The Ashes: Gabba Test lives up to its hype!

One couldn`t have wished for a more entertaining opener to the Ashes. If the last Ashes series in England was termed boring cricket, the opener here in Australia definitely was cricket at its best. It provided wholesome entertainment, exciting cricket and was a thrilling prelude to the Ashes Down Under.

Australia had never lost in Gabba for almost 60 years. But neither had they won a Test match this year. They maintained the record at Gabba and began the series with a crushing win.

England, on the other hand, suffered one of their worst Ashes Test defeats of all times. The top two being the third Ashes Test defeat in 1895 played at Adelaide Oval that Australia won by 382 runs, and the other being the first Test defeat in 2003, that the Nasser Hussain-led England lost by 384 runs at Gabba. Basically, Gabba has always spelled troubled for England.

In the first Test series, Australia defeated England by 381 runs. If Australia’s performance of scoring mere 295 in the first innings raised doubts over a victory, England went one step ahead and were all out for 136 in their first dig. Stuart Broad, despite the ongoing ‘Aussie-hatred’ and the media bashing he is facing, proved why he is England’s star bowler. But his six-wicket haul on day one was unfortunately wasted as English batsmen could not catapult it to get a lead in the first innings.

After dramatic loss of wickets endured by both the teams, day two saw some good cricket. It was basically day two that strengthened the Australian position. The icing on the cake was the centuries by Aussie opener David Warner (124) and captain Michael Clarke (113). Joining them was Brad Haddin who missed his Test century by six runs in the first innings and added 53 runs in the second essay. Once the Kangaroos were in a comfortable position stretching their lead to 560 runs, there was no looking back.

Though, by the second innings, the Australians had come back from their batting order disorders of the first innings, the English team couldn’t find back its form. Captain Cook just couldn`t sail England`s ship single-handedly. In the second innings, at one point, England lost four wickets in space of nine runs. The English top order, barring Cook who scored 65 runs, crumpled like a pack of cards and was all out on day 4, giving the Aussies their first Test win in 10 games. In the Ashes, the Aussies had been beaten for last eight times, but a ninth loss was not to be.

Mitchell Johnson was the star of the first Test. It was his destructive pace that raised the confidence of the team and shattered the English top order. His stats tell the story. In the first innings, he scored 64 runs and took four wickets. In the second, he took a five-wicket haul for 42 runs. He has definitely sealed his position in the Australian squad now after doubts over his technique raised speculations over his retention in Test squad.

While Michael Clarke would have been happy on winning a Test, Cook must be disappointed to lose just second loss in last 17 Tests he has captained for England. And how! Such a massive defeat would have dealt a heavy blow to the team`s psyche. While they still have four more Test matches to go, a win in this opener would definitely have boosted their morale, considering how high on confidence Cook and team were. But as the records go, they say, the team that has won first at Gabba is the one to get the urn! Considering how Gabba has been friendly to its cricket team, England need to up their ante and gather together their shattered confidence to retain the urn.