Ashes: England 'ready to go' against Australia - Joe Root

Australia captain Steve Smith and England skipper Joe Root
The first Ashes Test will be Steve Smith and Joe Root's first meeting as captains
Australia v England, first Ashes Test
Date: 23-27 November Time: 00:00 GMT Venue: Gabba, Brisbane
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and the BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app. Full coverage

Captain Joe Root says England are "ready to go" in their defence of the Ashes, which begins in Brisbane at 00:00 GMT on Thursday.

England won the previous series 3-2 on home soil, but were whitewashed 5-0 on their most recent trip down under in 2013-14.

"Even when we have been playing football in the warm-up, the intensity has stepped up," Root told BBC Sport.

"We're in a really good place. We just want to get out there now."

England need only draw the five-match series to retain the Ashes.

Australia have not lost a Test at Brisbane's Gabba for 29 years and England have not won there since 1986.

The second match in Adelaide, the first men's day-night Ashes Test, is followed by games in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

How are England shaping up?

On Wednesday, England announced that pace bowler Jake Ball will take the final place in their team. He is one of six players in the XI who have not played an Ashes Test in Australia.

Their batting is unproven, with opener Mark Stoneman, number three James Vince and number five Dawid Malan owning only 15 caps between them.

The tourists are without all-rounder Ben Stokes, who was arrested in September on suspicion of actual bodily harm after an incident outside a Bristol nightclub.

The 26-year-old remains in the UK awaiting the outcome of a police investigation and has been told he will not be selected by England until further notice.

"He'll be a big miss, but it's out of our control," said Root. "We have to get on with things. We are more than capable of winning this series."

England drew their opening warm-up match, a two-day game in Perth, then defeated a Cricket Australia XI in Adelaide.

In their final game, they were forced to settle for a draw after taking only one Cricket Australia XI wicket on the final day in Townsville.

England's Mark Stoneman
Mark Stoneman, who will open the batting for England, passed 50 in each of his four innings in the warm-up matches

War of words

Four years ago, England arrived as Ashes holders but were blown away by Australia pace bowler Mitchell Johnson, who took 37 wickets.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann retired during the series, batsman Kevin Pietersen was discarded in the aftermath and coach Andy Flower resigned.

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior and batsman Jonathan Trott barely played for England again.

In the build-up to this series, spinner Nathan Lyon, one of only three current members of the Australia team who played in 2013-14, said he hopes more England careers are ended.

Pace bowler Josh Hazlewood spoke of his desire to open the tourists' "scars".

"We've not got sucked into any of the talk and I'm really proud of the lads for that," said Root. "We have dealt with the external noise exceptionally well."

On Lyon's comments, he added: "That is not how I would want my players to go about things."

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How good are Australia?

Although Johnson has retired, Australia still have a formidable pace attack, with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins capable of bowling in excess of 90mph.

But the home side have similar questions to England over their batting.

The uncapped Cameron Bancroft will open, while Shaun Marsh, who has a modest Test record, has been recalled to bat at six.

Both Marsh and opener David Warner are struggling with injuries, with Glenn Maxwell only added to the squad on Wednesday as cover.

Problems filling the wicketkeeping position have led to a recall for Tim Paine, seven years after he last played a Test.

"I'm confident they will go well," said Australia captain Steve Smith.

"Bancroft and Shaun are in terrific form and Tim has been touted as one of the best keepers in the country for a long period of time.

"We have the squad to give this series a real shake."

Can England retain the Ashes?

Australia will start as favourites - only once since 2001 have a home side lost an Ashes series.

England have won four of the past five Ashes series, but to retain the urn in this series they are going to have to improve on a record of 24 defeats in their past 35 Tests in Australia.

They have won only one series in Australia since 1986-87, a famous victory in 2010-11 when Alastair Cook scored 766 runs.

On that occasion, England drew the first Test at the Gabba, and their chances of retaining the Ashes this time around would be greatly boosted by avoiding defeat in Brisbane.

"We're due to win here," said Root. "Australia have such a good record here, but us going 1-0 up would upset the applecart.

"We're aware of the history, but we can't play this game on what has happened in the past."

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England XI: Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Joe Root (capt), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, James Anderson.

Australia squad: Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc, Glenn Maxwell.

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