Will history repeat at the Ashes Test?

CRICKET: When Sophia Gardens in Cardiff hosted its first Test match in 2009, Australia and England scored 1361 runs between them in a contest that ended in a dramatic draw.

England not surprisingly batted first on a pitch that looked as though it would offer little for the bowlers, going on to make a respectable 435 against the Aussie attack made up of Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Hauritz.

The Aussie batsmen then feasted on the flat deck, four players - Simon Katich (122), Ricky Ponting (150), Marcus North (125 not out) and Brad Haddin (121) - scoring centuries on the way to a declaration at 6-674.

England was in trouble in its second dig, but James Anderson and Monty Panesar held on for almost 12 overs to save the match that saw just 25 wickets fall in five days.

Someone who knows what is required for England to regain the Ashes is former champion all-rounder Sir Ian Botham, and he said serving up flat tracks like the one at Cardiff in 2009 would be a disaster.

"We don't want flat wickets. That's playing right into Australia's hands," Botham said ahead of the first Test which will start at Sophia Gardens tomorrow.

"If you do, we might as well send the Ashes back now because that'll play right into Australia's hands."

Johnson will again lead the Aussie attack in Cardiff, but will be backed up by Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

While rain was forecast in the Welsh capital early in the week, the weather was expected to clear in time for the opening session.

Curator Keith Exton said he didn't think the pitch would provide much turn for the slow bowlers, but he hoped it would have "a little more pace" than the one back in 2009.

Regardless, the form of Hazlewood and Starc in the World Cup and then the series in the West Indies has suggested they would make life difficult for the English batsmen in any conditions.

Starc was the star of Australia's World Cup win, named player of the tournament after taking 22 wickets at an implausible average of 10.18, and picked up 10 wickets in the two-Test series in the West Indies.

Hazlewood, who only made his Test debut last December, was the player of the series in the West Indies with 12 wickets. He plans to stick to the formula that has earned him a spot for the first Test.

"It's pretty simple," he said. "Hit that spot the batsman doesn't want, swing it a bit each way and with the odd bouncer.

"It's a simple plan. It's about doing it over and over again."



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