England on its knees in the first Ashes Test
Date: November 24, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
Fifty-seven deliveries midway through the second day at the Gabba may have seismic consequences for England’s Ashes defence.
After Australia’s first innings was terminated at 295 by a suicidal second run by Brad Haddin (94), England would have been well pleased with its position in the match as Stuart Broad left the ground to a chorus of cheers and jeers following his 6-81.
Yet, less than 53 overs later the tourists position in the opening Test had taken the most dramatic of turns.
The Australian pace bowlers started their Ashes campaign with some particularly wayward bowling.
After ten overs England was 0-28 with the only runs scored on the off-side a boundary to third man from Michael Carberry of Mitchell Johnson.
Ryan Harris was the first to recalibrate the rangefinder and it reaped a significant reward with skipper Alastair Cook (13) nicking a good-length ball to Brad Haddin.
Then, in a case of déjà vu, Jonathon Trott (10) replicated what Shane Watson did in the final over pre-lunch on the first day by surrendering his wicket – on this occasion glancing a short lifter from Johnson down the leg side to Haddin.
The Australians left the field on a high with England at 2-55 yet not even the most ardent fan could have foreseen the devastating session that lay ahead.
Upon the resumption, the Australian bowlers strangled the life out of the tourists’ middle order.
Johnson and Siddle opened up and immediately tightened the screws with some well-directed overs.
When a return catch to Siddle from Pietersen’s bat was grassed mid-pitch by the Victorian quick many an Australian fan would have been fearing the worst.
However, there would be no first innings heroics from the man in his 100th Test as he flicked a ball from Harris to debutant George Bailey at mid-wicket who took a sharp catch to his left.
His 42-ball innings of 18 never got going thanks in the main to some heady and well-directed bowling that kept him tied down, a situation that is anathema to a character such as Pietersen.
Worse still for England, his dismissal marked the start of one of the team’s most dramatic and calamitous collapses in Ashes history.
The over before Pietersen’s demise off-spinner Nathan Lyon had been introduced into the attack.
In his first over there were ominous signs as he sent down a maiden to Carberry that featured two deliveries that bit, bounced and beat the left-hander’s outside edge.
Lyon then followed up with another two maidens as the runs dried up.
At the other end, Johnson decided to go around the wicket to the obdurate Carberry who was approaching his task like an old-fashioned opener – playing late and operating with little flourish.
Two spiteful lifters into Carberry’s ribcage were followed by a short, sharp delivery angled across the left-hander who parried it off the outside edge to Shane Watson at first slip to be on his way for 40.
In the next over it was Lyon’s turn to wreak havoc as he had Ian Bell (5) and Matt Prior caught off consecutive balls by Steve Smith at short leg.
For Prior it was a case of Groundhog Day as his only other innings at the ground, in the 2010-11 series, also resulted in a first ball duck, in the middle of Siddle’s famous hat-trick.
Enter pantomime villain Stuart Broad, who saw out the possible Lyon trifecta.
In the very next over a fired-up Johnson had Joe Root (2) driving at an angled full ball, only to slice it to Smith at third slip.
In his next over, the muscular left-armer had Graeme Swann (0) popping up a lifter to Bailey at short leg.
In the space of 57 deliveries the Test had been thrown on its head with England losing 6-9 to slump to 8-91 and along the way it saw its aspirations of victory go the way of water in the desert.
England limped to tea having scored a mere 39 runs in the two-hour session.
After the break, the tail was peppered by short deliveries as Harris and Johnson seemed to delight in the batsmen’s ill ease.
In the end Harris knocked over Chris Tremlett (8) and Siddle wrapped it up by snaring Broad (32).
In the space of 52.4 overs England had been humbled – all out for 136 and with it, a 159-run deficit.
Johnson’s recall proved to be a masterstroke as he bowled like a beast of ravin.
After being taken out of the attack following a wayward opening three overs, he returned his with pace, venom and bounce which rattled the England batsmen as he captured 4-61.
Harris, as always, got the job done with 3-28 off 15 overs while Siddle claimed 1-24.
And, up there with the performance of Johnson, was the bowling of Lyon.
From ball one he dropped it in the ideal areas and extracted considerable turn and bounce.
His tightness from one end (9-4-17-2) allowed the quicks to go hell for leather at the other.
And how the leather flew.
Both Harris and Johnson got up to 148km/h, around 10km/h more than the best their English counterparts could muster and the resultant additional pace caused noticeable discomfort.
Whilst the focus will be on the devastating middle session the early wickets of Cook and Trott should not be understated.
In his last 11 innings against Australia the England skipper has averaged 26 while Trott’s last dozen innings against the Aussies has produced an average of 25.
The two men who dominated the bowlers on their last Ashes tour now have some serious work to do to turn things around.
By stumps, Australia had taken its lead to 224 on the back of an unbeaten opening stand of 65 from David Warner (45) and Chris Rogers (15).
It now appears only rain can prevent the hosts leaving Brisbane with a one-nil lead, which for a team needing to win the series to reclaim the Ashes is priceless.
However, the victory is one thing, of more benefit will be the way England’s batsmen were tamed.
All of a sudden this Ashes campaign has taken on a vastly different complexion for Cook and his men.
As they say in the classic, it’s game on.
Australia is destined to leave Brisbane with a win, momentum and having inflicted upon England some serious questions.
Time will tell whether it can muster the required answers.
One swallow does not make a drunk but Australia’s efforts on the second day augur well for the remainder of the series.
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 23 November 2013