Cummins warns Australia 'tough to beat' as England lose Anderson for Ashes opener

England head into first Ashes Test in Brisbane without bowling spearhead

England's James Anderson during a nets session at The Gabba, Brisbane on December 7, 2021. PA

Pat Cummins has warned that his Australian team that he says contains some of "the all-time greats" will be tough to beat as England's task was made harder with the news that Jimmy Anderson is set to miss the first Test.

The home team head into the Ashes opener in Brisbane on Wednesday defending the hallowed urn and with their arch-rivals having a dismal record in Australia, losing nine of their last 10 Tests.

Reports Tuesday said that Anderson - Test cricket's most prolific fast bowler - is to be rested for the match at the Gabba, with Ollie Pope preferred to Jonny Bairstow in the 12-man squad.

England have yet to confirm the 39-year-old Anderson's absence, but Cummins seemed sure.

"He's obviously a great player and it's a shame that he won't be out there tomorrow, but it doesn't change what we are going to do," said the Australian captain, who will be taking charge of his first Test.

Anderson's apparent absence leaves England to choose four bowlers from Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach to play alongside returning all-rounder Ben Stokes.

They were already without pacemen Jofra Archer, who is not on the tour as he recovers from an elbow injury, and Olly Stone who missed out because of back surgery.

The news comes a day after England captain Joe Root refused to unveil his team despite Australia confirming their starting XI at the weekend.

Cummins, who took the reins when Tim Paine quit over a text-messaging scandal, nominated Root, the world's No 1 Test batsman, as the key wicket for Australia.

"He's going to be right up there as the biggest wicket, he's had a really good last 12 months or so, but I wouldn't necessarily say he's going to make it or break it for them," he said.

Australia captain Pat Cummins speaks to media at The Gabba. Getty Images

Cummins did suggest England could struggle against an Australian side that includes superstar batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner and bowling giants Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.

"I look around our team and we've got a pretty special side," he said, although Australia haven't played a Test since January due to Covid.

"We've got some of the greats of all time of Australian cricket in our changing room and when you get most of them clicking we're going to be a pretty tough team to beat."

England haven't won a Test in Brisbane since 1986 and have only done so four times - twice in the 1930s, once against the Kerry Packer-weakened 1978-79 Australians and 35 years ago during Ian Botham's heyday.

But Root insisted the first Test, where showers are forecast, would "not define" their Ashes campaign.

"Avoiding defeat would be a brilliant start to the series, absolutely," he told BBC Sport.

"In many respects we've got nothing to lose coming here for this series.

"Ultimately we've just got to concentrate on what's in front of us right now and starting the Test match well, getting into the series and managing everything else that goes around an Ashes first morning and taking the game from there."

Updated: December 7th 2021, 7:00 AM