Ashes 2019 – Fifth Test Day 1: Deuce; a topsy-turvy day of Test cricket


Alarm bells rang early.


Upon arriving home and seeing Australia’s team, something didn’t seem right. Travis Head was incredibly unlucky to miss out – his runs not showing the amount of fortitude he’d provided for Australia in moments of crisis that have arisen throughout the series. But the logic was understandable regarding Marsh’s inclusion. Still, Head was mightily unlucky, and I begrudgingly came to accept this decision in comparison to the Australian selectors other one. How Siddle was decided as the man to replace Starc was befuddling – Starc had to have pulled up sore. Otherwise, why would you go for a more economical bowler on a pitch and ground that is going to be conducive to runs regardless of who bowls?


This became evident after Paine made the decision to bowl first. Always a risky choice as it immediately puts the pressure on the bowling side to take early wickets or look silly, Cummins was the bowler the skipper was relying on to save face. Luckily, he snagged Denly thanks to a scary juggled catch from Smith.


What resulted afterwards was proof that Siddle’s inclusion was tactically poor. He ended up being the most expensive bowler, his slower pace being carted around South London. Starc may have been just as costly in terms of runs if he had played, but he at least would’ve snagged a wicket. He also would’ve held the fine leg catch that Siddle made a mockery of.


Australia went into lunch with their heads down after two easy catches were spilt and only one wicket was taken. The crucial first session went to England, and Burns and Root looked to capitalise in the middle period. Thankfully, Hazlewood always keeps on knocking on the door of batsmen’s weaknesses, and he managed to draw a poor pull shot out of the otherwise composed Burns that fell to Marsh. Root was put down once more, this time off a tough chance at second slip. On any other day this would be excusable, but when two sitters had been dropped before this it had the sense of ‘we have to take this one to make up for our past errors’.


Enter Mitch Marsh. However bad Siddle’s inclusion was, Marsh’s proved a masterstroke. He extracted by far the most swing out of the pitch, his robust action getting prodigious amounts of movement that troubled all batsmen. He had Stokes uncertain, eventually drawing the English’s best into pulling poorly, much like Burns. His guttural roar smashed eardrums through the stump mic. For the second time in his career (after those Ashes centuries from the series prior), Marsh once more took the form of a brute of an all-rounder who was formidable.


This just built his confidence. Bairstow looked the best he has in this series, yet couldn’t do anything after Marsh used his out-swing to perfectly set up the keeper. It was a theory seen in club cricket, but completed with much more skill. Outie. Outie. Outie. Innie. Plumb LBW, see ya later. Despite being one of the simpler tactics used by swing bowlers, it’s still the most delightful to see when carried out well.


The only benefit of Root being dropped multiple times was that his lack of conversion haunted him. Upon reaching 50 once more, the Aussies always had a feeling they would break through him in not long. It’s not the same as dropping Smith, and knowing it’ll cost your team over 100 runs. With Root, you’re in the game to redeem yourself, and that’s exactly what happened when Cummins produced yet another pearler to the English captain. The right-hander trudged off with a look of ‘why me?’. He’d just been Cummins’d, yet again.


Marsh kept feeding off this energy, swinging the momentum right back in Australia’s favour. It fell into a rhythm. Swing. Swing. Shout. Wicket. Massive roar into the stump mic. Despite his impacts being largely ineffectual at national level, he is the enigma of Australian cricket that falls into Shane Watson range. He could be anything, and when he is on song he epitomises the toughness and intimidation of Australian cricket. We’re still waiting for that turning point.


Just as Hazlewood joined the party of fast bowlers taking great wickets (sans Siddle, of course), Buttler staged his own act of defiance. Fed up with being passive and wary of Australia’s swing superiority, the attacking batsman finally pulled out his flair. It may be a case of too little too late, but it will only build his confidence going into day two, where Australia still have two wickets to take. There’s something very Kevin Pietersen about him – he missed out on showing it in a bigger way earlier in the series when he was too timid.


The game is once more evenly poised. Gone is England’s dominance they built up in the first session. Gone is the momentum Australia had with the ball at the start of the last session. Here is a contest that embodies everything about this tight tussle of a series. It’s time to sit back and continue enjoying. Oh, and scrutinising of course – it’s what we all do best.


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  1. An informative and entertaining summary of an intriguing Day 1, Sean, where on several occasions both teams kicked out on the full from 10 metres out straight in front, to use a footy analogy.
    To borrow from Jim Main’s description of Fitzroy in the early 1990s,.Tim Paine’s captaincy is “a puzzle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma”.
    I would’ve thought batting first was the logical decision in order for Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and co. to rest up after the Old Trafford Test, but Tim obviously thought otherwise.
    I believe only three teams have won in the 102 Tests at The Oval after sending the opposition in, but I’m not sure how many times in total that bold tactic has been applied at the splendid Kennington venue.
    If we win this Test, well, I’ll concede Paine is a genius.
    I heard this arvo that Nathan Lyon has split webbing on his right hand, hence him only bowling four overs.
    One can only assume that happened yesterday, otherwise Lyon shouldn’t have been selected.
    As you said, the omission of Mitch Starc and selection of Peter Siddle – lion-hearted warrior that he is – was baffling, but Mitch Marsh for Travis Head has been vindicated by his five-for (or Michelle, as the Aussie players would say).
    England all out for 294 as I type, but I won’t make an assessment of that score until the Aussies have batted.
    Hoping that Dave Warmer can plunder a century and take some of the pressure off Steve Smith.
    Warner has just got off the mark with a single, so I can imagine the Bronx cheer he would’ve received from the “ever-gracious” English crowd coming off his emergency phone number (000).

  2. As you know by now Warner was out for 5, his best score for a few innings, at least he wasn’t broadsided this time around. Surely the second innings will be the last chance saloon for him. Hope Siddle bowls better in second innings.

    I agree Paine is a real mixed bag. Great decisions followed by questionable ones. Looking forward to a good partnership from Labs -what’s his face, 32 not out and Smith, 14 not out at lunch.

    Upset Mrs Fisho when I insisted on watching Geelong defeat Eagles (last quarter) instead on coming to bed – she claims the sound from the TV keeps her awake.

  3. Australia not looking good at end of day 2. Archer takes 6 wickets and once again, Smith (80 – his lowest score for the series)with help from Labs – what’s his face (48), came to the rescue. Lyon enjoyed himself by hitting out at the end (1 six in his 25). By being dismissed for 225, once again its up to the bowlers to save the day.

    Here’s something I heard years ago. The lawnmower man, on hearing a clunk, looked down to see a cricket ball. Throwing it well out of the way, he proceeded on mowing. A few minutes later, on hearing another clunk, he noticed a second cricket ball. Again he threw it out the way. Just when he was finishing the job, it happened again -clunk. This time, looking down, he discovered a castrated cricket. Was it JIMINY? sorry about that folks – I couldn’t resist.

  4. At end of day 3, Australia appear to be looking down the barrel looking like they’ll need to chase down a lead of over 400. Dropped catches and clumsy fielding haven’t helped. At least the Lyon roared again (3 wickets including Root).

    Thinking about Paine’s monumental stuff-up after winning the toss and inviting the English to bat, reminded me of a similar situation back in, If I recall correctly, January 1958 at the Adelaide Oval. The English captain (Peter May, I think) called correctly and invited Australia to bat on, what appeared to be, a good pitch. Australian captain Richie Benaud then is reputed to have said, “Thank you very much, you’ve just handed us the match”.

    Australian openers Colin McDonald (170) and Jimmy Burke (66) then set about setting the foundations for the win that came. It would appear history is about to repeat.

  5. PS it could have been Jan ’59 actually. I remember I was on my way fishing and listened on my transistor.

  6. Well, it’s all over. The Poms batted Australia out of the match and even Smith could,’nt save them. Nice to see Wade come through with a century. In the commentary box. Shane Warne put the moccas on both openers.He had no sooner praised Harris when he was comprehensively bowled by Broad the very next ball. Next came Warner, again to Broad. Warne had only just previously said he felt this would be Warner’s big day with a century in the offing.

    However, after the match Warne was correct when he claimed Paine handed this game on a platter to the English by fielding first after winning the toss.

  7. Fully agree with your comments above, Fisho.
    Tim Paine sending England in and thus not giving our overworked bowlers an extra day’s rest, erroneous selections (Mitch Starc should’ve played instead of Pete Siddle), poor catching and the continued dreadful form of our opening batsmen cost us dearly.
    Still, Mitch Marsh bowled superbly and Matty Wade played a really gutsy innings that should ensure he’s in the starting XI for the Gabba Test against Pakistan.
    Considering the series as a whole, the positives were obviously Steve Smith’s batting, the emergence of Marnus Labuschagne at No.3, and the tremendous bowling of Pat Cummins (29 wickets) and Josh Hazlewood (20).
    While Nathan Lyon also took 20 wickets and helped win Australia the Edgbaston Test, I don’t believe he’d be happy with his overall performance.
    Though the Aussies missed golden opportunities at crucial moments, I think 2-2 was probably a fair result in an entertaining series between two middle-of-the-road teams.

  8. Chris Bracher says

    I was fortunate enough to be there in person on Day 1. Close-up and personal i can confirm that the boys were still drunk/hungover. Mental and physical inpairment born of far too many pints of Manchester’s finest. Tim Paine’s absence of cognitive reasoning was a microcosm of the collective baggy green condition.

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