The Ashes: First Test Review

By Justin Davies@DargonPunk12 )

Ashes - First  Test

Has everyone recovered yet?

Five days of late nights and coffee laden mornings for Australia ended in heartbreak with Australia falling 14 runs short of England’s target of 311 to win after checking with a DRS system. Those two lines though don’t convey how tight, tense and emotionally draining the five days were.

The drama started on the first day, in the Trentbridge sunshine Alastair Cook elected to bat testing out an Australian attack that was packed with pace but were erratic in their lines. James Pattinson struck first removing captain Cook but it was Peter Siddle who has been the saviour for the Australian side in recent years.

He kept a full length that profited in uprooting (sorry had to) England’s most important batsmen in Pietersen and Trott while remaining economical amongst the erratic lines of his fellow fast bowlers. Australia had shown that they weren’t going to lie down at least on the bowling and fielding side of matters.

They still had to bat which had been the Achilles heel in recent years. Once again the fragile top order reared it’s head after a promising start, Shane Watson and Ed Cowan departed in succession from Steven Finn with Cowan going after a daft shot on his first delivery. Finn was only the warm up act though, as James Anderson doing his impression of a puppeteer having the ball on a string in his five-for including a jaffer delivery reserved for Michael Clarke which left the Australian captain bewildered and departing on a duck.

Australia had once again had shown why many had tipped England to win the series in a canter being left on 9-117 early on day two with only Steve Smith and Chris Rogers showing some grit and determination in preserving their wickets. This was until Ashton Agar stepped up.

The Melbourne born leg spinner wasn’t named in the initial Australian squad and was a shock selection over Nathan Lyon sending the social media into a buzz. Smiling as he took guard, Agar and Hughes grafted the early portion of the partnership but as the runs flowed, so did the confidence from the Australian support with both passing 50 showing no signs of stopping. The signature shot lifting Graeme Swan over mid-off for six!

He roared into the 90s, breaking records with each run while Phil Hughes, a maligned figure in cricketing circles recently compiled a tough 81* to march Australia over England’s total and a 65 run lead. The main story was Agar who fell two runs short of the century after holing out to Swann in the deep, he didn’t bow his head in disgrace, he walked off head held high, a smile plastered on his face to applause from everyone in Trentbridge and watching at home.

England were stung from the young leggie’s innings and were reeling at 2 for 11 early after Cook and Trott were dismissed but they dug in to prevent a repeat of the first innings. Cook and Pietersen compiled a hearty 100 run partnership before Agar once again stood up, removing Pietersen earning his first test wicket. In their absence though, Ian Bell worked his way along to 109 as his Bairstow and Prior fell with Stuart Broad providing a steady anchor to get the right hander to the milestone which passing one himself being the fifty.

Broad’s dismissal garnered more scorn from the southern end of the hemisphere as he didn’t walk after nicking Agar to slip. I won’t get into the semantics of walking but this test match had several peculiar decisions for both sides although these weren’t the main reasons that England won the match. Australia’s ill use of reviews and fragile top order cost them the contest.

After Bell and Broad departed, England were quickly finished off for 375 with a huge lead of 311 that if successfully chased would be the largest fourth innings chase at Trentbridge. Australia started in brisk fashion, Watson looking ominous in taking bowlers to all parts but it ended in predictable fashion out for 46, lbw while wasting a review. The rest of the batsmen inched the total to 161 over halfway to the total before they fell into disarray again. Clarke, Smith and Hughes falling in quick succession leaving Australia 6/176 at the end of day four, requiring 135 on the final day.

It seemed the final day would be a fait accompli for the English side to mop up the Australian tail and move 1-0 up in the series. Australia provided fuel for this fire as after moving past 200 with the first innings hero, Ashton Agar falling for 14. Starc and Siddle followed as the English crowd grew to a fever pitch in anticipation of the final denouement.

No one told Brad Haddin and James Pattinson though, the two fought and battled their way through the opening session, taking calculated risks in chipping away at the total. The fervent support had quietened in the stands but grew louder back home in Australia especially when Steven Finn was taken for 15 in an over. Besides James Anderson, the English bowlers had no luck and not even the stall tactics from Stuart Broad in the final over before lunch could quell the momentum Australia built.

It came down to this – after lunch either Haddin and Pattinson would get the twenty runs still required or England would get the final wicket. England predictably turned to their strike bowler, James Anderson who after two warm up overs produced the ball that feathered against Haddin’s bat and into the waiting gloves of Matt Prior but no movement from Alem Dar.

England reviewed and upon further inspection, Haddin got the slightest touch confirmed by hot spot and snicko (eventually) to get Dar to lift that finger. This started the celebrations on field and in the stands but the series has only begun.

Get your sleep Australia, it is back on Thursday night and I love it.

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