BRISBANE: Australia powered to a 10-wicket victory over England in the opening Test in Brisbane to seize the early Ashes series momentum.
Steve Smith’s team emerged from an attritional battle over the first three days to dominate the closing days of the Test.
Here AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the series opener:
– Captain Smith in class of his own –
Steve Smith underlined his status as Test cricket’s premier batsman with a herculean unbeaten 141 crafted over eight-and-a-half hours to give Australia a crucial narrow first innings lead. It was an uncharacteristically restrained captain’s knock, overcoming England’s specially-researched fielding plans to claim his 21st century in his 57th Test. Smith’s batting average as captain has climbed to 72.46 as opposed to his career average of 61.23, placing him second only to the great Don Bradman in Australian cricket. Along with four catches, he was the stand-out man-of-the-match.
– Marsh, Paine justify selection –
Australia’s team selection was dubbed “confused” by leg-spin great Shane Warne. But the contentious inclusion of experienced batsman Shaun Marsh, wicketkeeper Tim Paine, and debutant opener Cameron Bancroft were all justified. Marsh, on his eighth return to the Test side, compiled a vital 51 to help put on 99 runs with Smith at a key stage in Australia’s first innings, while Paine bounced back from a dropped catch to produce a quick stumping of Moeen Ali to break up a threatening second innings partnership with Jonny Bairstow. Bancroft recovered from scoring just five in the first innings to hit the winning runs in an unbeaten 82.
– England’s long tail worry –
England’s normal lower batting order strength became their weakness at the Gabba, with failures in both innings. The tourists lost six for 56 in the first dig and six for 82 at the second time at bat. The tourists keenly missed the absence of star all-rounder Ben Stokes, who bats at six, pushing Bairstow to seven and Moeen Ali to eight. Mitchell Starc took four of his six wickets among the tail which looms as a problem area for the tourists. By comparison, the Australians added 252 runs for their last six wickets in the first innings.
– Root’s lbw problems resurface –
Joe Root was out twice leg before wicket, making it 18 times in 61 Tests, four more than Steve Smith over a similar amount of Tests. Root is England’s big batting hope in the series, but could not extend his 51 in the second innings to the big hundred the tourists were desperately seeking to put pressure on the Australians. Root only averaged 27.42 from eight innings on England’s last tour to Australia four years ago.
– ‘GOAT’ Lyon invaluable –
Nathan Lyon made headlines before the Test with his “ending English careers” taunt, but he backed up the talk with his deeds at the Gabba. Australia’s all-time leading wicket-taking off-spinner captured five scalps and his direct throw to run out first innings top scorer James Vince was a big moment in the match. He also hung around to score nine in a handy 30-run last wicket partnership with Steve Smith as Australia took a slim first innings lead. The man dubbed “GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time) remains a crucial member of the Australian Test side.