Test Match Review, Australia v England 2013/14, First Test, The Gabba – Day One

Ashes

Australia 273/8 (Haddin 78*, Harris 4*, Broad 5-65)

Hello one and all. The following is a report from me, your sleep-deprived man in London.I knew the series would be tough going when my laptop performed an impromptu restart timed exactly so I missed the first over.

The team news was much as expected, with Prior passed fit, Tremlett preferred to Finn and Rankin and Australia showing some rare common sense and selecting Nathan Lyon. Michael Clarke correctly predicted the eventual position of the inevitable specially-minted coin, and by electing to bat immediately went one better than Nasser Hussain. There was a sense that from England’s point of view this wasn’t a bad toss to lose, a sense that only grew stronger as the day wore on.

Teams
Australia:
Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith, George Bailey, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon

England:
Alastair Cook (c), Michael Carberry, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, James Anderson

Clarke: ‘Broad-Ban? If only’
The boos that rang around the Gabba to greet Stuart Broad’s entry into the attack were deafening but harmlessly pantomime in tone, and the theatrical atmosphere only deepened as the first ball was met with a thumping pull shot by Warner, playing Jack to Broad’s giant. Sadly, it is impossible to be so charitable about the desperate, pitiful attempt by the Courier Mail to turn Broad – sorry, ‘the 27-year old English medium pacer’ – into an un-person. Over the past few days they have acheived the seemingly impossible – they have lowered the world’s opinion of the Murdoch tabloids. Even putting Piers Morgan in his place on Twitter couldn’t stem the ridicule that was no more than this sorry excuse for sports reporting deserved. Congratulations, by the way, to whichever bright spark edited the paper’s Wikipedia page (since sadly restored) to make Broad its new editor.

Clarke will doubtless be hoping that the paper, though unsuccessful in its attempt to ‘get into Broad’s head’, has some kind of voodoo powers. Broad has now dismissed the Australian captain eight times in Tests (more good news for England: he is joint top with James Anderson, against whom Clarke’s record is decidely poor), and perhaps even more worryingly from an Australian perspective six of those dismissals have been in his last six Tests (including this one). Clarke’s superb 187 at Old Trafford [link] rather skews the figures. Leaving that knock aside his record against Broad this year is as follows: 79 runs at 15.8, highest score 28. If this trend continues, such is Clarke’s importance to his team (stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before) that Ian Botham’s McGrath-like pre-series prediction of 5-0 might not be too far from the truth.

Good ball, bad shot

Chris Rogers, c Bell b Broad 1, 12-1: A sharp delivery on the perfect line that moved away enough to square up the normall obdurate Rogers. Bell gratefully received the first of his day’s two dollies. Once Broad zeroed in on his ideal length he rarely let it slip for the rest of the day.

Shane Watson, c Swann b Broad 22, 71-2: Dreadful not-really-a-shot-at-all, like he was leading a slip catching drill. His inability to get off strike robbed Australia of whatever momentum Warner had tried to create at the other end, and his dismissal on the verge started the collapse. He was clearly still thinking, ‘As long as I don’t get out LBW it’ll be fine!”, which Broad recognised and exploited by steadily drawing Watson wider and wider. The only justification for starting in such a nervy way is if you go and to get a hundred, but Broad’s skill Watson’s poor judgement and Swann’s safe hands put paid to that idea. Sky managed to enliven a pretty dire dismissal by passively-aggressively assuring everyone that the entirely superfluous debut of the Real-Time Snicko graphic had nothing to do with them.

Michael Clarke, c Bell b Broad 1, 73-3: It must be lovely for Alastair Cook to know that whenever the opposition’s best batsman walks to the crease he has the answer. Clarke’s back is obviously causing him serious difficulty getting out of the way of well-directed bouncers, and here he was utterly immobile and ended up spooning it in the air almost off the back of the bat. By far the easiest catch Bell will ever take at short-leg.

David Warner, c Pietersen b Broad 49, 83-4: There were shades of Virender Sehwag throughout this innings. Hitting the first ball for four, an early jumping uppercut, murderously hard forward defensives and, finally, an indescribably horrendous shot off a long-hop. Opinion was split as to whether this was the right shot played badly or the wrong shot played even worse, but either way he was too early on it and the overall effect proved even uglier than his moustache (don’t get me wrong, Movember’s a fantastic initiative but it’s not a flattering month).

George Bailey, c Cook b Anderson 3, 100-5: A disappointing end to a disappointing first Test innings for a player of obvious character. Anderson, after a pre-lunch mistimed slide that brought back horrible memories of Simon Jones on the same ground in 2002, bowled well all day without ever quite hitting top gear, or indeed the edge of the bat, but this time was different. Bailey looked fidgety throughout his short stay, which epitomised the sense of panic engendered by Watson’s untimely dismissal, and this was an ugly fence at a pretty wide ball. Cook did well to snaffle this one low down.

Steve Smith, c Cook b Tremlett 31, 132-6: Smith had been his usual angular and busy self, and had begun to rebuild somewhat with the nuggety Brad Haddin when Tremlett finally hit his ideal length and produced his trademark disconcerting lift that, even at just over 80mph, proved too hot to handle. This one nearly cut Cook in half, but he summoned the spirit of Jacques Kallis and clung on.

Mitchell Johnson, b Broad 64, 246-7: Johnson had batted so well and so responsibly with Haddin, particularly given the lack of fight shown by most of the top six, that to criticise him too heavily for this booming air-drive seems a trifle harsh. Broad changed it up well here to claim his five-for, pitching it up and swinging it back through the gate that in the spirit of full disclosure I should point out was so wide as to warrant being measured in light-years. But this was a good knock full of solid defensive strokes as well as trademark crisp aerial biffing (Andrew Strauss wasted no time on commentary in pointing out as one sailed over the rope that Johnson has now hit as many Test sixes as the aforementioned Hussain, who must dread having to commentate at the Gabba).

After the umpires inexplicably checked the light with the late afternoon sun blazing and the floodlights merrily wasting electricity…

Peter Siddle, c Cook b Anderson 7, 265-8: Another good low catch from Cook as someone finally managed to play a good enough shot to edge an Anderson pearler. He’ll bowl far worse than this for more wickets. Fairly textbook, good length not allowing the batsman to commit, squared him up and moved away to take the edge.

Thanks to Haddin’s now traditional Gabba heroics, Australia aren’t completely out of this as long as the dogged if limited Harris and Lyon can stick around long enough for them to squeak to 320 or more. Australia have the bowlers to either limit the damage or even cause some of their own depending on the circumstances, assuming of course that the right Mitchell Johnson turns up. If not, it could be a long couple of days for them. Remember, Broad’s not the only Englishman the Courier Mail picked on…

TTFN.

PS – Farewell Sachin Tendulkar, and thank you for everything.

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