The first test of the 2021/22 Ashes series is in the books. And it was Australia who landed the first blow, cruising to a nine wicket win over England at the Gabba. We were treated to some fine individual performances from both sets of players. But in the end, Australia were just too strong as a collective unit.
Here are five things we learned from Australia’s win over England in the first Ashes Test.
Captain Cummins can do no wrong
It was a dream debut as Australia captain for Pat Cummins, who showed that he has what it takes to take on the leading role. Cummins approached the game with a positive mindset and was quick to make changes when something wasn’t working. His decision to bring himself on early in England’s first innings was the moment that helped spark their top order collapse. And that was just one of many moments that made the difference for Australia.
The home side looked a lot more aggressive with both bat and in the field than they did against India, and Cummins deserves a lot of praise for this change in attitude. Nearly every decision he made at the Gabba worked out in the Aussies’ favour. And the result will have given him a lot of confidence in his ability as a captain.
Joe Root failed to inspire with his captaincy
It was a tale of two captains at the Gabba. While Pat Cummins won a lot of praise for his captaincy, Joe Root left a lot to be desired with the way he led his troops. Putting his decision to bat first aside, Root was caught being more reactive than proactive with some of his decision making over the four days of play. Obviously, he wasn’t helped by England’s two batting collapses. But even on the field, England seemed to be lacking any coherent tactics to dismiss the Australian batters.
Root was too timid with his approach and failed to make the most of the situation when his bowlers had given England an opening with Australia five down in their first innings with not much of a lead. He was too cautious and reliant on his pace bowlers and only brought on Jack Leach when David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne were in control. The spinner never really stood a chance.
Not to mention, Root’s body language hardly showed any confidence in his troops when they were out on the field. When things got tough for England, they buckled under pressure instead of fighting back like their opponents did. And for that to change, Root needs to lead from the front and set a better example for the team with his body language in the field.
Australia are in safe hands with Alex Carey
Alex Carey made his Test debut for Australia at the Gabba last week and received a lot of acclaim for his no-nonsense performance. The South Australian was an assured presence behind the stumps and hardly put a foot wrong. He quietly went about his job and set the record for most catches by a Test debutant (8).
The only slight some may have had with Carey is the fact that he wasn’t as vocal in the field as some of his predecessors. But if he continues to perform as reliably as he did in the first Test, fans will forgive him for not yelling “Nice, Garry” after every delivery from Nathan Lyon.
The Goat is not done yet by any means
Nathan Lyon’s long wait for his 400th Test wicket appeared to be playing on his mind and it clearly affected him during the first three days of play. He looked like a man under pressure, and what didn’t help was the fact that former cricketers like Shane Warne were turning the heat on him. But after seeing the back of Dawid Malan claiming that precious 400th scalp, the Goat seemed to be like a man reborn. He picked up three more wickets in the second innings to ensure that Australia only had 20 runs to chase in their second innings.
Those four wickets will have given Lyon a lot of confidence. And that confidence will do him a lot of good, not just for the rest of the Ashes series, but also for Australia’s subsequent tours of the sub-continent.
Australia will probably continue to feast on England’s feeble batting order
England’s frequent batting collapses are hardly a surprise to anyone who follows cricket anymore. But the way they folded in the first Ashes Test (especially in the second innings) was a new low.
England were up against a struggling Nathan Lyon, a wayward Mitchell Starc, an injured Josh Hazlewood and an under pressure Pat Cummins on Day Four. But they still lost eight wickets for 74 runs, gifting the momentum back to the Aussie bowlers after all the hard work done by Joe Root and Dawid Malan on Day Three. It was too easy for Australia to price away the England wickets. Their poor technique, combined with their lack of composure has been their downfall all year long. And based on everything we saw in the first Test, it is easy to imagine that England’s woes with the bat will continue over the course of this series.