Ashes First Test, Day 1

Edgbaston, Birmingham, Day 1, Australia 284 all out (Smith 144, Broad 5-86) England 10-0 

Well that worked out pretty much as I expected. Without wishing to feel smug my preview piece for the series posted on Wednesday pretty much nailed it. It is probably not accepted practice but I am going to base my report on day 1 around a couple of quotes from that piece.

“It is almost certain that this is a series that will be dominated by the bowlers” – Australia were 122-8 mid-way through the afternoon and would almost certainly have been bowled out for under 150 if England’s gamble of playing a clearly not fit James Anderson had not so spectacularly backfired.

The Australian top order’s technique was brutally exposed by Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes who more than made up for Anderson only been able to contribute a four over opening burst. Only Travis Head of the Aussie top 9 was able to provide the support Steve Smith craved as he fought to give the first innings of the series some credibility. 

“I make Australia favourites because in David Warner and Steve Smith they have the two batsmen on either side most likely to make significant scores” Warner missed out, but Smith marked his return in spectacular style with a last man out 144.

I am not going to debate the rights or wrongs of Steve Smith here. Whether he should be playing in this match, whether it is right to boo and wave sandpaper are for a far higher moral plane. But purely on the merits of this innings it was one of the best to have been played in test cricket. Ever.   

Whether Smith would have had the opportunity to reach his hundred if Anderson had been fit or if England had not risked him is open to debate. What is clear is that by the time Peter Siddle joined Smith Broad and Woakes were in need of a rest. The period up until tea gave Smith and Siddle the chance to build their partnership against a below par Ben Stokes (1-77 in 18 overs) and Moeen Ali who while relatively economical was not threatening. How Joe Root must have wished he had the left arms of Jack Leach and Sam Curran to turn to in the afternoon.

Broad had been terrific, 5-86 did not do his performance justice. It was great to see him have one of those innings right at the start of the series, especially now Anderson will be hors de combat for the majority of the series. A series that started with many wondering if he will play now sees him as vital if England are to succeed. He will be even more valuable if and when there is a real pace option in the attack.

“As far as the bowlers go I doubt if Anderson will be risked” The decision to play Jimmy was clearly wrong and calls into question the England back room staff. To break down after only 4 overs, even if the injury is to a different part of the calf, indicates to me that the medical team got it badly wrong. This could be the decisive decision of the series.

England survived the last three overs of the day unscathed. Now it is up to Joe Root who “has to have a big series both with the bat” and the England batting to make 284 look less daunting than it does at present.