The Ashes 2019 – First Test, Day 5: A sudden end, a lack of fight.


The trend of Ashes cricket may be about to change.


Since 2010/11, where England came down under and played one of the most solid series of all-round cricket, Ashes cricket has followed a predictable trend. The home team is more familiar with their surroundings, a touch more comfortable. They stumble their way to a reasonable enough series victory (except for Australia’s unexpected 2013/14 blitz). There’s been no closeness, no tense moment where the little urn hinged on an hour’s play to define who gets to take it home. But after the comeback win by the Aussies in the first test of this series, the most prized tiny trophy in cricketing competitions is well and truly up for grabs.


Australia came out snarling on the last day, feeling it was their lucky day after the predicted rain avoided Edgbaston. They faced a difficult challenge in trying to unseat a steady English line-up that batted well in their first innings. On a flat crumbling pitch, the pace bowlers had their backs up against the wall. But Cummins had different ideas.


After a mediocre first innings effort where he struggled to make an impact with the new Duke, Cummins showed a lot of maturity in his second innings approach. He isn’t a swing bowler, he’s a workhorse who extracts variable bounce and snarling pace off any deck. With sheer aggression, he unsettled the first innings centurion in Burns, and caught him off guard with a rip-snorter that took a chunk of bat and glove to fly into Lyon’s safe hands. The Aussies were hunting, and their spearhead had signalled their intentions for a ferocious day’s play.


Cummins and Pattinson continued to bend their backs and go for broke. Belying a chequered history of injuries, of stress-fractures and strained muscles, the pair looked angry. They knew the ascendancy in the series was up for the taking, and they had the chance to alter history in a massive way. Siddle was the barometer, coming on at first change and holding the Poms to account. Both he and Patto were adjudged to have trapped Root, only for the DRS to confirm the umpires were performing atrociously.


Roy was the vulnerable one, his attacking instincts on hold. He never looked comfortable, always unsure about how to play the scenario. He may turn into a dynamic Test batsman, but in a situation where he had to play out the day his loose shot against Lyon looked scattered. And Lyon prays upon mentally unsettling batsmen and then ripping it past them. In a defining day for Lyon, he had gotten off to a perfect start.


Many times before Lyon had been expected to rip through attacks and win the match for his country on the final day. It never truly happened until that glorious Adelaide afternoon against India half a decade ago. Now, the experienced campaigner was ready to do it on cricket’s biggest stage. Before lunch, his prying nature against Denly’s defiant sweep meant he outsmarted the number four, bringing the bat pad fielder into play. Root was clinging onto a slowly sinking ship, and his hard push at the ball flew to a quick Bancroft. Bang, bang, and the Aussies’ pressure was pushing them through England’s defiance.


If England were to begin a valiant stand for a draw after the lunch break, then Cummins’ reintroduction ruined it. England have a great middle order, but only when playing on aggressive terms. In one-day cricket, it took them to World Cup champions. In Test cricket when it is Day 5 and they are trying to bat for a draw, it undid them. The demons of the 2009 draw were extinguished with Cummins blowing past Buttler. Lyon then quickly snared Stokes, Ali and Broad to take away any big guns who could hold on. Anderson was brave enough in coming out to bat, but at the end of the day the demise of the Poms was breathtakingly quick. There was no day-long slog for wickets – they simply crumbled after losing their middle order. Cummins finished off with a deserved winning wicket, tricking Woakes. The ball bobbed up and fell right into the hands of Smith. He grinned, knowing he was back to being England’s prime target. But a target that was yet to be slowed down or captured. Order was restored, and poetic justice achieved. Now on to Lord’s, and a mouth-watering match up that is now being juggled between two proud nations.


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