England fall in a heap at the Gabba

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    England face a massive challenge to work their way back into this Ashes series after being mauled over the past two days as Australia bulldozed towards what could be a lopsided win in the first Test.

    Australia will start the fifth day needing only 56 runs for victory, having cantered to 0-114 at stumps yesterday. All so often the tone for an Australian home summer is set in the first Test at the Gabba, where the home side have not been beaten for 29 years.

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    Last time England toured they were left demoralised after being bullied by Australia’s fearsome pace attack, a thrashing which laid the foundation for a 5-0 whitewash.

    They have not been vaporised in the same manner this week, but England will be anguished by the way in which Australia turned a vulnerable position early on Day 3 into a commanding one by stumps on Day 4.

    With a giant upset in their sights, England fell in a heap. Their lack of bowling depth was exposed as was their frailty with the bat against high-quality pace. Both of these areas shaped as potential major weaknesses for England leading into this series.

    In an ominous sign for the tourists, Australia’s star quicks Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were well below their best in this Test yet still made a big impact.

    While spinner Nathan Lyon and first-change paceman Pat Cummins were consistently impressive, Australia’s new ball pair looked rusty, both having only recently returned from injury.

    Hazlewood’s trademark precision was absent during several spells, while Starc clearly struggled for rhythm at times, stretching out in his delivery stride as if feeling for the crease, rather than cruising through it.

    They still managed to produced pivotal spells, with Hazlewood removing Alastair Cook and James Vince with the new ball late on Day 3, and Starc later taking three wickets inside two overs to end England’s resistance.

    The fact Starc and Hazlewood were off the boil yet still collected combined figures of 10-231 is a boon for Australia and a red flag for the tourists. Australia comprehensively outbowled England, despite having huge room for improvement.

    Australia cricket Ashes

    (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    The tourists desperately need to make inroads into the Australia batting this morning. Not to keep alive their hopes of victory, as this Test is already gone, but rather to regain some momentum and confidence heading into the day-night Test at Adelaide, the match in which conditions should most suit England.

    Australia have no such worries; suddenly their outlook is bright. Openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have found touch, Steve Smith appears impregnable, and their attack looks dramatically more potent and versatile than England’s.

    Australia needed such a rousing start to this series as they will be sternly tested by England quicks James Anderson and Stuart Broad on a likely juicy deck at Adelaide.

    That experienced pair have the ability to scythe through the Australians with the pink ball. But they’ll need their teammates to rid themselves of the malaise which has been evident over the past day-and-a-half of the first Test.

    England know they’ve frittered away a gilded opportunity in this match. If they can’t quickly regain their composure and combativeness, this series could swiftly turn into a bloodbath.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (102)

    • November 27th 2017 @ 6:19am
      qwetzen said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:19am | ! Report

      re The rusty Oz quicks.

      There’s an obvious point to be made. Easily Oz’s most threatening and best bowler of the match was the only one who wasn’t rested from the Shield.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 6:30am
        Jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:30am | ! Report

        Yeah, but he’s also a spinner. Completely different strain on the body.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 6:55am
          Nudge said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

          Spot on James. Resting those guys was spot on. They potentially might play 5 tests.
          Wonder how qwetzen is feeling about Steve Smith’s captaincy now? His field placements, bowling changes, catching and phenomenal leadership with the bat this test has been a joy to watch. He is something very special,

        • November 27th 2017 @ 7:00am
          qwetzen said | November 27th 2017 @ 7:00am | ! Report

          That’s debateable about the “different strain”, but regardless you’d still have to question that if you’re going into a Test with ‘fresh’ but rusty bowlers who then under-perform because of the rust, is it worth resting them?

          • November 27th 2017 @ 8:05am
            AR said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

            It’s hardly “debatable” that fast bowing puts greater physical strain in the body than spin bowling.

            Anyway, there are still real concerns about our batting depth, but I’m feeling a lot better than I was in the third session of day two.

          • November 27th 2017 @ 8:25am
            Christo the Daddyo said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

            If the team wins it hardly matters, does it…

            • November 27th 2017 @ 8:28am
              jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

              No, and in the bigger picture, better to be a bit rusty in the first test and still going strong in the 5th, than firing in the first, and broken down by the 4th.

              Depending on what you read, Ali, Woakes and Anderson re all under injury clouds.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 8:58am
                qwetzen said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

                re Pom injuries.

                Plus with Bairstowgate bubbling along there’s a distinct possibility that this series will be as much fun as MJ’s series.

                btw, I have a nickname proposal for Starc…. “Mitchamatosis”

              • November 27th 2017 @ 4:27pm
                Ouch said | November 27th 2017 @ 4:27pm | ! Report


                Like it.

            • November 27th 2017 @ 8:55am
              qwetzen said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

              Aren’t competitive sports about improving performance? By your logic the Mercedes F1 division won’t be doing any development in the off season because they won the Constructors this year.

          • November 27th 2017 @ 10:57pm
            DavSA said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:57pm | ! Report

            It is an interesting topic qwetzen.

            Somehow in the evolving influence of sports scientists and dare I say it high performance managers there seems to be an automatic inference that every fast bowler injury is an “overuse” outcome. The fact that a instantaneous trauma injury is a result of sustained stress is nonsense . There is not necessarily a correlation.

            I am loosely quoting Dale Steyn here but he is on record as saying that the more he bowls the better he gets .

            • Roar Guru

              November 27th 2017 @ 11:20pm
              Rellum said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:20pm | ! Report

              Based on Alex Kuntouris own figures the injury rate to fast bowlers has not changed over the last 20 years. All that resting, informed player management, bowling loads and now restricting even kids to so many overs has made no difference to just doing it the old ways.

              They are more who argue against the current methods. Steffan Jones is one.


              I am not against sports science or approaching things in a scientific way but when the outcomes are so poor then the methods have to be questioned.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 11:45pm
                DavSA said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

                Fully agree Rellum. I have however been involved in coaching athletics more specifically 10000m upwards to Ultra marathons and it is interesting how sport scientists have fundamentally even up to 180 degrees switched positions on certain training/dietary and resting principals.

              • Roar Guru

                November 28th 2017 @ 8:55am
                Rellum said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

                I have read that about athletics. Many bowlers say that they need to bowl more, a few of the older ones said you needed to run more. There is a thought that kids now specialise too early and are not playing enough different sports/activities as teenagers.

                Starc wants everyone to suit up again in Adelaide, which sounds more like a plea to Pat Howard.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 9:22am
          Don Freo said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

          I’m going spot on Qwetzen. I noticed that Jason Behrendorff has decided to play the rest of his career WITH his fractured vertebra that won’t heal.

          He is just going to support it with muscle memory.

          • November 27th 2017 @ 9:38am
            qwetzen said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

            That’s bad news for The Dorf. I noticed that his figures have been poor this season, wonder if that’s the reason?

            • November 27th 2017 @ 9:42am
              Don Freo said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

              That and the fact he was rested

    • November 27th 2017 @ 6:41am
      James GC said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      I think if hazelwood can find his mojo he will be just as challaging as the poems with the pink ball. If stark gets the pink ball reversing then the Aussie bowlers will be just as difficult their English counterparts and game could be over inside 3 days.

      • Roar Guru

        November 27th 2017 @ 8:25am
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        That’s the thing isn’t it. There’s been so much talk about the English bowlers potentially loving bowling with the pink ball in Adelaide, but Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins could do some serious damage with it also.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Don Freo said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        The poems seemed out of rhythm yesterday.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 9:39am
          Chui said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report


          They just didn’t rhyme at all.

          • November 27th 2017 @ 10:12am
            jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

            Would have thought we had to say them out loud and count our syllables.

            Must be auto correct?

          • November 27th 2017 @ 11:35am
            vrx said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            It could have been Stokes, Foakes and Woakes

      • November 27th 2017 @ 9:28am
        Pedro the Maroon said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        100% agree. Starc under lights might be nigh unplayable. And too dangerous forthe bunnies. MIght see Root call the Wokes, Anderson and Ball in rather than face more chin music.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 9:39am
        qwetzen said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        What poems are these?
        “pink” & “ball” aren’t difficult to rhyme.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 7:00am
          Matth said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:00am | ! Report

          But English and Lose seem to rhyme perfectly.

    • November 27th 2017 @ 6:53am
      Worlds Biggest said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      Would love to see the openers see out the runs this morning. If England take a few wickets that might give them some momentum going to Adelaide.

    • Roar Guru

      November 27th 2017 @ 7:48am
      Ryan H said | November 27th 2017 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      It really has been a wonderful test to watch; for the most part a really absorbing, compelling contest, played in a good spirit too with just enough spice in it.

      If Australia do go on this morning and win by 10 wickets it’s hardly a true reflection of the gap between the two sides – England were right in this match for three and a half days. One team grabbed the advantage and ran away with it, the other couldn’t. Eng should be pretty disappointed though having Aus at 7/200 still 100 behind in the first inns. Most key momentum changes were no doubt Smith & Cummins terrific partnership followed by the demolition job completed by the quicks on the lower order yesterday; particularly Starc.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 8:06am
        AR said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        Agree with all of that Ryan H.

        This was a far closer Test than the scorecard reflects. Should be a cracker series.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 8:26am
        Junior Coach said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Good comments Ryan, i reckon the lack of depth in the English bowling was key to that recovery, Moeen will probably average between 40-60 runs per wicket and on faster tracks leak a lot more runs. The two back up medium pacers looked very average but Woakes started to bowl OK yesterday when it was too late but could do well in Adelaide and Perth if he bowls full . its shaping up into an interesting series. The heavy reliance that England have on two bowlers will probably decide the series

        • November 27th 2017 @ 8:33am
          jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          Clear differences between the teams.

          1. We had a much better spinner who kept the pressure on

          2. Our 3rd quick was a lot better.

          3. Our gun batsman went on with his start and dominated. England’s got a start both times but was worked out.

          4. When under pressure/behind, England resorted to incredibly negative tactics.

          5. England’s 2nd best batsman failed twice and looks out of sorts. It doesn’t get better, because England’s other possible 2nd best batsman is looking at a suspension.

          6. England’s much vaunted middle order folded like a deck of cards in the first innings, then after Ali and Bairstow got 40s, did likewise in the 2nd.

          • Roar Guru

            November 27th 2017 @ 8:58am
            spruce moose said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

            Your top 3 points are spot on.

            Point 4. They were negative. They were defensive. Had they been able to aim their short balls better (like Starc and Hazlewood did) then it could have been a great tactic. But Ball has a very wayward bouncer.
            Point 5. Agree.
            Point 6. I don’t think anyone has considered Ali and Bairstow to be part of a vaunted middle order. The batting line up was always quite suspicious and most of the criticism lay with the fact that England might have to rely on Ali and Bairstow – and they are hardly dependable batsman at the best of times.

            England played hard for three days but were just outclassed.

            • November 27th 2017 @ 9:24am
              jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

              Bairstow at 7 and Ali at 8 was certainly supposed to be strong – ‘cept Ali hasn’t batted at 8.

              • Roar Guru

                November 27th 2017 @ 10:06am
                Red Kev said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                Bairstow is the second best bat in that England side (since Stokes is not here) and needs to be at no.5 behind Root.

                I reckon Cook is done – he looks like Ponting circa 2011 – he might have one more big innings in him (like Punter’s 221 against India in 2012) but he’s played on too long and quality bowling is just getting him out without trouble now.

              • Roar Guru

                November 27th 2017 @ 11:20am
                Ryan H said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

                That’s the thing; I agree in that he looks just about done with the way he is playing but yet he’s still only 32 approaching 33, whereas Ricky was around 35-36 at that point. Very much wonder how long he does go on after this series.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 10:06am
                spruce moose said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                Yeah, but that was predicated on Stokes being in the line up…which we’ve known for months he wasn’t going to be.

                At 6 and 7 they are not a vaunted middle order, especially with Malan at 5.

                There batting frailties were brutally exposed. The Australians bat to 11. Lyon would be a number 9 batsman in the English line up.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 10:13am
                jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:13am | ! Report

                Cook is only 32. Not old for a batsman.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 10:36am
                paul said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

                mentally, Cook is 38 or 39. Started at a young age and opening the batting for so long has made him mentally tired.

              • Roar Guru

                November 27th 2017 @ 10:19am
                Red Kev said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

                I don’t think it’s so much about age as it is 147 tests played – maybe he needs a sabbatical and will come back refreshed – but to me he just looks like a guy who can’t get himself up for the fight anymore. If he proves me wrong and scores a big hundred it’ll be good for the series, but I think the Australian quicks have his measure.

            • November 27th 2017 @ 9:31am
              Pedro the Maroon said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

              The Pommie short balls are 10kph slower. Not threatening to our tail at all. They need Devon Malcolm, Willis, John Snow, Gough, De Freitas, Small, etc. Someone with some actual pace. Or accuracy.

              • Roar Rookie

                November 27th 2017 @ 11:38am
                Lancey5times said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

                De Freitas? Didn’t he struggle to get over 130?

          • Roar Guru

            November 27th 2017 @ 9:06am
            The Bush said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

            This match actually sums up the difference between Smith and Root at this point in their careers – Smith makes centuries and Root doesn’t (at least not overseas). You just need to look at the conversion rate of 50s to 100s to see that.

            Hopefully Root can turn that around.

            • November 27th 2017 @ 9:24am
              jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

              …after this series

      • November 27th 2017 @ 11:40am
        vrx said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

        If Ben Stokes was playing, England’s Bowling depth looks much better and we may not have escaped from 7/200. No doubt the batting would be that much better too.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 11:50am
        Peter said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        The key moment in this game was probably Malan’s out shot in the 1st innings.

    • November 27th 2017 @ 8:17am
      Partyhat said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      I’m still hoping for rain …..!

    • November 27th 2017 @ 8:26am
      Christo the Daddyo said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      The England tailenders looked terrified in that second innings.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 8:34am
        jameswm said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

        Scared eyes again. And that was on a docile pitch.

        We went short with an appropriate field to their 9-11. And to an extent to Woakes as well. Gee how they are missing Stokes, as Woakes could have batted 9, with only 2 bunnies after him.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 9:42am
          George said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

          Good point, because – unless there’s already a decent score on the board – having three tailenders makes a big difference to how 6-8 can approach their batting.

          Bairstow is so wasted at 7. I’d actually favour: Cook, Stoneman, Root, Malan/ or Vince, Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Foakes, Overton, Broad, Anderson.

          • Roar Guru

            November 27th 2017 @ 10:20am
            Red Kev said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

            Wood for Overton – they need a guy who can actually put some heat on the ball.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 9:25am
        Pedro the Maroon said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        I couldn’t see their faces. They were looking at anything but the ball. Sheer terror that I have not seen since the first Alien film.

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