The Ashes will roll onto Headingley as the third Test gets underway between England and Australia. The match is scheduled to start at 8pm (AEST) on Thursday, August 22.
In the wake of the first Ashes Test, nearly all commentators were in raptures about the batting of Steve Smith – and rightly so.
He clearly held the innings together when Australia batted first and his two centuries will be long remembered for all the reasons provided by the media.
The ensuing commentary has been all about how to get Smith out, or at least contain him.
In the Roar alone, there have been articles focused on the battle between Smith and Jofra Archer, the introduction of Jack Leach to the England side and his ability to curb Smith’s scoring – or even get him out – and finally suggestions about making seaming pitches, again because Smith is not at his best on these surfaces.
What has been almost completely ignored are the efforts of the other ten Australian team members who also played at Edgbaston.
Travis Head played a crucial role in the first innings with his 35, then Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon provided excellent support at the end of the innings which allowed Australia to make a decent score.
The top four bowlers each sent down at least 27 overs on a benign pitch and restricted England to a 90 run lead. Importantly, they made England really struggle for their runs, with the innings taking 135.3 overs and a scoring rate of 2.77 runs per over.
This was helped in large part by some outstanding Australian fielding, coupled with some astute bowling changes and field placements by Tim Paine.
The second Australian innings was less Smith dominated, with an excellent 40 from Khawaja who really took it to the bowlers and helped set the tone of the innings. Head once again helped steady the innings, so the lower order could go to town on a tired England attack.
There were four innings that hardly rated a mention but were crucial in both the physical and psychological demise of England in that Test. These came from Matthew Wade, Tim Paine, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins.
All scored quickly by Test standards and their batting was coupled by some excellent captaincy from Paine, who delayed the declaration when commentators thought he should have given his bowlers more time at England on day four.
As an aside, the effects of this late order hammering cannot be underestimated in the context of the series. The Australian batsmen sent a very clear message both about their intent and ability to play against the England attack, so much so Moeen Ali is not only out of the Test side but is taking a break from the game altogether.
The final innings belonged to Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins but again, all bowlers did their part. The fielding was top drawer and the catch taken by Cameron Bancroft to dismiss Joe Root was an absolute beauty.
Steve Smith has been compared to Bradman in a number of articles in the Roar and there’s one other aspect about Bradman which some may not realize. When Bradman was dominating world cricket, his teammates were almost an afterthought.
It’s important not to ignore how well the side played and that an Australian XI won the First Test by 251 runs. Hopefully we’ll hear more about the other players in the team as the series progresses.