Australia handed England a crushing defeat on the fourth day of the opening Test match to take a 1-0 lead in the 2021/22 Ashes series. The home side just managed to outclass England in the end after four days of exhilarating cricketing action at the Gabba.
In the end it was a nine wicket win for Australia, and they now lead the Ashes series 1-0. And while it was a thoroughly deserved win for the Aussies, it was anything but straightforward as the scorecard might suggest. England no doubt showed some great courage and fight over the four days of play, but in the end, it was Australia who came out on top when it mattered the most. The home side won the big moments and made sure that they returned to winning ways at the Gabba, some 300 days after that humiliating defeat to India at the same venue.
Of course, it took England a while to get going and the damage was already done by the time they found their rhythm. The warning signs were there right from the start after Joe Root decided to win the toss and bat on a green surface. Mitchell Starc clean bowled Rory Burns on ball one of the Ashes series to set the Gabba crowd alight. Root, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes followed Burns back into the shed very quickly. Jos Buttler and Ollie Pope managed to hang around for a while, but it wasn’t enough as Australia bundled the tourists over for just 147 in the first innings.
Cummins was the star performer with the bowl, as he knocked over five England batters. The newly appointed Australia skipper marked the occasion with his maiden Ashes five-for. He was supported brilliantly by Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, while Cameron Green picked up his first ever Test wicket.
Australia did not get off to the best of starts in response. Marcus Harris was sent packing early by Ollie Robinson. But David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne managed to get stuck in. The former even rode his luck at times en route to a battling innings of 94. England created plenty of chances, but were made to toil by the class of Warner and Labuschagne. But after England finally managed to dismiss Labuschagne for 74, Australia lost their way ever so slightly. England followed that up by taking the wickets of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Green in quick succession. And with the Aussies at 195/5 the match was back in the balance.
But Travis Head delivered a stunning counter-attacking innings to put Australia back on top. The South Australian answered his critics in perfect fashion, scoring a ton inside a session. Head’s onslaught of 152 saw him score 14 fours and four big sixes and it helped Australia take a 278 run lead going into England’s second innings.
England came out with a more dogged approach for their second innings. And while the Aussies managed to dismiss the two openers fairly early on, Joe Root and Dawid Malan led the fightback and took England to within 58 runs of taking the lead at the close the third day’s play.
Day Four began with England hoping and Australia having one or two doubts in the back of their minds. But those doubts were quickly erased as Nathan Lyon finally ended his long wait for his 400th Test wicket by dismissing Dawid Malan.
Cameron Green then added another brilliant feat to his growing stature by snaring the priceless wicket of Joe Root soon after. Lyon then sent Ollie Pope packing, before Pat Cummins squared up Ben Stokes to leave England six down for 266. Josh Hazlewood then joined in on the fun and dismissed Jos Buttler, before Lyon and Green cleaned up the tail. England lost their last eight wickets for just 74 runs, giving Australia a lofty target of 20 runs.
Alex Carey opened the innings for Australia in the absence of David Warner, who was still feeling the effects of the bruises he suffered on his ribs in the first innings. He started strongly but then edged behind off the bowling of Ollie Robinson to give England a consolation wicket. Marcus Harris scored the winning runs for Australia off the very next delivery to seal an impressive win.
Both teams can take plenty of positives going into next week’s Day-Night Test at the Adelaide Oval. With Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad set to return for that game, England will no doubt be determined to regroup and roar back into the series. Australia haven’t ever tasted defeat in a Day-Night Test, and they will be out to ensure that it stays that way going into next week’s match.