After a seven-match streak of win-loss, win-loss for England, there seemed to be a conscious effort from players and coaching staff alike to avoid the continuation of such a pattern this time round. Anderson was missing coming into the 4th Test, where England had the opportunity to regain the ashes at Trent Bridge for the first time ever.
When images of the pitch and Thursday morning’s skies surfaced at around 09:00, it was immediately apparent that winning the toss and bowling was the order of the day. Thankfully for Alastair Cook, that’s exactly what he did. Rumours circulated that conditions would improve throughout the day, so it would be important to make the most of the morning session.
Anderson’s absence meant that Stuart Broad would have to lead the attack, needing just one wicket to move to three hundred in test matches. with the relatively inexperienced Wood and Finn required to display all of their maturity. As it so happened, England didn’t miss Anderson. Broad struck twice in his first over, removing Rogers for a duck and Smith for 6. On both occasions, the batsmen pushed a little at good balls as they were caught in England’s vastly improved slip cordon. Mark Wood opened up from the other end, despite many expecting Steven Finn to partner Broad. It took just two balls for him to get in on the act, as he had Warner out caught behind after producing an absolute beauty. Australia were 10-3.
From there on in, the Aussies just lurched from one disaster to another. In for his brother Mitchell, Shaun Marsh was the next man out. He joined the duck club as Broad picked up his third. The local boy then had Voges caught brilliantly by Ben Stokes, with shades of Andrew Strauss’ spectacular grab in 2005 shining through. While his team mates were falling at the other end, Michael Clarke had moved into double figures. He hadn’t looked convincing on his way to that landmark though, and was out slashing at a wide one. Although all eyes were on Stuart Broad, who now had figures of 5-6, Clarke’s dismissal was typical of his recent form, and has to be a huge concern.
Australia were 33-7 after Steven Finn joined the party. He bowled Peter Nevill through a rather large gate. After the Aussie wicket-keeper’s dismissal, things got away from England somewhat. Thirteen more runs were added before Starc fell, but at least Johnson followed shortly after. At 47-9, 60 all out possibly represented something slightly disappointing for a perfect England bowling display. In all seriousness though, Stuart Broad’s 8-15 was simply sublime. He got his length just right on a pitch with just enough assistance, as every good ball he produced seemed to find the outside edge. Bizarrely, Broad’s performance is not the best in England’s ashes history, as Jim Laker’s 19 wicket match retains that illustrious tag.
Australia did not play well, that should not be ignored. However, the performance of the Aussies’ public enemy number one will go down in Ashes history and remembered for many generations to come. Even the papers down-under are using his name again apparently. Everything found the edge and everything went to hand, as everything went right for Trent Bridge’s local boy.
Generally speaking, one never can truly assess any side’s performance in test cricket until both teams have batted. However, any visiting Australians hoping to replicate the efforts of England soon became disappointed. While Adam Lyth and Ian bell both fell with the score in the thirties to a fired-up Mitchell Starc, captain Cook rarely looked troubled. When Joe Root joined him at the crease it became apparent that there were no demons in this Trent Bridge track. By playing the ball late, and under their eyes, England’s two in-form batsmen made steady progress.
With the score on 96, Cook was left frustrated as he fell LBW to Starc on 43. Having looked more than comfortable, he would have hoped to cash in on a bowling attack that lacked a recognised fourth seamer. That brought Jonny Bairstow to the crease, his Edgbaston dismissal to Mitchell Johnson’s bouncer undoubtedly still fresh in the Yorkshire man’s mind. While he had to negotiate an awkward period, he soon began to highlight just why the selectors had put so much faith in him, as he matched Root’s healthy scoring rate.
If the day had been perfect for England, it had been Australia’s worst nightmare. Nothing went for them whatsoever, as inside edges raced for four and outside edges failed to find the men waiting for them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Root brought up three figures in stylish fashion. A certain amount of irony was there for all to see, as it was David Warner who was punched off the back foot to bring up another fabulous hundred. In case there was any doubt, the punch pun there was completely intentional.
Disappointingly for Bairstow, he was unable to emulate his county team mate’s performance as he was caught at square leg for 74. Rogers almost spilled the catch, but obviously the cricket Gods had decided enough was enough in terms of sheer Aussie humiliation. Despite Bairstow falling, England could not have hoped for a better day. Anyone coming late to the ground would undoubtedly have assumed that England had batted first, as the score had raced to 274 in effectively two sessions.
To sum up, the lead is now 214, with four days left. Joe Root remains unbeaten on 124, with more than double Australia’s score already. Mark Wood has reached 2 as a night watchman, and has a license to throw the bat in the morning if he fancies it. For England not to win and regain the ashes now, it would take a superhuman effort from more than one of Australia’s players. Doesn’t that debacle down under seem a long time ago?