Stokes struggles, Root s bad call: What we learned from first Ashes Test
December 11, 2021 07:43 PM
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:
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.
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."
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.