It was a fabulous Ashes Test match for three days at the Gabba before England capitulated on the fourth to give Australia all the momentum they needed to complete a thoroughly comprehensive 10 wicket victory.
The latest breach in discipline and behavior by an England player has also surfaced with wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow reportedly getting involved in some shenanigans with Cameron Bancroft in Perth at the start of the tour. This is truly the last thing Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss need as they try to repair the damage from a heavy first Test defeat ahead of round two in Adelaide.
There were half a dozen key moments in the Brisbane match where England had the opportunity to put themselves in very strong position. Ultimately though, Australia produced the moments of brilliance when they needed to and turned the tide in their favour.
Steve Smith stood up as a beacon of excellence with an outstanding hundred in Australia’s first innings. We have known for a long time that he is world class but given the tension and match situation when he came to the crease, his performance has put him in the truly ‘great’ bracket.
Same old England?
Comparisons will now inevitably be made between this England team and what happened on the 2013/2014 tour, but they fought hard at the Gabba and showed more fight than their predecessors.
Somehow they need to take the positive aspects of their game in Brisbane and also know that Australia are not without their faults. This is a big ask given the confidence this resounding victory will give Steve Smith’s men heading into Adelaide, and of course this latest issue with Jonny Bairstow.
England can take heart from the first innings performances of Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan, all of whom were expected to fail. Stuart Broad is also back to something like his best, which must excite England fans.
However, the reality for England is that the familiar failings from recent seasons have come to the fore again. For all of the positivity of seeing the likes of Vince and Malan make fifties, Vince’s lazy single to be run-out by Nathan Lyon was a momentum killer as was Malan’s demise in the deep trying to take on Mitchell Starc.
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In the cauldron of Test cricket, and especially in the Ashes, these moments change matches and potentially determine a series.
Can England bounce back?
So how does England get back into this series? With difficulty, but they have the solace of knowing that Adelaide could suit their bowlers.
The real concern for Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss is that the bowling back-up to Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad was ineffective. Chris Woakes – previously the form player on the tour – was innocuous with both bat and ball. Jake Ball likewise, and with Moeen Ali getting nothing like the turn that Nathan Lyon extracted, England don’t have many alternatives up their sleeve.
From a batting viewpoint, all England fans will pray that Alastair Cook can find some form because his stability and experience at the top of the order is going to be vital to England’s chances of fighting back.
England need to work out a game plan on how to play Nathan Lyon. They played with extreme caution and suffocated themselves with the run rate as a result. Finding the balance between patience and being positive is a very fine line in Test match cricket and for all of England’s application in the first innings, at times they forgot how to snatch quick singles or rotate the strike when the boundaries were not forthcoming.
Australia do have weaknesses to exploit which will be crumbs of comfort for England heading to the second Test. England proved that the Australian top order is liable for collapse and Tim Paine’s return to wicket-keeping duties did not go as smoothly as hoped.
Australia will rightly be delighted with this win. They were in danger of talking themselves up and not delivering until England’s demise on the fourth day but they found a way of getting back into the match at crucial times. Besides Steve Smith’s brilliance with the bat, Nathan Lyon was excellent with the ball and his influence on this series will be key alongside the fast improving Mitchell Starc.
The much talked up pace trio of Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood took some time to live up to their billing but they will only get better as the series goes on. Not good signs for England, especially for their tailenders who don’t look like they have a plan to combat true fast bowling. This is where ‘useful’ 20’s and 30’s are critical as we saw with Pat Cummins’s effort in supporting Steve Smith.
Momentum with the Aussies
Australia now has all the momentum and confidence for the rest of the series.
England cannot hide from that and they will have to dig very deep to come back and win in Adelaide. They will cop it from all sides, even more so with Bairstow’s stupidity.
The Australian press will be unforgiving and remorseless in their criticism and England has to face to up to it. Joe Root, Trevor Bayliss and England’s senior players need to really step up over the coming days. They showed fight in Brisbane, which is encouraging, and they have to forget about the fourth day and take the positives that came through from the first three days.
Australia will be confident but they have to make sure that complacency does not enter into their ranks. They are not as good as the 2012/2013 vintage and cricket can bite you in the behind very quickly.
Sadly, if you are an English cricket fan the omens do not look good. Momentum is with Australia and with Smith, Warner and Starc looking ominously good, I only see one winner coming out of Adelaide.