The Ashes – First Test, Day 1: Farm Animals

On a cold, windy and wet night far removed from the Gabba, hockey training broke into a simple discussion – who were the opposition’s farm yard animals, to be exploited in two days’ time? Our coach offered the opposing left-back up as a suggestion – “He’s a goat.”


Someone quickly pointed out that, if the left-back is truly goat-like, we ought to be stopping him getting the pill, rather than encouraging his teammates to give it to him. Goats are nimble. A quick stroll around the Atlas Mountains in Morocco a couple of months later left no doubt in my mind – they are a species that is comfortable in high places. How they get there remains one of the great mysteries of life.


Judging by the pre-series predictions out of Ponting, Hayden and others, the Australian public were expecting sheep, bunnies and maybe the odd ferret to wonder into the awfully nicknamed “Gabbatoir” on the opening day of this series.


As it turned out, they also had their animals mixed up.


England won the toss and clearly had consulted the history books. Root opted to have a bat, a small win to start the day for England. Nathan Lyon’s assertion that he and his bowling teammates would like to “end some careers” was to be tested immediately.


If anyone is in immediate danger, then it is surely Alistair Cook, who looks a walking wicket right now. If he is nearing the end, it is might worth considering for a moment what is ending, and who is doing the ending.


His career has gifted us 31 test hundreds across nearly 150 matches, starting with a magnificent debut in Nagpur in 2006. The thought of a young Cook dancing to Ring of Fire in a Freddie Flintoff-led dressing room still makes me chuckle. It’s a career that should be celebrated.


And as much as Lyon would like to puff up the ego of his teammates, and his own by suggesting they alone can bring about the downfall of England’s leading test run scorer, he is deluded. Father time comes for all.


True to recent form, Cook is out early, caught in the slips prodding at something he ought not to have prodded at. He’ll need to find runs, and soon. Don’t write him off, just yet.


The early wicket brings Stoneman and Vince together at 1 for 2. Despite the occasion and the quality of the Australian attack, the pair is largely untroubled, controlling the game, albeit slowly. They never take it away from the Australians but the nameless nobodies (For Hayden, at least) nudge, nurdle and occasionally caress their way to half-centuries. Sheep, or goats?


For Vince, elegant but yet to fulfil his potential, it’s his first fifty in tests. For Stoneman, it’s his third score of over forty in four innings, the continuation of a promising start to his test career.


Unfortunately for the latter, conversion seems to be an early issue, but then again, there are worse problems to have. His dismissal here was hardly of his own making, too. The ball from Cummins was a ripsnorter, hooping back viciously to take the top of middle stump.


With the score at 2-127, the Stoneman/Vince stand had already eclipsed every first innings partnership in England’s last trip Down Under, a stat that bodes well for the 24 days of cricket that lie ahead.


True to their national identity, England are now desperate for tea. Root has four balls to navigate from a rejuvenated Cummins. He digs out a yorker and survives the probing, earning his cup of Yorkshire’s finest.


The final session looms as vital, with England on the cusp of taking the honours from the opening day. Lyon is turning it sharply, but his big moment for the day from the covers rather than the bowling crease. Vince takes an ill-judged single and is thrown out by a direct hit, the Lyon momentarily taking the form of a gazelle.


The run-out ends his innings seventeen shy of a maiden test ton. As livid as he will be reflecting on it, Lyon and co have some work to do if they are going to end his career anytime soon.


Malan joins Root, with the test now well-poised. They add another 18, before Root is undone by another pearler from Cummins – full, straight and hooping aggressively. How it took a review to be given out is still beyond me.


With Moeen Ali in, a couple of wickets will turn the tide well and truly in Australia’s favour. The pair put on 30 and survive until stumps, with the next phase of this match hinging on the performance of England’s low order. The tourists were always going to need runs out of 6, 7, 8 and 9 throughout this series to compete, such is the nature of their line-up. Don’t be surprised if they get them, even without big Ben Stokes.


A commanding performance on the second day and it’s England’s to lose. Either way, the tourists proved on day one that they might have more goats than sheep in their line-up. The series is very much alive.




About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.


  1. Jack, the pitch was certainly no goat track, despite the goats prospering.


  2. Absolutely JB – it’s a real stinker.

    Big day today – Ali looking good early…

  3. Good stuff, Jack.
    Pretty self-defeating remarks from ML Hayden, if his role was “analyst.” Probably some degree of research was in order.

    Wonderful for the world to slow down.

  4. Thanks ER.

    I’m loving the change of pace cricket brings.

    Eb and flow with the occasional moment of utter anarchy before order takes over again. So, so different to the sport we were watching in September.

  5. Jack, i might go beyond farm animals to animals per se.

    If we’re comparing crickets to animals Dave Warner would never be a turtle.

    What about Usman Khawaja ? In the context of facing spin early in his innings he is truly like a bunny frozen in the glare of the headlights.


Leave a Comment