There was a deep feeling of dread when Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns walked out onto the Gabba’s moderately green crease to open the batting in the first Test of this winter’s Ashes. But no one would have predicted the collapse that followed.
Here are the talking points from England’s batting on day one of the series in Brisbane yesterday.
One of the certainties about this Ashes was always the strength and stability of the Australian bowling attack.
The combination of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc have been the awesome foursome for a number of Test series now.
And there’s no better way to show your intent than going in for the kill with the first ball on the opening morning. The victim? Rory Burns.
The 90mph swinging yorker was an absolute peach, and there was little Burns could have done about it.
But with Burns’s sixth duck of 2021, the bowling attack of the Baggy Greens has raised further questions as to who should open for England.
Starc and company had England in disarray and rattled through the order with little resistance to get England all out for 147 before rain – thankfully for some – stopped play.
In the coming matches, and potentially even the second innings, making England consider alternative plans of action already could bear fruit for the home side.
Just leave it
It’s easy to sit on the sofa or in the stands and say “I could have done better” but at times England looked like they were in the nets, not playing a Test match.
Dawid Malan was dismissed going for a shot he’d no doubt have knocked for four in a Twenty20 match, but Test cricket is different gravy.
You’ve got to bide your time and build your runs. Individual landmarks mean little when the rest of the team are crumbling.
Hameed was out relatively easily, despite his 25-run contribution. Joe Root got out for a duck and Ben Stokes for just five. These are the key men: your opener, captain and star man. All out cheaply.
If England get the opportunity to bat a second innings, they’ll need to carefully weigh up their chance of scoring against the risk of getting out. And with the first innings no doubt in their minds, the pressure can only grow.
Brothers in arms
The decision to drop wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow raised eyebrows, but in Ollie Pope England at least had a glimmer of hope.
He and Jos Buttler achieved a 50 partnership which combined a need to get runs on the board with the necessity of simply staying at the crease.
There were some sublime shots within the knock and the duo managed to spare England from even further embarrassment.
Going forward there will be a selection dilemma between Buttler, Bairstow and Pope – should the trio have a series of respectable knocks – but it’s difficult to believe England’s selectors won’t be keeping an eye on the secondary Lions squad players as a fallback plan.
England’s innings was simply not good enough. The runs were few and far between and the necessary patience was absent.
But Australia were good, too. Their relentlessness was a testament to their determination from the outset – something England quickly need to discover.