England's top order
Alastair Cook (27.70), Joe Root (37.66) and Jonathan Trott (29.30) were without doubt England's weak link in the summer. But the top order sees a revamp ahead of the series, with Michael Carberry set for his second debut, as it were, in the toughest cricket environment known to an English player. If the English bowlers' taming of the kookaburra ball was impressive in 2010/11, the license handed to them by four scores in excess of 500 runs in the series, with Cook in particular cashing in, was a dream. Brisbane will likely provide a similarly inviting track for Carberry to bed in.
Injury concerns on both sides
In many ways 2013/14 is threatening to start in much the same way 2006/07 did for England, with injuries dominating the lead-up to the series. Captain Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior all start the series with concerns over their fitness, and having played all five tests in the summer, the trio will require constant attention. The same can also be said of the hosts. Shane Watson is not expected to bowl due to a hamstring complaint, Michael Clarke's back issues persist while the fitness Ryan Harris, who played four tests in England and begins this series seemingly fully fit, lies permanently on a precipice. Whichever team has taken the fewest gambles with fitness will surely succeed.
Michael Clarke's Ashes Record
Australia's signs of improvement during the tour of England owed much to Clarke's diverse style of captaincy. Without a test win since January however, converting improvement in all areas to wins is an entirely different matter and in tests, particularly, against England, Clarke's challenge is threatening to become psychological. The 32 year old has been part of just seven test wins against England in 25 matches, with four series defeats. His record reads P 25 W 7 D 8 L 10. You feel he must get the monkey off his back at the Gabba.
Australia's treatment of England's third seamer
In Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin England have three adequate candidates for the third bowling spot in Brisbane. The former pair enjoyed huge success in Australia three years ago, and in the case of Tremlett the hosts are particularly wary of him on hard pitches. On home soil, Australia chose an attack-minded approach against the third seamer, with Finn hit out of the series and Chris Woakes perhaps out of international test cricket altogether. With James Anderson and Stuart Broad naturally considered the major threats, Australia's treatment of the final seamer will be significant particularly with Watson and David Warner not known for holding back at the top.
Continuity of selection
Despite being defeated 3-0 and failing to come close to winning a test, Australia have made just a handful of changes to their squad which drew at the Oval, for the first test. Only Mitchell Starc misses out with a back injury, while Mitchell Johnson, a veteran of two previous series, and George Bailey are the new faces. England meanwhile, have opted for change. Jonny Bairstow will be replaced by Joe Root at six, and Carberry will open alongside Cook. While Andy Flower has tinkered, Darren Lehmann has gone with continuity. One will be made to look foolish.