The Ashes 2019 – First Test, Day 5: Platypus revisited


Australia 284 (SPD Smith 144, PM Siddle 44, SCJ Broad 5/86, CR Woakes 3/58)
England 374 (RJ Burns 133, JE Root 57, PJ Cummins 3/84, NM Lyon 3/112)
Australia 487/7d (SPD Smith 142, MS Wade 110, TM Head 51, BA Stokes 3/85)
England 146 (CR Woakes 37, NM Lyon 6/49, PJ Cummins 4/32)

At Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands, England
Australia won by 251 runs


Australia has unexpectedly beaten England in the First Test, casting minds back 30 years to when exactly that happened under the captaincy of Allan Border.

This was an unexpected win. It was unexpected in English conditions. It was unexpected at Edgbaston. It was unexpected on Day 1 with Australia at 122/8. But as with the first English siting of the platypus, the unexpected can turn out to be not only true, but can alter minds as to the very idea of what is possible.

NM Lyon (350thTest wicket), PJ Cummins (100thTest wicket) and in truth PM Siddle (especially) and JL Pattinson all bowled beautifully. MS Wade made a terrific 2ndinnings century in his return to the Test team. But this game should be remembered for the both outrageous and everyday normality of the antics of SPD Smith. Science could not classify the platypus. Cricket is having trouble classifying SPD Smith. During the game I likened watching him bat to watching an eagle fly or a cheetah sprint. But a better analogy is watching the swimming platypus. As with watching the platypus in water, watching SPD Smith bat you just know that despite some ungainly traits, some awkward flourishes, he is doing what comes naturally. He is a treasure.



The first Test of 2019 comes at the end of a packed English summer of cricket; a summer dominated by the ODI World Cup. [As aside here, I feel that JE Root missed a trick with that World Cup presentation. Imagine, with the final tied, and then tied again after the Super Over, and then arbitrarily given to England, if JE Root had had sufficient sense of occasion to invite New Zealand captain KS Williamson to the podium to share the World Cup. What a moment that would have been.]

In Test cricket prior to this game, England defeated Ireland 1-0 at Lord’s in July and were defeated by the West Indies 2-1 in a three Test series in the Caribbean in February. Australia defeated Sri Lanka 2-0 in its most recent Tests at Brisbane and Canberra and lost to India 1-2 in Australia over the 2018/19 summer.

OUTS: SM Curran, OP Stone, MJ Leach
INS: JC Buttler, BA Stokes, JM Anderson

OUTS: MS Harris, JA Burns, KR Patterson, M Labuschagne, MA Starc, JA Richardson
INS: CT Bancroft, DA Warner, SPD Smith, MS Wade, JL Pattinson, PM Siddle


This is Day 5 now. England at 13/0 require another 385 to win with 10 wickets remaining. Tonight I watch alone in Brunswick East (latitude 37o48’50.4″S longitude 144o57’47.9″E), with Test cricket happily screened once more on free-to-air TV. On a personal note, my interest and investment in cricket also reached a low low ebb after Cape Town. This series has brought me back.

The feats of SPD Smith in this game, his first Test in 16 months following his ban (two centuries, the first with him arriving at 2/17, navigating through 8/122 to a team score of 284; the second with him arriving at 2/27 and departing at 5/331, 76 overs later) have been widely lauded. The more I think off it, watching SPD Smith bat is like watching a platypus swim; you know it shouldn’t look this smooth, shouldn’t look this effortless, but it feels as the most beautifully, artistically natural thing in the world.


Significantly, since the eighth over on Day 1 England played without their strike bowler; 37-year-old JM Anderson, whose calf muscles showed the recuperative characteristics of being also 37 years old. How things may have been different. How Amazonian butterflies flap their wings; but the scoreboard cares only for what is. And what there is is a carnival of runs for SPD Smith. And also for MS Wade in the 2ndinnings.


Watching Australian Survivor is a family activity in our house; a source of much enjoyment, shared speculation and cultural references (“I can’t believe she did that!”) But tonight I prise myself away from the family couch and sit alone for the cricket (“Dad, are you sure?” “Mum, he’s really gone crazy this time.”)

The re-built JL Pattinson and every-mother’s ideal son-in-law PJ Cummins open the day for Australia.

It’s 8:12pm and I’m editing Sean Mortell’s Day 4 piece on the couch; with Bumble Lloyd and IA Botham in suitably understated commentary. The day has just begun and it’s a short one from Pat that leaps and catches the shoulder of the bat, balloons to a wide gully.


RJ Burns c NM Lyon b PJ Cummins 11  (19/1)


Which brings Joe Root 66 in to the middle.

And now six foot-something PA Cummins bowls a good length ball, at good clip, that dribbles through to TD Paine on this difficult fifth day pitch. One lifter, one shooter. Good luck batsmen.

JL Pattinson beats the edge of JE Root’s bat with a beauty that swings away after pitching. And JE Root is off the mark with a standing back foot cover drive off JL Pattinson.

8:30pm Next ball JE Root is given l.b.w. Bumble: “Oh, it’s given. And it’s reviewed. It’s great fun this. For me it looks a bit legside.” And legside it is.

8:34pm PJ Cummins bowls an off-cutter straight between JJ Roy’s wildly driving bat and front pad.

Root straight drives for four.

8:46pm Survivor has finished and the buds are crashing through my viewing area.

8:50pm PJ Cummins continues as our dog Pip trots past. JJ Roy cover drives for four.

8:52pm A bowling change; PM Siddle on, who SK Warne describes unkindly as a “good honest toiler.”

PM Siddle in his first over traps JE Root in front. Given l.b.w.  but JE Root reviews the decision – the ball has hit his bat. There is an element of roulette to proceedings.

NM Lyon takes over the other end in a double change just before drinks.


Drinks 43/1


First over after drinks brings a regulation outside edge but TD Paine is wrong-footed and the ball runs away for four between keeper and slip.

JJ Roy sweeps NM Lyon forcefully for four.

9:12pm PM Siddle beats the bat time and again.

9:17pm Change in field placing for NM Lyon who now has two men back for the sweep; opens up the field straight down the ground.

JJ Roy suffers a brain explosion as he dances down the track to NM Lyon. DI Gower: “It’s a fine balance between controlled aggression and too much of a risk.” The off-spinner has nothing. I think of John Harms’ article “The agony of the off-spin bowler”. which begins: “Observe the off-spinner. Look at the grimace. This is not the face of a man content with his lot. This is the face of a man who, for every moment of his cricket career, is doubting a significant life-decision…”


JJ Roy b NM Lyon  28 (60/2)


JL Denly immediately plays across the line for two boundaries from NM Lyon through mid wicket. Don’t mind seeing that.

9:27pm NM Lyon turns and keeps low.

PM Siddle looks for l.b.w. and looks for bowled and looks for caught at short mid-wicket. Leg-cutter squares up JL Denly. Leg-cutter bounces and rears past the outside edge.

JL Denly puts away the sweep as the bounce is a little variable. He defends with a straight bat to Lyon; around the wicket.

9:35pm JL Denly given out caught at bat pad. He reviews it. It is off the edge. He is OUT.


JL Denly c CT Bancroft b NM Lyon 11 (80/3)


JC Buttler leaves his first ball which skids across and turns back into him. “That’s a good leave,” says MA Atherton.

9:46pm PJ Cummins takes over from PM Siddle ahead of lunch for his second spell.

9:49pm l.b.w. shout by PJ Cummins against JC Buttler given as not out. Reviewed. On review declared as umpire’s call.

9:51pm Ten minutes before lunch JE Root plays NM Lyon from over the wicket, half-forward, bat in front of his pad, and it takes the inside edge, flying directly to CT Bancroft, who stays low and takes an excellent catch.


JE Root c CT Bancroft b NM Lyon 28 (85/4)


Left hander BA Stokes to the wicket, to meet the off-spin of NM Lyon.

NM Lyon races to the top of his mark to get one more over in before lunch.


Lunch 85/4 (JC Buttler 1, BA Stokes 0)


PJ Cummins bowls the first over after lunch. Beats the outside edge of JC Buttler first ball.

10:44pm PJ Cummins from wide on the crease; ball keeps a little low, takes the outside edge of the top of off stump; removing one bail.


JC Buttler b PJ Cummins 1 (85/5)


NM Lyon from the other end. Around the wicket to left-handed Stokes. Slip, gully, silly mid-off.

JM Bairstow taken on the wrist as he drops his hands on the ball; ball lobs to third slip. Given out, Reviews. Remains out.


JM Bairstow c CT Bancroft B PJ Cummins 6 (97/6)


PJ Cummins’ 100th Test wicket. Next ball is bowled by NM Lyon; full and turning away, caught behind.


BA Stokes c TD Paine b NM Lyon 6 (97/7)


NM Lyon’s 350th Test wicket. CR Woakes cover drive first ball for four.

11:13pm PJ Cummins bowling a threatening line at pace on a variable pitch.

NM Lyon around the wicket to right-handed CR Woakes, four around the bat.

JL Pattinson replaces PJ Cummins.

CR Woakes plays his shots, to short and full deliveries. JL Pattinson a little ragged.

11:36pm PM Siddle replaces JL Pattinson; first ball is an off-cutter that slices CR Woakes in half.

Around the wicket to MM Ali.

Big shout for l.b.w. PM Siddle against MM Ali turned down. Australia reviews. Ball is found to be bouncing over the top of the stumps.

SPD Smith replaces NM Lyon at the Birmingham end for a speculative over before drinks.

Drinks 133/7

PM Siddle continues after drinks. It has been a threatening and tight spell.

NM Lyon around the wicket floats it up on middle and leg to the left-hander, four around the bat, drifts, grips and turns.


MM Ali c DA Warner b NM Lyon 4  (136/8)


Left handed SCJ Broad is caught at slip first ball.


SCJ Broad c SPD Smith b NM Lyon 0  (136/9)


Left-handed JM Anderson heroically trudges to the crease, injured, to face the hat-trick ball. Surrounded by close-in fielders. He blocks the ball pitching on middle and leg.

12:06am CR Woakes throws the bat at PM Siddle and gets an edge to second slip. Ball flies past the open hand of SPD Smith.

PJ Cummins replaces a superb PM Siddle.

PJ Cummins short ball to the chest of CR Woakes is fended off and balloons to slip.


CR Woakes c SPD Smith b PJ Cummins 36 (146/10)


12:14am Australia won by 251 runs.


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and likes to walk around feeling generally amazed. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. …and you did not have to stay up too late

  2. Dave Brown says

    I love the platypus description, ER, fitting. Smith’s is a singular batting technique, a unique head positioning system. He gets away with it because he practices it so much more than any batter and has those amazing wrists. They may not have the speed of Kohli’s but more than make up for it with their flexibility. When Smith’s batting I’ll be watching.

    Thought Siddle was as outstanding as he was unlucky. Keeping an end tied up at two an over so Lyon’s pressure is not released is worth more than a Starc wicket or two at four an over. Some tough decisions to be made for the next test – would love to se the selectors admit they erred and that Bancroft is not technically up to opening in England.

  3. When i first saw the title of this piece I couldn’t see what it possibly could have to do with fishing (perhaps fishing outside the leg stump). You see Platypus brand fishing line has long been a favourite of mine. Over the years I have caught rather large quantities of fish, mainly on 12 pound breaking strain line, on this brand.

    Even though the article has nothing to do with fishing, I found it a good read and look forward to your next report on the second test. What animal will you liken Smithy to then? Not a flounder, I hope.

  4. Not too late, 6%, but still late enough to be pretty flat today.
    DBrown – thanks – the platypus works. So effervescent. Unusual. But perfect, somehow. If he bowled a few more overs and took significant wickets, SPD Smith might start to approach Ellyse Perry -levels of domination.
    Agree on PM Siddle. I thought he was excellent – his bowling met exactly what the moment demanded.
    Interesting selection decisions to be made, yes.
    Seemed (from a position of ignorance) to be a good spirit in the group.
    Fisho – I’ll need to change my ways if I am to keep the makers of fishing gear more towards the front -of-mind.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    What a Test match. Normally bowlers win Tests, but SPD Smith won this one off his own bat.

    Very happy for TD Paine to have this win for all that has been thrust upon him.

    As usual, fantastic report ER.

  6. OBP It’s interesting re Smith for all his movements his head is perfectly still when the ball is bowled and is grease lightning going forward of back,Greg Chappell who some would say is anal re technique praises,Smith that’s more than good enough for me.Siddle was superb if only we had this approach last time,Chadd Sayers may have done a Alderman alas we will never know a incredible fightback from,8-122
    Bancroft technically not up to it thanks,OBP

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