England vs Australia Ashes 1st Test

Australia wrapped up an enthralling 2nd test early on the 5th day, eventually winning by 120 runs. Mitchell Starc quickly wrapped up the tail ending the visitor’s dogged fight back after Hazlewood and Lyon took the crucial wickets of Joe Root and Moeen Ali respectively very early in the day’s play.

No matter which team came out on top, the game will be remembered by a crucial error by the losing team’s captain.

If England managed to pull off an unlikely victory, Steve Smith would be crucified by Australian media and the public alike for his decision to not enforce the follow-on after bowling England out just after dinner on the 3rd day. Many people in the media have given their opinion on this decision for both sides but here are my 2 cents.

It is valid to say that the bowlers needed a rest at that stage of the game. However, it was night time and the usual stresses put on fast bowlers by a baking hot Australian sun wasn’t there. The pink ball had just started swinging, and the England batsmen looked very low on confidence. Yes, the Australian fast bowlers are all injury prone, but I would have enforced the follow-on. Had Smith done so, it was quite likely that Australia would have won by more than an innings.

As it stands, however, the Australian top order batsmen were put under an immense amount of pressure by a brilliant and re-invigorated Jimmy Anderson who had the ball hooping around like it was an overcast and windy day at Trent Bridge.

Fortunately for Smith and Coach Lehmann, the Australian bowlers dug themselves and gave Australia a 2-0 lead heading into the slaughterhouse that is the WACA.

Unfortunately for England, Joe Root’s Decision to bowl on the first day after winning the toss became a meme within hours. By the morning of day 2,  I had friends whom I thought hated cricket approach me and make jokes about Joe Root batting first on the Adelaide Oval.

In Australia, the Adelaide Oval has always been known as a batsmen’s paradise. Digging deep into the statistics, you will find that nearly all Australian batsmen who have played a reasonable amount of tests have a significantly higher average at the Adelaide oval than any other ground in the world. Root disregarded this fact and made a decision based on the weather that was looking similar to that of England, but seriously? This is Adelaide, not old Trafford or Cardiff. Joe, pull your head in, this loss is on you and this decision.

England showed enough fight and quality cricket to suggest they would have been more than competitive had they decided to bat first. Even though he didn’t put a whole lot of runs on the board, Alastair Cook looked a lot better and could have benefitted from batting first without pressure. Likewise, James Vince and Dawid Malan have looked a lot better when England bat first and could have thrived in these conditions.

The way England bowled and fielded on the first morning suggests that nobody but Root actually agreed with his decision. No intensity and very little quality. They were quite fortunate that they didn’t find themselves even further behind the 8-Ball when it was their time to occupy the crease.

Is it time for us the accept the Australian Selectors got it right?

When the Australian squad was announced, I sent an angry text message to my father claiming that I hoped Shaun Marsh would get bowled out for a pair by swinging Jimmy in the first test. Obviously, I was angry and didn’t really mean it. But now I want to formally apologise to Shaun Marsh and say that he now has my full support and respect. His 126* in the first innings was one of the most elegant displays of batting I have seen in a long time.

Marsh was gritty, determined and more composed than he has ever been and was rightfully handed the man of the match. He hit a 6 back over Stuart Broad’s head that for an Australian, was one of the most satisfying things I have ever seen on a cricket pitch. Well done Shaun, you have earned many new fans. Likewise, Tim Paine kept very tidily and hit a compelling half-century in the first innings. The Australian Public will be feasting on Humble Pie tonight, and I doubt any of us will complain.

James AndersonJames Anderson

Can we say that this was James Anderson’s best performance in Australia? A lot has been made of his record in away tests (especially in Australia) being sub-par, but in this Test, he proved beyond any doubt that he is one of the finest swing bowlers of all time. He took 5/43 in the 2nd innings and had the Australian top order in absolute disarray at their favourite venue with his swing bowling.

Well done Jimmy, it’s for the good of cricket that you continue to produce these performances for as long as possible, may you take 600 test wickets.

As 2nd Ashes tests go, this will join a long line of enthralling 2nd tests like amazing Adelaide in 2006 and perhaps the best test match of all time in the 2005 series where Australia fell just 2 runs short. This series so far has been a dream for the test cricket purist. Low run rates, quality bowling and struggling batsmen has made for more astute Test Cricket that is both severely tiring and impressively satisfying to watch.

It’s a mark of good test cricket when I start to lose sleep over it even when my team is on top. We will check in again before the 3rd test, but all I want to say for now is, well done to both sides for producing Test Cricket of the highest quality.

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