BRISBANE: A ruthless Australia crushed England by nine wickets to win the first Ashes Test in style just after lunch on day four at the Gabba yesterday. Needing just 20 runs after bowling England out for 297 in their second innings – with Nathan Lyon taking his 400th Test scalp – Australia cruised to the target in 5.1 overs when Marcus Harris square-drove Mark Wood for a boundary. The only blemish was the wicket of makeshift opener Alex Carey, who was out for nine, caught behind off the bowling of Ollie Robinson.
Regular opener David Warner was unable to bat due to a rib injury he suffered when he was twice hit by Wood in the first innings. Australia will carry a 1-0 lead in the five-match series into the second Test, which starts in Adelaide on Thursday. “A lot of things did go right,” said Pat Cummins, making his debut as Australia Test skipper. “So someone was smiling on me. I’m really proud of everyone, I thought it was a really complete performance.” England will need to regroup after being dismantled with both bat and ball at the Gabba.
After being bowled out for 147 in the first innings, England then struggled to make any impression with the ball, with player of the match Travis Head (152), Warner (94) and Marnus Labuschagne (74) all punishing the English attack, particularly left-arm spinner Jack Leach. The visitors did fight back on the third day with a defiant partnership between captain Joe Root and Dawid Malan, but once they both fell early yesterday, English resistance crumbled.
“Frustration, we worked really hard to get ourselves back into the game last night and we knew how important this first session was,” said Root. “If we had got through to the new ball unscathed and carried that partnership forward we would have given ourselves a really good opportunity to go in and post a total that would have kept us in the game. “It’s a shame we couldn’t quite get through that initial phase (today) because it could have been very different.”
England collapse again
After starting the morning in a reasonable position at 220-2, the English lost eight for 77 in the extended first session. England’s batting issues at the Gabba were mirrored in the broadcast compound, where a power failure resulted in the worldwide television feed going down for 45 minutes. No wickets fell during this period but when the broadcast problems were finally resolved, Lyon struck. The 34-year-old off-spinner had looked ineffectual on Friday as he searched for his milestone 400th wicket. But he finally broke through when Malan got an inside edge onto his pad and the ball popped up to Labuschagne at silly mid-off, sparking huge celebrations around the Gabba. Malan made 82.
Lyon, in his 101st Test, became just the 16th player worldwide to achieve the feat of 400 Test wickets, and only the third Australian after Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. England were rocked in the next over when Root, on 89, wafted at a ball outside off stump from Cameron Green and got a thin edge to wicketkeeper Carey, leaving England 229-4 and Root still searching for his first Test century in Australia. Lyon then struck again, getting a ball to bite and leap off the Gabba pitch and take the thick edge of Ollie Pope’s bat, Steve Smith taking a comfortable catch at slip.
Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler tried to steady the ship as Australia took the new ball, but Cummins brought himself on and had immediate success. Bowling with real pace and aggression, Cummins squared Stokes up with a brute of a ball that took the outside edge and flew to Green in the gully, leaving England 266-6. Two runs later, Josh Hazlewood, who was under an injury cloud after not bowling after tea on Friday, drew a faint edge from Buttler to leave England staggering.
Robinson joined Chris Woakes at the crease and the pair put on 18 runs to ensure Australia had to bat again. But Robinson attempted a reverse sweep off Lyon and spooned a simple catch to Head at backward square leg. Lyon took his fourth wicket just before the scheduled lunch break when he bowled Wood, who had attempted an extravagant drive. With nine wickets down, the umpires called for an extra 30 minutes to be played before lunch and Green wasted no time, snaring Woakes. It only took 20 minutes after the lunch break for Australia to take the win. – AFP