Ruthless Australia crush England in first Ashes Test

By: AFP
Published: 08:43 AM, 11 Dec, 2021
Ruthless Australia crush England in first Ashes Test
Caption: Australia's Marnus Labuschagne (L) and teammate Marcus Harris celebrate after Australia won the first Ashes cricket Test match against England on day four at the Gabba in Brisbane.–AFP
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A ruthless Australia crushed England by nine wickets to win the first Ashes Test in style just after lunch on day four at the Gabba on Saturday.

Needing just 20 runs after bowling England out for 297 in their second innings -- with Nathan Lyon taking his 400th Test scalp -- Australia cruised to the target in 5.1 overs when Marcus Harris square-drove Mark Wood for a boundary.

The only blemish was the wicket of makeshift opener Alex Carey, who was out for nine, caught behind off the bowling of Ollie Robinson.

Regular opener David Warner was unable to bat due to a rib injury he suffered when he was twice hit by Wood in the first innings. 

Australia will carry a 1-0 lead in the five-match series into the second Test, which starts in Adelaide on Thursday.

"A lot of things did go right," said Pat Cummins, making his debut as Australia Test skipper.

"So someone was smiling on me. I'm really proud of everyone, I thought it was a really complete performance."

England will need to regroup after being dismantled with both bat and ball at the Gabba.

After being bowled out for 147 in the first innings, England then struggled to make any impression with the ball, with player of the match Travis Head (152), Warner (94) and Marnus Labuschagne (74) all punishing the English attack, particularly left-arm spinner Jack Leach.

The visitors did fight back on the third day with a defiant partnership between captain Joe Root and Dawid Malan, but once they both fell early on Saturday, English resistance crumbled.

"Frustration, we worked really hard to get ourselves back into the game last night and we knew how important this first session was," said Root.

"If we had got through to the new ball unscathed and carried that partnership forward we would have given ourselves a really good opportunity to go in and post a total that would have kept us in the game.

"It's a shame we couldn’t quite get through that initial phase (today) because it could have been very different."

- England collapse again -

After starting the morning in a reasonable position at 220-2, the English lost eight for 77 in the extended first session.

England's batting issues at the Gabba were mirrored in the broadcast compound, where a power failure resulted in the worldwide television feed going down for 45 minutes.

No wickets fell during this period but when the broadcast problems were finally resolved, Lyon struck.

The 34-year-old off-spinner had looked ineffectual on Friday as he searched for his milestone 400th wicket.

But he finally broke through when Malan got an inside edge onto his pad and the ball popped up to Labuschagne at silly mid-off, sparking huge celebrations around the Gabba. Malan made 82.

Lyon, in his 101st Test, became just the 16th player worldwide to achieve the feat of 400 Test wickets, and only the third Australian after Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

England were rocked in the next over when Root, on 89, wafted at a ball outside off stump from Cameron Green and got a thin edge to wicketkeeper Carey, leaving England 229-4 and Root still searching for his first Test century in Australia.

Lyon then struck again, getting a ball to bite and leap off the Gabba pitch and take the thick edge of Ollie Pope's bat, Steve Smith taking a comfortable catch at slip. 

Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler tried to steady the ship as Australia took the new ball, but Cummins brought himself on and had immediate success.

Bowling with real pace and aggression, Cummins squared Stokes up with a brute of a ball that took the outside edge and flew to Green in the gully, leaving England 266-6.

Two runs later, Josh Hazlewood, who was under an injury cloud after not bowling after tea on Friday, drew a faint edge from Buttler to leave England staggering. 

Robinson joined Chris Woakes at the crease and the pair put on 18 runs to ensure Australia had to bat again.

But Robinson attempted a reverse sweep off Lyon and spooned a simple catch to Head at backward square leg. 

Lyon took his fourth wicket just before the scheduled lunch break when he bowled Wood, who had attempted an extravagant drive.

With nine wickets down, the umpires called for an extra 30 minutes to be played before lunch and Green wasted no time, snaring Woakes.

It only took 20 minutes after the lunch break for Australia to take the win.

Stokes struggles, Root's bad call

Australia overwhelmed England by nine wickets to win the first Ashes Test at Brisbane on Saturday. AFP Sport looks at what we learned from the opening match in a five-Test clash:

- Tactical blunder - 

England's decision to go into the opening Test without their two greatest wicket-takers proved contentious, and costly.

Fast-bowling veterans Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have an incredible 1,156 Test scalps between them, yet were left out.

Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he was stunned, particularly since Broad removed dangerman David Warner seven times at the last Ashes.

The impressive Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes and ever-dangerous Mark Wood toiled away, but with all-rounder Ben Stokes carrying a knee niggle that limited his contribution, they had to work hard for their wickets.

Left-arm spinner Jack Leach, preferred to Broad, was mercilessly hit out of the attack and ridiculed by the British media, with suggestions he may not play another Ashes Test. Dom Bess is their other spin option.

Broad and Anderson are widely expected to return for the second day-night Test in Adelaide next week, where conditions are set to suit them even more than Brisbane.

- Toss-up -

Winning the toss can be a big bonus, but not when you make the wrong call.

England captain Joe Root's decision to bat first on a greenish Gabba wicket that typically favours bowlers proved disastrous and came in for stinging criticism, with the team skittled for 147 on the first day.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain said it was not entirely Root's fault, with Australian skipper Pat Cummins also saying he would have batted first.

"It was a green pitch and it had been raining, but while everyone focuses on what the pitch is doing on the first morning, as a captain you have to think what the pitch will look like on days three, four and five," Hussain told Sky Sports.

"The humidity, the cracks in the pitch, the fact it tends to get a bit quicker, you have to think ahead.

"(But) obviously 147 all out tells you it was the wrong decision."

- In their Head - 

Australia have struggled to find a permanent number five, but in Travis Head they may have finally got their man.

Head had played 19 Tests going into the Gabba clash, but not since being dropped after the opening two Tests against India about a year ago.

After excelling in the domestic Sheffield Shield, he was given another chance at the expense of incumbent Matthew Wade and veteran Usman Khawaja. Head grabbed the opportunity.

His explosive first-innings 152 -- the third-fastest century in Ashes history -- proved pivotal and ensured he will keep his spot at least for the next few Tests.

"Patty (Cummins) and the coaching staff have been fantastic working over the last six or seven days and how they wanted to see me play and go about it," he said.

"They just wanted me to be myself and play the game how I see it."

- Cummins of age -

Cummins barely put a foot wrong in his first Test as Australian captain after Tim Paine's shock resignation.

Thrown in at the deep end, he lost his first toss but it didn't matter with England choosing to bat and being skittled with a dominant Cummins taking 5-38.

Australia's first fast-bowling captain since 1956 was expressive in the field, directing operations but also leaning on experienced deputy Steve Smith.

"Patty is making the decisions, but we're talking and communicating," Smith said during the match when asked about their leadership dynamic.

"I get a point across and he makes a decision. There's plenty of communication there."

- Stokes struggles -

Star all-rounder Ben Stokes' first game of competitive cricket in almost six months was one to forget.

Australia's tormenter in the last Ashes campaign, he fell for five in the first innings and fared little better in the second, out for 14 with Cummins nabbing him both times.

He injured his knee when chasing a ball to the boundary during Australia's first innings and only got through 12 wicketless overs, whacked for 65 as he struggled with a string of no-balls.

After a long break to deal with injury and mental health issues, his performance underlined the physical and technical challenges posed by such little warm-up cricket, with his preparations also hampered by rain.

Victory gave Australia a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

Scoreboard

England first innings 147 (J. Buttler 39; P. Cummins 5-38)

Australia first innings 425 (Head 152, Warner 94, Labuschagne 74; Robinson 3-58, Wood 3-85)

England second innings 297 (Root 89, Malan 82; Lyon 4-91)

Australia second innings

A. Carey c Buttler b Robinson       9

M. Harris not out                   9

M. Labuschagne not out              0

Extras (2nb)                        2

Total (1 wicket; 5.1 overs)        20

Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Carey)

Did not bat: S. Smith, T. Head, D. Warner, C. Green, P. Cummins, M. Starc, N. Lyon, J. Hazlewood

Bowling

Robinson 3-0-13-1 (2nb), Woakes 2-0-3-0, Wood 0.1-0-4-0

Toss: England

Result: Australia won by nine wickets

Player of the match: Travis Head

Umpires: Paul Reiffel (AUS), Rod Tucker (AUS)

TV Umpire: Paul Wilson (AUS)

Match Referee: David Boon (AUS)

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.