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Conclusions from the 1st Ashes Test (2010-11)
by Chetan Narula
Dec 02, 2010

Cricket is a cruel sport. You sit on edge for months, waiting for the most anticipated Test clash of our T20 times, and after four days of thrilling blow-for-blow machismo from players of both England and Australia, all we get is a high-scoring draw. As much as fans across the world would have wanted to see either team go one-up in the series, the result was still mighty fair.

If it can be said so, then neither Andrew Strauss and his boys or Ricky Ponting’s men took the game by the scruff of its neck. They were both equally defensive, almost like waiting for the other to make a mistake and then pounce it. The problem with that methodology was that if either side did commit an error, the other didn’t really have the resources to make it count. For example, Australia were in pole position on day three to grind out a result in their favour. But the bowling wasn’t just there to take ten more English wickets. They were all out for 260 in the first innings and were 517 for 1 in the second – it only means that conditions changed dramatically between the two times they batted and the worrying point being that in adverse conditions, Ponting’s bowlers came up terribly short again. Not to mention the captain himself seemed to be running out of ideas, rather ageing at a brisk pace.

There is no doubt that a mammoth score as this helped England earn a huge morale boost. But the score-line is still nil-all and for Australia that is what matters. It may help them grind out the opposition again, even as early as the next Test at Adelaide, but what Strauss really needs to make sure is that his team makes their chances count. Even singular ones like in Brisbane, for there was never really any doubt that a result could be obtained on the final day. Their one chance came when Australia were five down in the first innings, before Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin made their own merry.

It was surprising how conditions altered so drastically across the five days, despite some showers around. The first two days there was definitive moisture in the pitch and while it rose to the surface and dried up, batting was extremely difficult. Fifteen wickets falling even before the third day’s play had started raised hopes of an entertaining end to the match but that was false hope. In the end it played out a true batsmen’s pitch where run-making became easier than walking straight. It is not to say that such pitches have no place in international cricket but a similar Test match pitch in the sub-continent would have made the entire world cry.

Moving on from the hypocrisy though, the most surprising aspect of it all was the inadequacy of spinners from both sides to be active participants in the match. While Graeme Swann came in with quite a reputation, Xavier Doherty made his debut as the umpteenth spinner to be tried out by Australia since Shane Warne. Now they did turn the ball from day one, sometimes as much as seven degrees, but the wickets column didn’t reflect their ability, especially in the case of Swann who had a torrid affair in this match. One believes he still is the difference between the two sides but really needs to put his hand up beginning - from Adelaide - if that difference is to come to the fore.

The big upside for the Aussies is that they dominated for three out of the five days but look at the glass half empty and you will see that they failed to convert it into a win. On the other hand, the visitors were on top only on the last two days of the Test and largely due to their batting, which means that they will be even more buoyed having shared the honours at the Gabba. This equation can be looked at two different ways, as with all things. Firstly, you need to take twenty wickets to win a Test match and both teams will be looking most at that department. The hosts might try changing some players around, such as drop Mitchell Johnson for the second Test and bring in Doug Bollinger to look more potent. England might stick with the same combination in Adelaide and give it another try.

Secondly though, and inherent from the above point, Australia now need to take those twenty wickets thrice in four matches to win the Ashes. England only need to do that twice.
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