1st Test, Day Four, Cardiff.
England crushed Australia by 169 runs to take a 1-0 series lead in this year’s Ashes.
In a brilliant display with the ball, the England bowlers dismissed the whole Australian line up for 242 in their second innings. Stuart Broad spearheaded the ruthless performance by Alastair Cook’s men on a fast-paced fourth day.
The result makes England’s dismal performance down under 18 months ago feel like a distant memory, as they produced four days of high quality, exhilarating cricket.
Australia, who were strong favourites to retain the urn, now must regroup and rebuild ahead of the second test at Lord’s next week.
The hosts struggled during the morning session, with Chris Rodgers the only victim heading into lunch. The turning point of the innings was in the final over of the session, when David Warner was trapped LBW by Moeen Ali for 52.
Cook’s decision to allow Ali to bowl the final over was just one of the many masterstrokes the Essex opener made in what was arguably his best performance as England captain.
After the lunch break, England went up the gears, and smashed through the Australian batting line up. Broad took the crucial wickets of Steve Smith on 33, and then Aussie captain Michael Clarke.
Adam Voges and Brad Haddin came and went in quick succession and when Shane Watson was caught LBW to leave the tourists on 151-7, the home fans knew that the result was almost guaranteed.
A brave Mitchell Johnson put up a late fight to keep the Australians in with a shout, striking up a partnership of 72 with Mitchell Starc at the tail end of the order.
However Joe Root, who had batted well earlier in the match, claimed both the wickets of Johnson and Starc.
When Josh Hazlewood smashed a ball from Ali to long on, all the England players, coaching team and supporters erupted with joy.
It was only the third time England had won the opening Ashes test, the last being back in 2013 when they last won the Ashes. In 15 of the last 17 Ashes series, the winners of the first test have gone on to win the urn.
“It was a brilliant performance,” said Cook.
‘This Test couldn’t have gone any better and we’ll enjoy tonight.
“Everyone was talking about what’s gone on in the past, but this is a different side. We had to look forward. We always took the attacking option in this game.
“Joe Root was fantastic and the bowlers were superb.”
New head coach Trevor Bayliss will also be more than satisfied with England’s performance in what was his first match in charge of the team.
For Australia, they have many thoughts to ponder over the next few days.
The main decision to be made whether to drop Watson from the team after being caught LBW yet again (the 14th time against England in 35 innings). His understudy, Mitchell Marsh, scored hundreds in both of the two warm up games ahead of the series and could refresh the middle order for the visitors.
Another worry is the fitness of Starc, who had ankle surgery prior to the first test. Signs of fatigue were clear on the Australian during England’s second innings and the physio’s will hope not to exaggerate any further damage.
“We were outplayed in all three facets,” admitted Clarke.
“England batted well on day one, we didn’t take our catches and our batting let us down in both innings.
“We look forward to making amends in the second Test. I’m sure the selectors will look at everyone’s performance and make a decision.”