Monday, 15 July 2013

The Ashes: First Test

by Sampad Sengupta

Victorious England celebrate
Wickets tumbling, runs scored, records broken and to add to all that, some controversy, that’s all you can ask for in a game of cricket and the first Ashes test of 2013 didn’t disappoint.  It was a fight to the finish in the first test match at Trent Bridge as England came out on top beating arch rivals Australia by 14 runs on the final day.  The match was a brilliant advert for the longer format of the game which many consider to have lost its charm.

The headlines in the build-up to the series were dominated by the return of England’s star batsman Kevin Pietersen and also by the appointment of Darren Lehmann as Australia’s head coach.  The Australian team, very much a team in transition and struggling to find stability, had plenty of changes in the dressing room with the arrival of new players and personnel.  This was highlighted in their team selection for the first test where they dropped established players like David Warner and Nathan Lyon and brought in 19-year old debutant Ashton Agar.  The England side was much more predictable with the only notable change being that of Joe Root opening the batting alongside captain Alastair Cook.  England won the toss and chose to bat and soon found themselves in trouble as they got bowled out for a meagre 215, Peter Siddle being the pick of the Australian fast bowlers, picking up 5 wickets.  Australia too did not find it easy to score runs after a shaky start and thanks to some good knocks in the middle order and a record breaking innings of 98 (off 101 balls) from No. 11 Ashton Agar, they reached a total of 280. Agar’s score was the highest by any No.11 batsman in Tests.  His innings was that of class and he played a brand of fearless cricket showing no signs of being nervous playing his first Ashes test.

Ashton Agar

England then came out for their second innings and the controversy began as Jonathan Trott was given out LBW despite suggestions that he might have nicked the ball.  The innings was then given some stability by Cook and Pietersen, both of whom fell after reaching their fifties.  It was then down to Ian Bell (109 runs off 267 balls) and Stuart Broad (65 runs off 148 balls) to put together a solid partnership and take the score to 375.  It was during this innings of Broad’s that the main talking point of the game took place.  Agar, a left-arm spinner, bowled a delivery which bounced ever so slightly on Broad and caught the outside edge of the bat. The ball then deflected off the keeper’s gloves and was caught at slip by Australian captain Michael Clarke.  For a moment, it was celebrations all around for Australia only for them to realise that Broad was still there and the umpire had not given him out.  Having used up all their reviews, a shocked Australian side had no choice but to carry on and allow England set them a target of 311 runs to win.  Australia got off to a good start with Rogers and Watson only for the latter to be given out LBW under controversial circumstances once again.  Australia were left needing just over 130 runs on the final day with 4 wickets to go. The final day showed us what Test cricket is all about as the two teams played their hearts out in front of a full house at Trent Bridge.  After a nail biting few hours of cricket which saw a fantastic spell of bowling by James Anderson and some brave batting by Brad Haddin and also another Australian No. 11 James Pattinson, the fate of the match had to be decided by the third umpire as England asked for a review and Haddin was given out.  England won the game by 14 runs and Anderson was named Man of the Match, picking up 10 wickets in the game and once again showing how valuable he is to this England team.  

The match will be remembered for quite a few reasons such as Anderson’s bowling, Agar’s herculean effort with the bat and the many controversial decisions from umpires and also the DRS (Decision Review System), and also whether Stuart Broad should have walked when he edged the ball off Agar. Perhaps that is a topic to be discussed at greater length, by analysts and critics and cricket-lovers all over the world.  Overall, the game was truly memorable and paved the way for what should be a hard-fought series between the two teams.

Read Tim McBain's response to the Ashes' First Test here.

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