England sliced and diced at the ‘Gabbatoir’

Date: November 25, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Australia has blown England away in the opening Ashes Test at Brisbane to the tune of 381 runs after dismissing the tourists for 179 late on day four.

After slumping to 6-132 on the opening day of the series at the Gabba the series underdogs were clinical, ruthless and dominant as they inflicted upon England its first Test loss in 14 starts.

In the process of steamrolling its way to victory Michael Clarke’s team has exposed some serious flaws in the England side and raised a significant question mark over one of the tourists’ key strike weapons.

While many a fan bemoaned the selectors’ decision to recall Mitchell Johnson the move has proved to be an inspired one with figures of 4-61 and 5-42.

I wrote in a column on The Roar on 19 September stressing the need for Johnson to be selected, an opinion many argued against.

He claimed the man-of-the-match award and along the way he has landed some telling psychological blows on England’s batsmen.

As soon as Jonathon Trott – who averaged 90 in the last Ashes series in Australia – strode to the crease Johnson was the man.

His spiteful pace and bounce undid the England number three in both innings as his susceptibility to short, quick bowling was again laid bare.

Trott has now averaged a mere 24 in his last 13 innings against Australia and given his efforts against Johnson in the opening Test it will take quite something for him to bounce back to form.

There is no doubting that the muscular-left hander will be thrown the ball every time Trott comes to the crease for the remainder of the summer.

Stuart Broad may not have walked at Trent Bridge earlier this year but he was immediately on his bike in England’s second innings when a Johnson snorter brushed his glove.

Having moved right across his stumps he seemed quite happy to be able to escape the firing line.

In addition to his efforts with the ball, Johnson also made an invaluable 64 and followed up with an unbeaten 39 in the second innings.

An in-form Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle gives Clarke a threatening three-prong pace arsenal.

Allied to the quicks is off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

In the opening Test he put his England counterpart, 248-wicket Test veteran Graeme Swann in the shade.

It was his ability to dry up one end – whilst claiming the wickets of Ian Bell and Matt Prior in consecutive deliveries – in the tourists’ first innings that allowed Johnson to go full throttle at the other end as the hosts claimed 6-9 en route to routing England for 136.

In the second innings he claimed the prize wicket of England’s barnacle, Alastair Cook.

His figures augured well for the remainder of the summer: 9-4-17-2 and 20-6-46-2.

In the batting department, Brad Haddin showed the value of his experience with innings of 94 and 53, the former the backbone of Australia’s recovery from 6-132 to 295 on the opening day.

While his batting impressed his English counterpart had a shocker.

Prior went first ball in England’s first innings and managed just four in the second in which he played a very ordinary shot to Lyon.

After his early demise, to the short ball in the first innings, Clarke literally stood tall in the second and took on the bowling as the England quicks, Broad in particular, aimed to bounce him out again.

Three decisive pull shots in his first few balls at the crease saw England meekly abandon that tactic and resort to a more traditional form of line and length.

That too proved ineffectual as well as Clarke stroked his way to a magnificent 113 off just 130 deliveries.

He had a staunch ally in that dig with David Warner displaying a level of maturity at the crease often missing from his game.

While many will remember more fondly his whirlwind 159-ball 189 against India at Perth two years ago, his hundred in this Test was arguably his best.

Australia is by no means without its concerns.

Dual failures by Chris Rogers (1 & 16) and Shane Watson (22 & 6) will not allay fears of fragility in the top order.

Steve Smith scored 31 in the first innings but failed to score in the second while debutant George Bailey’s returns were three and 34.

Confidence is a priceless commodity in sport and Australia’s will have been boosted enormously after this effort.

After consecutive away series against India and England that failed to produce a win through nine Tests the fillip this win will deliver is inestimable.

Having been handed the baton by Michael Hussey to sing the team song after each Test victory, Lyon will finally lead his teammates after Australia’s first win since its victory over Sri Lanka at Sydney in the first week of January.

On the form displayed at the Gabba, it may not be long before Lyon’s larynx is to the fore again.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 24 November 2013