Australia are on the brink of winning the first Test of this winter’s Ashes series.
After a lower order collapse in the first innings undone what was a promising start for England, Australia dominated the proceeding two days to put themselves in a seemingly unassailable position.
Their seamers made light work of England’s order in the second innings, before a confident response to the 170-run target, with David Warner (60 not out) and Cameron Bancroft (51 not out), looking sure footed as they ended the day’s play 114-0.
The ‘Baggy Greens’ need only a modest 56 runs from Monday’s play, and will take a 1-0 lead.
A result that will be hard to take for England, who had arrived at Brisbane determined to end Australia’s unbeaten record at the Gabba that goes all the way back to 1988, particularly given a few of the Aussies’ typically contemptuous remarks about their prospects ahead of the series.
Nathan Lyon, the excellent Aussie off-spinner, has already fired the first shot before the coin toss, revealing his hope the series would ‘end the careers’ of some of England’s players.
Lyon cruelly highlighted how the last time the famous Ashes urn was contested on the continent, the crushing whitewash summoned the end for the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann, and Matt Prior – players who had formed the basis for three consecutive series wins for England before 2013.
Meanwhile, the victorious Aussie captain in the infamous sweep Ricky Ponting had already confidently predicted another landslide 4-0 victory for the hosts, intimating England’s only chance of preventing a repeat is the day/night match in Adelaide.
On this evidence, all the sledging doesn’t look unfounded, and with Adelaide less than a week away, the England camp will need to put things right quickly they are to tie the series at the Oval.
Captain Joe Root will need to have a massive hand in any recovery, but may be concerned about his form at the crease, falling cheaply for 15 in his first knock, and failing to convert an excellent start, being dismissed for 51 to practically an identical ball in the second.
It has led to some speculation that Australia’s quicks have worked out England’s number four. Whilst that seems somewhat of an overreaction, the footage is remarkable.
Root got trapped in both innings attempting to ease fast deliveries down leg side. The Yorkshireman usually plays pace excellently; whether short or full, his hitting off the legs leaves seam bowlers wary of offering anything wide across his body.
But, as the video analysis shows, it’s possible the Aussie attack has found a weakness.
Root, on both occasions, appears to misjudge the pace at which the deliveries, pitching outside off, kick up. First off the bowling of Pat Cummings’s on day 1, then Hazlewood, in uncannily similar fashion, in the second innings, with both balls wrapping the pads and deemed to be hitting leg stump.
Based on their buoyant start and ruthless ability to exploit any weaknesses in the opposition, Root can expect more of the same next week, whilst he and England will be hoping for a much-improved outing.
Aside from the troubled preparation, where England lost world class all-rounder Ben Stokes to suspension, and a controversial squad selection including of lot of out of form players, this confidence sapping defeat will compound the view that England’s grip on the Ashes trophy is precarious.
The series is as much about mentality and momentum as anything else; England simply can’t afford to go 2-0 down. The whole order, including Alastair Cook, James Vince, and Jonny Bairstow will feel they have a point to prove with very little time to make it, but it is Root, who Australia had the better of this time around, who will be expected to lead from the front. Over to you Joe.
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