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Gift of the Gabba: Aussies go up 1-0 in the Ashes

Australia are poised to take a 1-0 series lead in South Africa. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Expert
27th November, 2017
15

Australia has taken a 1-0 lead in the 2017-18 Ashes series and maintained its longstanding unbeaten run in Brisbane with a ten-wicket victory over England.

The Test began with a good omen on Thursday as Mitchell Starc took an early wicket, removing Alastair Cook for two, before a strong partnership between Mark Stoneman (53) and James Vince (83) took England out to 2/127.

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Dawid Malan (58) and Moeen Ali (38) offered something later in the order, but once they fell the English tail was cleaned up without too much fuss and the visitors kept to a manageable, if not ideal, total of 302.

» Australia vs England: Ashes first Test scorecard

Australia looked at serious risk of botching their chance to keep pace with the Poms when, after less than 25 overs, they had lost the wickets of Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, David Warner and Peter Handscomb for just 79 runs.

Enter the skipper Steve Smith, cool as a cucumber, the steadying influence Australia needed. By the time Australia’s first innings was done he had spent a gruelling eight and a half hours at the crease, facing 326 balls and grinding out 141 unbeaten runs, an Ashes century to would make Tom Liberatore proud.

However significant credit must be given to the much-maligned Shaun Marsh and also Pat Cummins, who both came in to play second banana to Smith and did so well, providing him a partner with which to make a game-defining stand. Marsh made 51 after his eighth recall to the Test team, and Cummins 42.

There was an immense sense of relief on the third day when Australia overtook England’s total and ultimately finished the innings with a lead of 26 runs, a position that had looked a world away before Smith’s heroics.

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That said, the match was still very much in the balance as England went in for their second innings, but a masterful effort from Australia’s bowling attack saw the English all out for 195, leaving Australia with a target of just 170 to reach.

Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon tore through the top order, splitting England’s first six wickets with three apiece before Mitchell Starc cleaned up the tail, taking the wickets of Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad in the space of sixteen balls. Cummins felled Jake Ball to end England’s innings.

This left Australia with plenty of time to bat on the fourth day and Bancroft and Warner came in full of confidence.

Bancroft ground his way out to a maiden half-century in his debut Test, and Warner put in a typically aggressive knock to put Australia within 56 runs of victory with all their wickets still in hand at dawn on the fifth day.

The pair then continued on their way on the fifth day, with an edge from Bancroft off the bowling of Jake Ball the only scare of the innings as the hosts cruised to a ten-wicket victory, and seemingly only the lack of a great enough total to chase preventing either from notching a century.

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