Australia eased their way to a 10-wicket win over England in the opening Ashes Test at Brisbane to get the momentum going for the rest of the series.
Alastair Cook and Joe Root are the two most experienced batsmen in the line-up and getting them dismissed early certainly gave Australia a crucial first-innings lead. In the case of Alastair Cook, the plan was to hold the ball on a decent length just outside off-stump and get him playing forward which was exploited perfectly. On the other hand, Joe Root was dismissed in almost identical fashion in both innings. He was found wanting on anything swinging back into him at good pace, as his front-leg was getting too far across the stumps. Root will have to keep his front-leg out of the way and with this in view, Australia can play on Root’s mind – getting him conscious about keeping his front-leg out of the way (by bowling there) and then settling on a length outside off-stump. The reason why this can be dangerous is because with his front-leg out of the way, he might have to reach for the balls outside off-stump and there can be a possible chance of nick.
Steve Smith’s 141 off 326 balls was one of the best innings on a slow wicket. He was supported brilliantly by the likes of Shaun Marsh and Pat Cummins to give Aussies the much required edge over England in the first innings. England held the ball outside off-stump to Smith, waiting for an outside edge but Smith’s patience was exemplary throughout the innings. He was so resistant that it took 90 balls for him to score his first run through the off-side. Instead, he stuck to his strengths, waiting for the bowlers to attack his pads so he could score off them (which is his preferred scoring zone). England tried the short-ball tactic to him by placing six men on the leg-side but he was good enough to keep that out as well.
Australia’s team selection was dubbed as ‘confused’ by former leg-spin great Shane Warne. But the inclusion of Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine and Cameron Bancroft were all justified. Marsh, on his eighth return to the Test side, compiled a vital 51 to put on a 99-run partnership with the skipper Steve Smith. Paine bounced back from a dropped catch in the first innings to produce a quick stumping to break the crucial partnership between Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow. And even Bancroft did extremely well for his unbeaten 82 in the second innings.
Australians added 252 for their last six wickets in the first innings as compared to England’s six for 56. Pat Cummins resisted the England attack for 120 balls, forming a 66-run partnership with skipper Steve Smith to get his side’s total close to England. Afterwards, Nathan Lyon hung around with the captain to form a 30-run last wicket partnership as Australia took a slim first innings lead. This was missing from the England’s lower order which were rattled by short-pitched bowling from Starc and Cummins.
Australia’s all-time leading wicket-taking off-spinner, Nathan Lyon picked up five wickets in the opening Test and in particular looked a threat to the left-handers, constantly challenging both edges of their bat. Lyon was smart enough to pitch the ball more in-line with the stumps (against left-handers), forcing them to play. His direct-hit to remove James Vince in the first innings was also a massive moment in context of the match. Moeen, on the other hand didn’t get much out of the pitch and looked quite ineffective throughout the Test match except for his wicket of Usman Khawaja. England should re-visit their strategy against Lyon and look to put him off his length to negate the threat.