Rain intervenes after Pat Cummins rolls England for 147

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England were given no chance at redemption with the ball after wet outfield and bad light combined to end the day’s play

Australia 147 (Cummins 5-38) vs England

The Ashes’ past have been defined by the first ball of the series at the Gabba. Think Michael Slater clattering Phil DeFreitas for four in 1994-95 or Steve Harmison bowling the first ball to second slip in 2006-07.
The 2021-22 Ashes series may well be defined by Rory Burns being bowled around his legs first ball from Mitchell Starc as England collapsed to be all out for 147 at tea on the opening day of the first Test, with Australia captain Pat Cummins claiming 5 for 38 after Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat.

A thunderstorm then washed out the early part of the final session to pour salt into a gaping wound, as England were given no chance at redemption with the ball. A wet outfield and bad light combined to end the day’s play.

Root won’t be lambasted for life for the decision at the toss in the manner that Len Hutton and Nasser Hussain have in Ashes Tests of the past at the Gabba. Cummins admitted he might have batted too despite a distinct green tinge to the surface and some moisture both in the pitch and in the atmosphere.

But he would have been regretting it after he joined Andrew Flintoff and Andrew Strauss as England captains to make first-innings ducks in Ashes Tests at the Gabba. Root fell victim to a superb piece of bowling from Josh Hazlewood, who now has a stranglehold on the England skipper having claimed him eight times in Test cricket.

He also may regret leaving both James Anderson and Stuart Broad out of the side for the first time in five years and the first time in an Ashes Test since 2006, as England’s top order capitulated on a surface that gave the bowlers plenty of assistance. But some played their own part in the procession of wickets that fell in the first hour after slumping to 26 for 4.

Burns lost all bearings of where his stumps were stepping way outside off to expose leg stump to Starc who did shape the ball back down the line after it looked to be veering down leg. But Burns will rue the day as his error could be replayed for decades to come. He also claimed two regrettable records, becoming the second man in history to fall first ball of an Ashes series while registering his sixth duck of the calendar year, the most of any Test opener.

Hazlewood then went to work testing the defence of England’s top order and they were found wanting. Dawid Malan nicked a ball he could have easily left alone on length handing Alex Carey his first Test catch, while Root wasn’t allowed to breathe for eight unwavering deliveries before one straightened off the seam to catch his outside edge.

Ben Stokes entered at 3 for 11 needing to produce another Ashes miracle. He was undone after the drinks break by Cummins from around the wicket, squared up by a ball that climbed from a length and Marnus Labuschagne held a very sharp chance diving to his left at third slip.

Haseeb Hameed fought impressively in the face of some outstanding fast bowling. Hameed and Ollie Pope steadied the ship momentarily prior to lunch to prevent any further loss. Hameed was obdurate in defence while Pope was busy, pushing balls into the off side with positive footwork and weight transfer to rotate the strike well.

But neither could lay a glove on Hazlewood who bowled seven overs in the first session and conceded just three singles while collecting the scalps of Malan and Root.

The lunch break did Hameed no favours as Cummins struck again. He went wide of the crease and angled into off stump forcing Hameed to play, a hint of seam movement away caught the edge and again it was well held at slip, this time by vice-captain Steven Smith.

England’s only moment of joy for the day came with the arrival of Jos Buttler. Having pledged pre-series to play fearless cricket he followed through on his promise and counter-attacked in typical fashion. While England could barely defend Hazlewood before lunch, Buttler took the long handle to him launching him through and over the offside with control. Buttler and Pope’s positivity changed the atmosphere briefly as Australia turned Nathan Lyon for containment.

The pair shared a 52-run stand and Pope passed 1000 Test runs in the process becoming the sixth-youngest English player to do so.

But Starc returned and dismissed Buttler with a superb delivery that threatened to shape in but left him off the seam to catch the outside edge. Cameron Green then claimed his first Test wicket to raucous celebrations after going wicketless all last summer. Pope failed to control a hook shot and Hazlewood ran in from fine leg to complete an outstanding diving catch. It was the first of two for him in the deep as he took another to help Cummins complete his five-wicket haul. Cummins returned to take the last three wickets of the innings as England lost their last five for just 32 runs.

Cummins became the first Australian captain to take a five-wicket haul since Richie Benaud in 1962 and the first captain of either nation to do so since Bob Willis at the Gabba in 1982. It was a day he could not have dreamt up if he tried, as England added another chapter to their horror history at the Gabba.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo


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