Torture with a sprinkle of youth: Ashes 2015 Day One Review

It may have been an old adage first quipped by Arnie and then interpreted by Leigh Matthews, but the saying of, “If it bleeds, we can kill it,” rang true in the northern lands of Wales last night, as Joe Root rolled up his cigar and put on his best Austrian accent in what was a disturbingly thrilling innings full of authority and purpose.

It came in a similar style as Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson’s rear guard performance in the first Ashes test of the previous series, as Root dug his team out of a deep hole after scrambling out of his own damning trench early on in the battle for the little urn.

The famous opening sequence that signifies a summer of cricket sounded out of place yet exciting as it rang out of channel Gem at around 7:30PM AEST, as the dismal skies of Cardiff replicated the barren days of winter in southern Australia. Yet, come 8:15PM all oddities of the time of year were forgotten, as the anthems were played and the frosty well wishes of ‘good luck’ were both given and received. Out strolled the Aussies, who appeared to be both a fearsome and tight unit, with smiles full of jest and playfulness appearing on their faces as they embraced the crisp northern weather.

Mitchell Starc reassumed his position of bowling the first over, as he had done so successfully in the recent World Cup Final. The attempted bouncers and low carry proved what Australians had already feared; the English groundskeepers had done what they did in 2013, as the pitch was ‘doctored’ to negate the power of the Aussie pace bowlers. A maiden full of decent pace and swing but inconsistent and frustrating bounce kicked off the series, as Josh Hazlewood took up proceedings from the other end. After taking a few balls to adjust to the banana bend that the Duke ball produces, he caught Lyth in an ultra-aggressive mode and made him pay, as Lyth didn’t pick up the slight adjustment to the earlier ball that he had clipped for the first boundary of the series. The flick didn’t work second time around, as Lyth departed the field approximately six hours earlier than he had hoped for.

In arrived Ballance, as the sharp Australians looking hyped and as exuberant as a five year old who had just had a litre of red cordial, as they had started off perfectly in a series that they were expected to win. Captain Cook and Ballance carried the team to drinks, as the run rate ticked along finely, thanks to some inconsistent yet testing bowling. The pendulum finally swung, as the aggressive bowling changes reaped its rewards. The much maligned Lyon picked up Cook with a teasing ball full of his trademark overspin. Haddin nabbed his first take of the series, as the men from Down Under looked to be in a solid position, especially after Starc came back on to hoop a full delivery right into Bell’s pad. Unfortunately for Bell, he also appeared to be just in front of the stumps, as his lean patch couldn’t yet be resurrected against a team he had dominated against last time the Ashes were contested in the mecca of cricket.

Cheers and jeers resonated around the constricted yet packed Sofia Gardens, as in came the blonde Ellen DeGeneres look alike who had the ability to both destruct and self-destruct. Starc picked up confidence and looked to have Root in liquorice all sorts, as the man from Yorkshire looked to be in self-destruct mode for the game. Yet Haddin was too busy making jokes about him from behind the stumps, as he missed what should have been a fairly simple take to remove him for a doughnut. From then on Root decided to go into destruction mode, as he freed his arms and swung at everything like he was smashing a piñata of David Warner.

His ability to drive matched Lewis Hamilton’s, as his pull shot matched fellow compatriot Andy Murray’s backhand, as both were in full display simultaneously, with Murray exacerbating his swing at Wimbledon during the time of Root’s aggressive counter attack. Even his French cuts that narrowly missed the stumps looked convincing and pre-planned, as he raced past fifty without so much as a blink of an eye. During this time Ballance negated the bowlers in what was a stark contrast to Root’s free scoring flow. All the left hander could do was stand and attempt to keep down Johnson’s fierce bouncers, as Ballance appeared to be in prayer every time a ball cannoned into his gloves yet managed to abide to the laws of gravity and bop straight back down to Earth.

The quirky mix of rhythm and stagnation continued past both the lunch and tea breaks, as the total rose to 196 before Ballance was finally removed by a lovely dipping in swinger from Hazlewood, who was the pick of the Aussie bunch in what was a desolate day of test match cricket. The plucky left hander was gone for an attritional yet vital 61, as he had all but guided Root to his century. Just minutes later and the blonde bombshell achieved the milestone, as every shot played by Root was filled with conviction. The quick and barnstorming root of Australia was finally completed roughly 245 minutes after Haddin’s drop, as 134 runs opened up several wounds in what was now a killable Australian line up. Root, or should I say Arnie, trudged off to rapturous applause, with a message of, “I’ll be back,” seeming to be put forward to the Aussie team.

After the departure of the stoic Yorkshireman, the wickets seemed easier to come by for the Australians, as Johnson toiled hard for minimal reward, only for his younger and more erratic teammate in Starc to reap reward from the elder Mitch’s pressure. The macho young man battle between Starc and Stokes reeked Nick Kyrgios, minus the child like tantrum, as the Aussie asserted his dominance with a cheeky reminder on the way out too, with the finger to the lips spiting no retort.

When the talented and energetic Buttler was removed with the total on 293, Hazlewood and his Australian comrades looked like they could manage the impossible and bowl the Poms out for a tick over 300. Yet Ali and Broad held strong for the remaining overs in compliments to the hard working toil that Ballance and Root put in hours before. The day ended amidst drunken yelling and rowdy applause, as the Australians would have felt like they had let one slip after almost having the English reeling at 4/44.

The opening day at Sophia Gardens was a day of reminders, as Root reminded us that he is a mature force ready to tear the series apart, while the Aussies were refreshed to the fact that groundskeepers in England were perhaps the trickiest foe. And the public were deftly brought up to the fact that perhaps the Australians aren’t as invincible as they seem, and the series may not be as predictable as everyone once supposed. Even so, day two holds some interesting queries that will surely be answered.

Stumps- Day 1
England 7/343 (88 overs)
Root 134
Ballance 61
Stokes 52

Hazlewood 3/70 (22)
Starc 3/ 84 (19)


  1. Sean,
    When Haddin dropped Root I thought, you should never knock back a Root.
    This bugger will go on and hit a hundred.
    He was 30-odd when I went to bed.
    When I got up he’d made 134.
    At work today I was thinking that catches win matches.
    That dropped catch turned the innings…

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