|Men’s Ashes: First Specsavers Test, Edgbaston (day five of five)|
|Australia 284 (Smith 144, Broad 5-86) & 487-7 dec (Smith 142, Wade 110)|
|England 374 (Burns 133) & 146 (Woakes 37, Lyon 6-49)|
|Australia won by 251 runs; go 1-0 up in five-match series|
England surrendered on the final day of the first Ashes Test, giving Australia a crushing 251-run win and a 1-0 lead in the series.
Needing to bat out the day to earn a draw – chasing 398 to win was never in the offing – England at one stage lost six wickets for 37 runs on the way to being bowled out for 146 at Edgbaston.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon took advantage of the worn pitch to claim 6-49, while paceman Pat Cummins picked up 4-32 as the tourists surged to victory just before tea.
It puts them ahead in an Ashes series in the UK for the first time in 14 years.
England can rightly point to the fact they have been without pace bowler James Anderson for almost the whole game – he pulled up with a recurrence of a calf injury after bowling only four overs on the first morning.
However, the wisdom of selecting Anderson in the first place can be questioned, while the hosts will also rue a collapse of 4-18 on the third morning, some curious tactics on the fourth day and an awful shot by Jason Roy that began the final-day slump from 60-1.
In truth, though, this match will be remembered for the brilliance of Australia batsman Steve Smith, whose twin centuries rescued his side from 122-8 in the first innings and again from a deficit of 15 runs when three wickets down in the second.
England have their own problems to address before the second Test at Lord’s begins next Wednesday, but none are as big as what to do about Smith.
|First Test: Australia won by 251 runs|
|Second Test: 14-18 August, Lord’s|
|Third Test: 22-26 August, Headingley|
|Fourth Test: 4-8 September, Old Trafford|
|Fifth Test: 12-16 September, The Oval|
Roy’s rush of blood sparks England slide
While there was turn on offer for Lyon, an otherwise dead surface should have given England the opportunity to put up a better fight than they did in front of the final-day crowd in excess of 10,000.
That they were bowled out so meekly says much about the potency of the Australian attack, but also the tendency of England’s batting to fall in a heap.
After Rory Burns gloved a Cummins lifter to point, Roy and Joe Root were comfortable in a stand of 41, even if Root twice used the review system to reverse decisions made by umpire Joel Wilson – the seventh and eighth time that the West Indian had seen his calls overturned in the match.
Roy had been chosen on the back of his one-day form and encouraged to play in an aggressive manner, but it was simply not the time to be charging down the wicket and looking to hit Lyon over the top.
After Roy was bowled, the skittish Joe Denly was caught at short leg and when Root went the same way, England’s fate seemed sealed before lunch.
Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes offered no resistance and even though the crowd sang for the shots of Chris Woakes, the last three wickets fell for 10 runs.
Superb Smith engineers Australia win
Taking Anderson’s injury, England’s collapses and Australia’s excellent final-day bowling into account, there still remains one overriding reason for the result of this match; the immovable Smith.
From 17-2 in the first innings and 27-2 in the second, his fidgeting, flamboyant leaves and nudges off the pads for scores of 144 and 142 sucked the life from England – all this while dealing with constant taunting from the Edgbaston crowd in his first Test after being banned for the ball-tampering saga.
He has slipped back into the form that brought him 687 runs in Australia’s 4-0 win in 2017-18 and, if he continues, it seems hard to imagine anything other than the urn returning down under.
Smith set up the final-day push for victory, allowing Lyon to expertly exploit the conditions with accuracy, bounce and sharp turn, backed up by the hostility of Cummins.
Yes, openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft failed in both innings, but Matthew Wade got a century in a middle order where the rest all made contributions, questions over captain Tim Paine’s place have eased and there is still the pace of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in reserve.
It is early in the series, but Australia are well-placed for a first away Ashes win since 2001 and have earned 24 points in the new International Cricket Council Test Championship.
Questions for England
Little more than three weeks on from a glorious day at Lord’s, England are facing tough decisions over some of the players that won them the World Cup.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali bowled desperately poorly in this match and is averaging only 15 with the bat in his last 12 Tests. He will come under pressure from Jack Leach.
Similarly, wicketkeeper Bairstow has made four consecutive single-figure scores and could lose his place to Ben Foakes or an all-rounder if England opt to give the gloves to Buttler.
On top of that, the loss of Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, is an immeasurable blow, even if the fiery Jofra Archer is waiting in the wings to make his debut.
And, while opener Burns made a maiden Test century at Edgbaston, there are questions over whether Denly is worth his place at number four.
England must find answers for the second Test, because another defeat would almost certainly put the Ashes beyond reach.
Root ‘hurt and disappointed’ – what they said
England captain Joe Root at the presentation: “It hurts. It is bitterly disappointing. We played really good cricket in the majority of the Test match. Credit to Australia. They fought hard to get back in it.
“Steve Smith played two brilliant innings. We have to keep working hard to get him out. Obviously it was hard that we lost Jimmy early on. We have to take it on the chin and come back hard at Lord’s.”
On Anderson’s fitness: “It was a group decision to select him. He passed all of the fitness tests. It is one of those freak things that happen in cricket. It is disappointing.”
Australia batsman Steve Smith: “Winning the first Test in England is really special.
“It feels great, I’m loving being back playing cricket for Australia, doing what I love and contributing to wins. To score two hundreds in a match – the first time I’ve done that in any form of cricket in my life – is very special and I’m very proud.”
Australia captain Tim Paine: “Steve Smith has been unbelievable, not just this week but in the last five or six weeks too. He makes guys better.
“He’s one of the best Test batsmen we’ve seen and he seems to be getting even better.”