Lord's Test: 'Happy' Moeen Ali brings much-needed balance for England
16 Aug 2021
There was a lot of build up pertaining to the new era of Australian cricket with Pat Cummins at the helm of affairs as pace bowling captain while the Joe Root had raised the antcipiation calling the Ashes series the defining phase of his captaincy.
Clearly, both the leaders had a different context and meaning to their success in the series but all those of words of new era and legacy defining moments were shut down by the age-old problems of England batting and perpetual brilliance of Australian pace attack.
Joe Root had said that England were coming off with an inspiration from India’s win at the Gabba last summer but little did he know that for India to achieve their feat, they put up remarkable fight both with the bat and the ball. His time was clearly not up for it with the bat and if not for the rain-curtailed day, their bowling might and determination would have also come in picture.
Starc is back with trademark first over wicket
Taking wicket through bowled or LBW with his toecrushers on the very first ball of the game or innings have been the highlight of Mitchell Starc over the years. It was there in the last summer as well but it soon disappeared after the first two Tests.
His place was under scrutiny and people advocated Jhye Richardon introduction into the playing XI but only to find complete ignorance from his bowler partner and now the leader.
Rory Burns, with all his messed up footwork, played all around a leg stump half volley on the first ball of the game and he committed a cardinal sin of missing a Starc’s swinging delivery.
The Aussies were up and running and Starc roared in celebration to possible mute some of the prominent voices present at the Gabba who were calling for his ouster from the side.
No mercy from relentless Hazlewood
Dawid Malan was promoted at the top of the order based on his success over the last Ashes tour when he scored a phenomenal century at the WACA. However, the pitch and weather conditions were completely different from that WACA surface and he also had to deal with a lot smarter set of bowlers than the Australians were four years back.
Hazlewood has been known for bowling in the channel in and around off stump and the script could not have been any different from him on the first day of the Ashes. He was at Malan with his back of a length delivery and the left-hander for his credit, did not look entirely out of place while looking to attack through the off side.
However, Hazlewood was eager to offer him more back of a length stuff outside his off stump after realising the fact that he was eager to play a lot of deliveries outside off in search of runs. The bowler won the battle in the end and it did not take too long for the Australia’s accurate man to deliver a big blow to England that forced Joe Root to the crease when the ball was new and there was plenty of movement available.
Before this innings, Hazlewood had snaffled England captain on seven occasions and he has been victim of Australia’s set up game in the past as well. He must have been aware of the line of attack Australians but scuh was Hazlewood’s accuracy that eh was helpless. He bowled back of length just at the off stump line and allowed natural variations to take place and Root was quite unsure of his footwork on the front foot or the backfoot and then in the end came the delivery that nipped away off the seam to take the outside edge of his bat and David Warner did not do the sin of dropping Joe Root before he could get set.
Just what was Root thinking while deciding to bat first?
There are question marks over the technique of your opening batsmen against moving balls. The pitch has been covered for a long time and weather conditions are helpful for swing and seam bowling. You have two very good bowlers to maximise the conditions in Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson, who have played with batsmen in similar conditions back home.
And, what you decide to do? Bat first.
England have been guilty of playing ahead of their times in the recent past and the trend has not stopped even in this series. Anderson was rested from the game to keep him fresh and prepared for the second Test but did England overlook how tough it gets to stop an Australian side after a big win at Gabba?
He doesn’t need to reflect on the captaincy of his predecessors as the las series only would give him enough idea about how important it is to stop Australia at the Gabba. Andrew Staruss and his company won the Ashes in 2010-11 only after they contained the Ricky Ponting and his men in Brisbane.
May be, England were worried about batting last on the pitch where a lot of cracks could appear to make their life immensely difficult but if they could bank on Woakes, Robinson and Wood to put Australia on the edge on the first day, their life would not have been much different.
Now, England have just 147 runs on the board and are pushed against the wall to have a say in the future course of the game. They need their bowlers to bowl out of their skin to dismiss an Australian batting lineup comprising of David Warner, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne to bring them back in the game.