Barmy Army supporters are ready for today's first Ashes test at Edgbaston. Photo: Action Images / Jason O'Brien
Barmy Army supporters are ready for today's first Ashes test at Edgbaston. Photo: Action Images / Jason O'Brien
England's Joe Root and Australia's Tim Paine with the ashes. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers
England's Joe Root and Australia's Tim Paine with the ashes. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers

EDGBASTON – If one English ground was designed to test the backbone of the Australian cricket team it is “fortress Edgbaston” where the visitors will be offered a red-hot welcome today.

Raucous Edgbaston is about as far removed from the refined surrounds of Lord’s as it can get - especially the notorious Eric Hollies stand, the spiritual home of England’s vociferous Barmy Army.

Australian batsman David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft will be assured of some “special treatment” as they return to the Test fold after their parts in the sandpaper-gate scandal which resulted in bans.

“The one thing that really stands out for Edgbaston is that it can get very loud, very raucous,” Ian Bell, whose home ground is Edgbaston and who played in seven Ashes series, told the Daily Telegraph.

“Out of all the grounds that we have, Edgbaston can be quite an intimidating atmosphere for away teams. Having spoken to some of the Aussies in the past, that it is the one ground that they seem to cop it a little bit more in terms of abuse from the boundary.

“It makes it very intimidating for them but brilliant for England.”

A general view of Edgbaston during a nets session. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers
A general view of Edgbaston during a nets session. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers

While Edgbaston’s conditions are tailor-made for England’s swing bowlers, the bearpit atmosphere is perhaps just as an important factor why Australia have not won an Ashes Test there since 2001 and why England are unbeaten in their last 11 matches in the leafy part of Birmingham.

Chris Millard, managing director of the Barmy Army, believes they are like a 12th man.

“Anything we can do to help the England team succeed, that’s our duty really,” he said, although he does not condone the ritual booing of Warner and Smith during the World Cup.

“We never try to step over the line,” he said. “We think we can be witty and funny without that. It’s always about supporting the England team and if we can get under the nerves of the Aussies then we sure will.”

England's Joe Root with Australia's Tim Paine at Wednesday's press conference. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers
England's Joe Root with Australia's Tim Paine at Wednesday's press conference. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Former England spinner Graeme Swann believes Warner will not be sledged over the ball-tampering scandal by England’s players.

“Listen to the crowd and the singing which will be aimed at Steve Smith and David Warner, it will be raucous, but actually I predict the players in the middle will barely say a word,” Swann said yesterday. 

Reuters