Edgbaston, Birmingham - England couldn't have asked for a better venue to begin their Ashes campaign against Australia, considering the latter's travails at this particular ground.
It was in July 2001 when Shane Warne bagged an eight-wicket haul here and combined with three centuries from the Australian middle order comprising of Steve Waugh, Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist, set up an emphatic innings victory for their side. But what has followed after that is a winless streak for Australia in 15 games across the three formats of the game - for 18 years.
Among those 15 matches include two losses and a draw in Ashes Tests as well as their latest loss which came in the 2019 World Cup semifinal. England, on the other hand, have enjoyed playing at Edgbaston, having won 28 of the 51 Test matches they have played here - losing only eight games, with only one Test defeat here after that game against Australia in 2001.
While the odds are stacked against the Tim Paine-led side heading into the opening match of the 2019 Ashes, the Australia skipper feels the numbers are irrelevant to him and his team as long as they stick to their plans and execute them well.
"Regardless of where it is, obviously we want to get off to a good start in the Ashes," Paine said on Wednesday (July 31). "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."
Meanwhile, Paine was keeping his cards close to his chest as far as the playing eleven was concerned but did add that Australia would not burden the trio of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood like they have over the years.
"We're going to pick the team we think is going to win each Test match given the conditions we get when we arrive at those venues. And the bowlers are across that. "I think that's a great thing for our team - to have a really strong mix of fast bowlers who can all play in different conditions. But as we've said to the fast bowlers, it's actually a great thing for them as well because we can now prolong their careers for a few years. The last two or three years, we've been way too reliant on Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood - they've played a lot of Tests and subsequently picked up lots of niggly injuries along the way.
"It's a positive for all those guys. Another one is Peter Siddle, he can get another 12 months of Test cricket if we keep picking guys for the conditions. That's the way we've sold it to them. It's a great thing for the team but it's also a great thing for them individually," added Paine.
With the return of James Pattinson, who's one among six front-line pace options available for Australia, it might come down to a toss-up between him and Mitchell Starc, with both of them - express pace options - bringing similar skills to the table. Paine neither confirmed nor denied that both will be part of the playing eleven for the opening Test, but did mention that if the conditions dictate so, both stand a chance of making the cut.
"At the moment, we probably are looking at them in a similar role and we want to make sure we get that combination right and the bowlers we pick are complementing each other. If conditions are right for both of those two to play together, they certainly will. It's not something we've said, 'we're only playing him (or) we're only playing him'. We're just making sure we get the right combination and have all bases covered," Paine said.
Speaking about the conditions and what to expect from the pitch at Edgbaston, Paine said it 'looked a bit different' to what he expected. "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."