Countdown to the Ashes

England, captained by Essex star Alastair Cook, are putting the finishing touches to their preparations for the defence of the Ashes which start in Australia early tomorrow morning.

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England should not be 'intimidated' by Brisbane venue

England have no reason to feel intimidated by the Brisbane venue for the first Ashes test, according to captain Alastair Cook.

England are bidding to win at the Brisbane Cricket Ground - known as the "Gabba" - for the first time in 25 years.

Cook said the experience of his side would help break that unwanted record:

"A lot of players in this squad were here in 2010/11 - we've all got experience of winning in Australia.

"We're trying to use that to the best of our ability, and we know how important this game was last time for setting up the series. We certainly don't fear anyone."

Read: Kevin Pietersen: I'm confident not arrogant

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Cook ready to lead England Ashes defence

Alastair Cook takes some water on board alongside Graeme Swann during a recent nets session.
Alastair Cook takes some water on board alongside Graeme Swann during a recent nets session. Credit: PA

The wait is almost over for the start of the Ashes series in Australia.

England will be hoping to retain the urn under the captaincy of Essex star Alastair Cook.

The first days's play gets underway overnight in Brisbane.