Ashes 2017 | Talking points from Day 1 of the first Test

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Ashes 2017 | Talking points from Day 1 of the first Test

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Faizan Qadiri

11/23/2017

Joe Root won the toss to kick off the 2018 Ashes and opted to bat first on a surface that could have been a tricky one. Despite losing Alastair Cook as early as the third over, James Vince (83) and Mark Stoneman (53) ensured that the visitors finished Day 1 with a commendable 196/4 on the board.

Brief Scores : England 196/4 (James Vince 83, Mark Stoneman 53; Pat Cummins 2/59, Mitchell Starc 1/45) in 80.3 overs.

To bat or not to bat

The Gabba has always been the curtain raiser for Australia’s Test summer and there is a very good reason for that. Australia’s record in Brisbane has been exceptional, they have a winning percentage of an incredible 61.66 there while losing just 13.33% in the 60 matches since 1931. Since 1989, Australia had been unbeaten at the venue winning 21 of the 28 matches at the Gabba. The surface offers good bounce and turn from the outset while holding up nicely for the full five days. Shane Warne claimed 68 of his 319 home wickets at the Gabba. But it’s not just the spinners who have done well at the venue, the pitch offers lateral movement as well when overhead conditions permit. 

However, today, even though Joe Root won the toss and there was definitely some grass on the surface, the English captain wasn’t to be fooled and decided to bat first. It proved to be the right call. The pitch proved to be a slow one with the traditional bounce non-existent – so much so that Mitchell Starc’s bouncers were collected by Tim Paine at his waist. However, former Aussie players have said that as the sun turns up and the pitch dries up completely, the Gabba will be back to its former glory. And they appear to be right as the third session saw the ball carrying better than it had in the entire day until then. All in all, it’s only fair to commend Root’s decision making early in the series and it could prove to be one of the most important ones he makes in the 2018 Ashes.

Aggression without any substance gets you nowhere

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Sledging has been a part of the Aussie game, particularly in the Ashes, for as long as anyone can remember and fans would be naive to think that the Aussies would not carry on their “proud tradition” in the biggest series of them all. As soon as James Vince and Mark Stoneman got into a rhythm, Starc and Pat Cummins started with the “chit-chat”. But it didn’t get them anywhere. The fabled pace attack of the Aussies who were supposed to bring back the coveted urn this year seemed to have run out of ideas in the first innings itself. 

But the problem wasn’t that they were not trying to do different things, it was that they were doing it too often. While the trio started off well, particularly Cummins, maintaining good line and length and choking the English for runs, they soon ran out of patience. Mid-way through the second session, they seemed to have forgotten how to bowl in a Test match with far too many full or short deliveries being aimed at the England top order. Short balls have, very often, been used by Australian to inflict damage on travelling teams, but this was, most definitely, not the pitch to do it on. There is no doubt that this bowling attack is indeed a talented one, but in terms of intelligence, they seem to be a couple of steps behind their predecessors. In the final session with the wicket speeding up, Cummins regained his composure and delivered the two important wickets of Stoneman and Root to keep Australia in the game.

Advantage England

Coming to Australia, England appeared to be jaded. Even though they had won a Test series against West Indies, they had lost a home Test to the eighth-ranked team in the world. The Ben Stokes debacle was just the icing on the cake. While many considered England to be a two-man team, it appeared that the England’s success in Australia was on the shoulders of skipper Joe Root and when Alastair Cook threw away his wicket in the third over, England’s worst fears would have come to life. However, the relatively inexperienced duo of James Vince and Mark Stoneman, while being assisted by the Aussies, guided their side through the treacherous first session without any more damage scoring at a rate of just over 2 rpo.

After the rain delay following lunch, the Englishmen came out and started expressing themselves. They went after the erratic bowling of the pacers, while holding off Nathan Lyon’s brilliant spells, to put up England’s first second-wicket century partnership since July 2016. While both players would be disappointed on not getting to triple digits, England can look back at the team selection and commend themselves for a job well done.

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