgbaston.
Australia have not won at the venue since their innings-and-118-run thumping in the second Ashes Test of 2001, the same year the visitors last won the Ashes in England.
In the 18 years that have passed since that distant victory, Australia have played in 10 completed matches across all formats in Birmingham, losing nine and drawing once, a rain-affected match during the 2009 Ashes.
While Australia have struggled at Edgbaston, England have won their past 11 matches in all formats stretching back to 2014 and have not been beaten in a Test there since July 2008, against South Africa nine Tests ago.
England's imperious record at the ground doesn’t bother Paine, who says the venue, whether it be Lord's, Leeds or a lunar satellite orbiting the Earth, is inconsequential.
"Regardless of where it is, obviously we want to get off to a good start in the Ashes," Paine said.
"It’s really important that you get some momentum early in a big series like this.
"We haven’t spoken about whether Edgbaston is a fortress for them, because that’s irrelevant.
"It’s about being clear on what we want to do, both individually and as a team.
"If we can be really clear, come out and execute well, it doesn’t matter if we play at Edgbaston or on the moon, we think our best cricket is good enough."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval