Riding on unbeaten half-centuries by David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, Australia cruised to a 10-wicket win over England in the opening Test at the Gabba to go 1-0 up in the Ashes. The duo also broke an 87-year-old Test record for the highest unbeaten opening partnership in a successful Test chase.
Brief Scores: England 302 & 195 lost to Australia 328 & 173/0 (David Warner 87*, Cameron Bancroft 82*) by 10 wickets
In the build-up for the Ashes, there were a lot of talks surrounding how the Gabbatoir – a venue where the hosts had remained unbeaten in Tests since 1989 - had been a fortress for the hosts. But until their late fightback later in the day, a stoic England top-order made sure that the series was not going to be easy for the team from Down Under. Overcoming the early loss of experienced opener Alastair Cook (2), James Vince (83) and Mark Stoneman (53) combined for a 125-run partnership to harass the much-fabled Aussie pace-bowling trio. However, the game seemed to take a different turn when the hosts stormed back into the contest when Pat Cummins knocked over Stoneman with a gem of a delivery just before Tea. In the third session of day’s play, Vince fell agonisingly short of a maiden century when he was run out by a brilliant direct throw from Nathan Lyon. With the game evenly poised, the visitors reached stumps at 196 for 4 on a rain-interrupted opening day's play with Dawid Malan 24 not out and all-rounder Moeen Ali unbeaten on 13.
The second day of the 2017-18 Ashes was another day of absorbing Test cricket at the Gabba as the tourists bowled with admirable effort and discipline for most of the day and restricted Australia to 165 for 4 in reply to their first innings total of 302. The day started with England resuming their innings from 196 for 4 and the two overnight batsmen - Dawid Malan and Moeen Ali - batted diligently to see off the second new ball during the first hour of the day. Malan looked in good touch, unfurling a number of crisp cover drives and pull shots before Starc had him caught at deep square-leg for 56. In the next over, Moeen was out LBW to Lyon, plodding forward to a ball which went straight on with the arm and that dismissal disturbed England’s rhythm and got the Aussies back in the game as they wrapped up the things quickly thereafter. Australia’s batting also started on a bad note as debutant Cameron Bancroft was caught behind by Bairstow in just the fourth over before Usman Khawaja - known for issues against off-spin – was caught plumb by Moeen. David Warner and Peter Handscomb also fell cheaply afterward and that left Australia reeling at 76/4 at one stage. However, Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh battled hard and stayed patient to see off the final session of the day to lead the hosts to a 165 for 4 at the end of day 2.
If the first two days of the match were all about resolute batting and disciplined bowling, the day 3 was completely about Steve Smith and his heroics. With the Test at a crossroads, Smith compiled an unbeaten 141 and with the help of some valuable lower-order support, Australia managed to score a decent first innings total of 328 runs and
Starting the day with 33-2, England lost three wickets in the opening session, including captain Joe Root just before lunch which almost ended their hopes of avoiding a defeat. In a shambolic display of batting, the Englishmen managed to score a modest 195 in the end, setting Australia a target of 170 runs to win. While much depended on the English bowlers to do a “tit-for-tat” with the Aussies, they failed spectacularly as the Australian openers set up a perfect base to take 1-0 series lead. David Warner, with his typical aggression in the final hour, made the target look like a walk in the park as he completed his half-century from 74 balls and was brilliantly supported by Bancroft, who registered his first Test half-century and finished on 51 not out. The home side ended the day on 114/0, requiring just 56 more runs for victory.
On Day 5, the hosts needed just 56 runs for victory and many would have hoped that Warner would end the match with his typically aggressive approach. However, England spearheads James Anderson and Stuart Broad kept bowling a nagging line and didn’t allow Warner to provide any pyrotechnics early on. But, after seeing the cloud in the sky, Warner decided to go after the bowlers to bring an end to the match as early as possible but stopped short of a century to start the Australian summer. The victory helped Australia continue their incredible record at the Gabba, which stretches 29 years since a Test defeat. It also remained special for the Australians to kick-start their summer with a win on the third anniversary of Phil Hughes's tragic death at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In rememberance of his mate, Warner looked up to the sky after reaching 63 – Hughes’ score when he was struck by a bouncer.
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