Australia dominated the Ashes so much that even when England reduced them to 12 to three in their first 10 Test runs, it’s no surprise to see them regain full control by the end of the first day.
Twelve for three, that is, with David Warner (22 balls) and Steve Smith (two balls) going for the ducks, Osman Khawaja – a twin buzzer in the SCG – is on his way to just six. Rain delayed the start by 30 minutes, Joe Root won the lottery, the court was green, and conditions felt meant for bowling. England had all the early features, Stuart Broad and Ole Robinson were great, but Australia still fought back.
From there, until the very light rain ended the day’s play about two hours earlier (just after 9pm), Australia was already pressed to add 229 for three in the next 50. Play resumes 30 minutes early on the second day because only 59.3 overages can be thrown.
Marnus Labuschagne had his fight again put his way, before a real comedian was sent off, who ended up on his knees after being thrown behind his legs through a full Broad delivery. It was a stroke of arrogance from Labuchagny, who left the field, embarrassed, from the icy pace that had become his trademark.
That didn’t bother Travis Head, who is back from Covid-19 to score his second stunning century in the streak. The first, a tuner in Brisbane, consisted of 85 balls. That was a little slower, at 112 balls, but better, although the ball was sent off after he reached the feat, as Chris Woks – whom he treated with absolute contempt – ran into the middle of the field.
Damage occurred. Head shared a speedy run of 71 with Labuschagne and 121 with Cameron Green, who soon had another half century.
Australia was fed by England’s wilted bowlers. The England team for the final test run of the Ashes series is often an exotic breed, and this one is a classic of the genre. It was marked by five changes. Featured debut, Sam Billings. It featured two hitters, Rory Burns and Olly Pop (to injured Johnny Bairstow), who were dropped just two Tests before. Featured in the game is a multi-skilled player, Ben Stokes, who plays as a specialized racket.
Stokes’ inability to play the full role always throws England at it. So, while they usually hand debuts to a spinner in the final Ashes audition, they decided to drop Jack Leach this time.
It felt like a four-man seam attack was thrown together. However, under the circumstances, and with Jimmy Anderson unable to stand a fourth consecutive game (he suffers from hamstring and back pain, so his only role was to offer Billings his hat), the attack seemed just right.
This was true until Robinson paused with a ache in his lower back, desperately slow first after lunch. There was suspicion of a shoulder injury – although he played golf on Monday – and there is frustration in camp about his general condition. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is lame.
Even by then, he and Brod were the only ones playing well, which left England terribly exposed. Mark Wood and Chris Wox struggled. The result was that Root was bowling after only 33 times with a soft pink ball. He’s got 10 of his first 60 raises, which might not have been in the script.
That amazing opening stanza sounded like ancient history. Not only did Zach Crowley take two good throws on the second slip to bid farewell to Robinson’s Warner and Smith, but he also pounded one – Labouchigne on a 0 – diving in front of the root on the first slip. The root took a structured musk to bid farewell to Khawaja as well.
The head came to creases, therefore, in difficult conditions. With the extravagant movement of England’s seamstress, he and Lapuchigny chose to plow their way out of trouble. Their timing was clear, and there were plenty of bad balls to get rid of, with England footballers offering a significantly reduced threat. Take every opportunity, especially through the point.
I felt he would continue to attack England on all parts long past his 100th, but he circled the Woakes to the middle of nowhere. Robinson, perhaps on the court as a punishment, frowns for taking the simplest thing.
Woakes was simply ineffective because, unfortunately, he was often outside England. Meanwhile, Wood had a great streak, but the English-style court didn’t suit his straight-line style of bowling. In his third game in a row, there was fatigue as well. His only reward came when Green, who found his feet in Sydney and looked good here, became the first hitter ever to fall straight into the English telegraph bouncer’s plan.
They have resorted to the Bodyline tactic at all – as opposed to skills that have served them well as first thing – just showing how desperate they are.