The UK cricket press frothed over England’s catastrophic opening day of the Ashes series and took skipper Joe Root to task over his controversial decision to bat first on a green top in the latest chapter of their Gabba woes.
There was also an inquisition over the call to omit both pace figureheads James Anderson and Stuart Broad as the tourists were skittled for 147 off 50.1 overs before a storm lashed Brisbane and washed out the rest of the first day’s play.
And making it even more galling for UK viewers having to stay up all night for that, they were forced to suffer through the “inane drivel” of Australia’s Fox Sports commentary.
Oliver Brown in The Telegraph said Root’s fateful decision had reaffirmed England’s “timeless gift for self-sabotage”.
“(Rory) Burns’ brain-fade will live in infamy,” he wrote of the opener’s first-ball dismissal, bowled by Mitchell Starc.
“It was an unforgettable piece of sporting theatre, with Starc celebrating so hard you feared the veins in his neck might burst.
“For an opener still struggling to justify his place, now with six ducks to his name in his 16 innings this year, it brought the grisliest humiliation.”
Scyld Berry, writing in the same newspaper, simply asked “Why did he do that?” after Root, following more than a week of rain in Brisbane, opted to bat first.
The Sun’s John Etheridge bemoaned that years of preparation had been undone by a single ball.
“Years of dreams, months of planning and weeks of practice. And what happened? Rory Burns was out on the very first delivery of the Ashes series. And it set a grim tone for the rest of the day,” he wrote.
“Almost everything that could have gone wrong for Joe Root and his team did go wrong. All those hopes of being competitive in this series might have been wiped away in a single day.
England’s decision to omit both Stuart Broad and James Anderson – for the first time in five years – caused widespread bafflement.”
The BBC’s Stephan Shemilt noted that history was hanging heavy over the Gabba as England walked out to bat.
“After only one ball, England were reminded why they have lost nine of their past 10 Tests in Australia and not won in Brisbane for 35 years.
“Like Steve Harmison’s first delivery to second slip in 2006 or Nasser Hussain’s decision to field in 2002, Burns was written into Ashes folklore by a swinging Starc yorker which clattered into leg stump.
“Should England have chosen to field first? Batting did begin to look easier in the afternoon session, by which time the damage had been done.
“There will be questions over the decision to omit both Broad and Anderson, made with the rest of the series in mind, though England may have already suffered a crucial blow. It is too early to write them off in both this match and the series, but this is an awful start.”
Queensland Police are launching an investigation into a group impersonating a Test batting order at the Gabba.
— Queensland Police (@QldPolice) December 8, 2021
The Guardian’s Ali Martin opined it was a day of contrasts for the two captains.
“It was a first day in the job that seemed written in the southern stars for Pat Cummins, Australia’s newly-crowned Test captain claiming a five-wicket haul, watching his opposite number trudge off after a nine-ball duck and England’s batsmen left in a state of general bewilderment,” Martin wrote.
“From the opening delivery of this pandemic-era Ashes, when Rory Burns displayed the footwork of an early Strictly Dancing evictee and Mitchell Starc speared the brand new Kookaburra ball into his leg stump, everything turned to Australian gold.
“For England, three for 11 in the blink of an eye and then all out for 147 in 50.1 overs, this represented the latest chapter in the great book of Gabba woes.”
Pat Cummins with a five-wicket haul on his first day as Australia's Test captain … England 147 all out … talk about written in the stars
— Ali Martin (@Cricket_Ali) December 8, 2021
The Telegraph’s Nick Hoult said England endured the worst possible start to an Ashes tour.
“The first ball of the Ashes series set a wretched tone for England as they endured a depressingly familiar tough day at the Gabba that crushed spirits and derailed years of planning.
“Bowled out for 147, England endured the worst possible start to an Ashes tour with Joe Root, their captain and world’s no.1 batsman, making a nine-ball duck and facing questions over his decision making.
“Australia had feet on English throats from the first ball of the series which crashed into Rory Burns’ stumps and did not ease off until they had condemned England to their lowest first innings score at the Gabba since 1958.
“Root endured one of his worst days in the job at the start of a series he admitted would “define” his captaincy.
“England’s better suit is bowling, their weakness batting especially on this kind of surface so why not play to your strengths after such an unusual build up and bowl first?”
Cummins has five in his first innings as Test captain, as Hazlewood gobbles another great catch at fine leg to get rid of Woakes. That was mainly pathetic by England: 147 may be decent in snooker, but it's horrible as an opening bid in the Ashes.
— Lawrence Booth (@the_topspin) December 8, 2021
Former England captain Mike Atherton, writing in The Times, said there will be a lot of focus on Root’s decision to bat first and that definitive judgment must wait.
“Root’s justification – that the softer than usual pitch would dent, become quicker and therefore harder to bat on as the game progresses – demands our consideration and will only be proved right or wrong over the next few days. Still, at the close, he probably wished his time over again.
“Bowl first and mess it up, and the captain takes the flak as Len Hutton did and Nasser Hussain continues to do, even though it is almost two decades now since Nassar sent Australia on their way in the 2002-03 series.
“It is the batsmen, not the captain, who get the blame if a captain bats first and it goes wrong.”
— Neil Robertson (@nr147) December 8, 2021
Another one-time England skipper, Alastair Cook, said that all is not lost.
“They will have to come out swinging,” he told BT Sport. “They have got history of fighting back against Australia.
“The coaches have to earn their money now, saying the right things at the right times, making sure it isn’t doom and gloom.
“They have to go around making sure that the likes of Rory Burns can regroup and come back and bat in the second innings.”
If the poor performance on the field wasn’t bad enough for the English, their rights holder BT Sport decided not to staff the commentary leaving it to the Australian legends on Fox.
“For England supporters, the only thing worse than watching their team’s opening batsman lose his leg stump off the first ball of the Ashes is having to listen to the Aussies still crowing about it 10 minutes later,” wrote Ben Bloom in The Telegraph.
“Thanks to BT Sport’s decision not to send their own commentary team out to cover this series, instead taking the global feed provided and voiced by the host broadcaster Fox Sports, the Ashes can be viewed solely through an Australian prism. If day one is anything to go by, it is not only England’s dismal batting that will make the next few weeks so difficult to stomach.
“Six years ago, cricket writer Geoff Lemon summed up the descent of the Australian commentary box as “all about being the matiest mates who ever mated”. Inside a few minutes of Wednesday morning’s session, an English audience usually spared such inanities had become all too familiar with the competitive chuminess that will be rammed down their throat over five Tests.
“The main trouble with putting the likes of Shane “Warney” Warne, Adam “Gilly” Gilchrist, and Mark “Junior” Waugh – ignore the nicknames at your peril – together in a room is their simple inability to stop talking, immersed in a seemingly endless quest to see who can spout the most drivel.
“Evenly poised,” was the utterly meaningless linguistic concoction that fell out of Warne’s mouth when Jos – or Josh as most of the Australian commentators insisted on calling him – Buttler was dismissed to leave England reeling at 112 for six. Just words, mate. Don’t get hung up on them, mate. Cricket commentary, mate. The Poms will be hating this, mate.”