Victories rarely do come sweeter – Australia after nine tests without a victory secured a 381 run demolition of the English side on pacey ‘Gabba wicket which withstood several bouts of hail and rain over the course of the test match.
The first day of any test series brings a sense of excitement and mystery but when it is an ashes series back in Australia the senses are heightened just a bit more. There is a well worn rule that you always bat first at Brisbane (a rule Nasser Hussain fell foul of in watching Australia pile on runs in the 2002/03 series)
So there was a sense of relief when Clarke called correctly and elected to bat – not only because of the Hussain gaff but also because Australia needed some early runs to help dispel some of the doubts following their numerous collapses in the winter over in England. The home side made a steady start once again before those doubts crept in.
Stuart Broad who was the centrepiece of a black-out campaign by the Courier Mail in Queensland but it was Broad who turned off the lights on Australia’s top order. He bowled with a fervent rhythm and pace that surprised the Australian batsmen. Only Brad Haddin, David Warner and Mitchell Johnson provided a resistance against the 26YEMP (Young English Medium Pacer) as they struggled to 295 all out.
It was beginning to sound like the same old story for the Aussies dismissed for a below par scoreline leaving perfect conditions for their opponent to pile on the runs and the pain. For the crowing Barmy Army in the Brisbane sunshine it was looking plausible at 3 for 82 but enter Mitchell Johnson.
Johnson is who an enigmatic or ridiculed figure depending on which side of the hemisphere you reside in but he gave a glimpse of his talent with some help from dodgy English shots to restrict them to 136 all out. Nathan Lyon deserves a mention for the control and bounce he provided to squeeze the runs English were allowed.
The roles reversed, Australia strolled back in with the English pacers not having sufficient rest to recover their pace (only 52 overs) and it showed in their speeds. Australia made them feel every ache and pain through piling on the runs in amassing a monolithic 560 run lead for England to chase down.
To gloss over the Australian second innings would be remiss to mention the two centurions who overcame some demons – both mental and physical to raise the three figures. David Warner was on the outer of the Australian team with his behavourial issues over the last few months but had been plundering run at state level. He continued this glut of run scoring against the burnt out English bowlers also showing some patience waiting for the bad delivery.
For Michael Clarke, he was bounced out by the English in the first innings for a solitary run and was in line for more of the same punishment. Stuart Broad was immediately brought on, field set but Clarke rose to the challenge, slamming the ball to the boundary, as he would throughout his innings to add another century in his achievements including going past 1000 runs at the ‘GABBA.
The task was set for the tourists, 560 runs to win and two days to get them but more likely was hoping for the rain to intervene to deny Australia. Thunder and lightning did descent on the ‘GABBA in two forms – the weather and Mitchell Johnson.
Johnson who might have had bohemian rhapsody bouncing his head during his furious speed during this particular spell had the English very, very frightening to me. His pace putting England on the back foot not just in this test also the series, as Australia regained that killer instinct. They bounced out some capable English batsmen and getting pantomime villain Stuart Broad out with a rip snorter of a delivery and Michael Clarke endeared himself to the country telling James Anderson to face up to Mitchell “Bohemian Rhapsody” Johnson.
While I singled out Johnson – much like the first innings, Nathan Lyon chipped in with some vital wickets to help the victory along including the English captain, Alastair Cook two balls after a rain delay. England once again have come from the ‘GABBA empty with Australian tails high in the air – Bring on Adelaide.