A test match polished off within four days? a win by 169 runs? and by England? Visitors at the SWALEC stadium could not have anticipated such a fantastic result after the start England had.
England were facing the new world champions who had given them a real pummeling in the last Ashes series. However it still wasn’t expected to be as bad as the previous Ashes. They might have had a horrendous World Cup tournament but this was Test cricket, England’s pride and joy. They were on home ground, their young players were flourishing and they did not have the ugly surprise of a new Mitchell Johnson on an Australian track.
England won the toss and elected to bat first. It seemed like it would just be another dull whitewash series as the first three wickets fell for less than 50 runs. It should have been four had Joe Root not been dropped by the Australian keeper. It was then that the match turned. Joe Root cemented the innings with 134. Accompanied by half centuries from Gary Ballance, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, England were able to muster up a solid first innings score of 430.
Playing against New Zealand brought out a side in Alastair Cook that was rarely seen. Cook had all his ten men inside the ring at points. He put four slip fielders and two gully fielders for one of the most destructive batsmen in the world, Brendon McCullum. Thankfully for England, Cook appeared to carry his new style of captaincy to the first Test. He was aggressive, he tempted the Aussies and it paid off.
Only Chris Rogers scored a half century for Australia in the second innings. It was a solid score of 95 but he was just not backed up. None of the other players were able to reach 40 as Cook’s plans panned out. At the end of the innings, Australia were still trailing by 122 runs.
England continued to bat well with a run rate of 4.11. A few early wickets fell but once again Root and Stokes stepped up along with Ian Bell who had been having a poor run so far. England were all out for 289 but had a lead of 411 and two whole days to bowl Australia out.
They did not need both days. Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali picked up three wickets each. Bar David Warner’s 52 and Mitchell Johnson’s entertaining 77, none of the other batsmen even turned up. Steve Smith scored 33 and for the second time in the Test, Shane Watson wasted a review on an LBW decision (his eighth unsuccessful review in Ashes cricket).
Australia lost by 169 runs with a whole day to spare. It was once again their batting that failed them. Australia will need to seriously consider Watson’s place in the side and head back to the drawing board before the second Test at Lords.