The Ashes – First Test, Day 5: Aussies Ease to Victory, But the Fire for the Urn Burns

We expected England’s batting deficiencies to let them down. So it proved. A great tussle over the first three days fell away as Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Starc and Nathan Lyon claimed three wickets as the Poms fell for under 200. The rest was elementary, although few expected David Warner and Cam Bancroft to do it all on their own with less than two hours played on the final day.


Nonetheless, the match was far closer than the result indicated, with Bancroft himself embodying the fire-and-brimstone passion of the longest rivalry in sport. Late on the fourth day with the match sliding towards the hosts, Bancroft defended a bumper from Jimmy Anderson. The bowler skimmed a return throw that inadvertently went straight at the batsman.


The hand jittered but Bancroft squared up and refused to step out of the way of the ball that broke against his midriff, causing Anderson to raise a conciliatory hand and back off. A Test debutant stared down one of England’s greatest ever pace bowlers and then went on to make an unbeaten 82. He showed the sort of strength that defines a Test cricketer – the blood and guts, the love of the scrap, the pride and commitment in a job that is about the destination more than the journey. It was proud and stirring stuff that puts the newcomer up the top of my list.


It’s unusual that we could look forward to a series after the first rubber has been decided by 10 wickets but there was plenty of play at the Gabba that indicated that this could be the first genuine ring-a-ding-ding Ashes battle on Australian soil since 1983. English newcomers James Vince and Mark Stoneman were tough as teak on the first day and Anderson and Stuart Broad were typically superb (although luckless) with the ball. With his side staggering to 4/76 in the first innings after conceding 302, Aussie captain Steve Smith’s unbeaten 141 saw him haul his side to a first innings lead and hold the momentum going into the match-defining fourth day, emphasising his credentials to be considered in the top ten Australian batsmen ever. Controversial selections Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine should retain their places; the former’s first innings 51 in a long partnership with his captain proved invaluable as the match went on and the latter acquitted himself well enough behind the stumps after a shaky start, conceding just five byes and executing a whiplash fourth day stumping to remove Moeen Ali.


Oh, and while I’m here….


When Channel 9 confirmed that their commentary team would be comprised of seven middle-aged-to-old white blokes and one orange one for this summer of cricket, many complained about the lack of diversity. I’ll focus on a moment on the final day…
David Warner pushed a perfectly timed cover drive through the gap to pick up the first three runs of the day. Upon completing the third run, he leaned on his bat at the non-striker’s end and looked up at the sky.

Ian Healy eagerly leapt on the opportunity to point out that it was the third anniversary of Phil Hughes’ death and, as Warner was now on 63, he was doubtless sparing a thought for his old mate.


This confirms a blindingly obvious fact about Test cricket commentary: there are long periods where play is so cut-and-dried that those behind the mic must fill the gap by blathering on and making mountains out of molehills. And it doesn’t make a difference who is in the commentary box when that happens.

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

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