|First Ashes Test, Brisbane (day one of five)|
|England 147 all out: Cummins 5-38|
|Australia: Yet to bat|
England’s Ashes campaign began in depressingly familiar fashion as the tourists were skittled for just 147 by Australia on the opening day of the series at the Gabba.
In a moment of instant Ashes infamy, Rory Burns was bowled by Mitchell Starc from the very first delivery of the series, immediately sapping English optimism in Brisbane.
With skipper Joe Root falling for nought, England were 11-3, having opted to bat on a green-tinged pitch.
Australia’s pace attack was relentless, led by Pat Cummins, who claimed 5-38 on his first day as captain.
Jos Buttler led an England counter-attack of sorts with 39, sharing 52 with Ollie Pope, who made 35.
Haseeb Hameed, with a watchful 25, and Chris Woakes, who made 21, were the only four batters to reach double figures.
The miserable batting display detracted from the decision to omit Stuart Broad, who joined fellow pace bowler James Anderson on the sidelines, the first time in 15 years England have played an Ashes Test without at least one of them.
England were all out by tea, only for a huge storm to wipe out the evening session and prevent the start of Australia’s reply.
New Ashes, old story
With the bad weather, Covid restrictions and a lack of preparation for both sides amounting to a unique build-up to the series, a grey morning and half-empty Gabba did little to make this feel like an Ashes opener.
However, after only one ball, England were reminded why they have lost nine of their past 10 Tests in Australia and not won in Brisbane for 35 years.
Like Steve Harmison’s first delivery to second slip in 2006 or Nasser Hussain’s decision to field in 2002, Burns was written into Ashes folklore by a swinging Starc yorker which clattered into leg stump.
Should England have chosen to field first? Batting did begin to look easier in the afternoon session, by which time the damage had been done.
There will be questions over the decision to omit both Broad and Anderson, made with the rest of the series in mind, though England may have already suffered a crucial blow.
The last two times England have won series in Australia – 1986-87 and 2010-11 – they have avoided being beaten in Brisbane. It is too early to write them off in both this match and the series, but this is an awful start.
Fragile batting costs England again
For all of the hope that damp conditions in Brisbane and, later, the prospect of two pink-ball Tests might favour England’s bowlers, the fear that the batting would fail too often was realised at the earliest opportunity.
As well as Australia bowled and as difficult as the early conditions were, England’s batters were not equipped to survive.
Burns got too far across and exposed his stumps to become the second man in history to be out to the first ball of an Ashes series. Dawid Malan prodded at Josh Hazlewood, who then got movement from a full length to take the crucial wicket of Root.
Ben Stokes, returning to the game for the first time since July, was squared up by Cummins, the skipper then drawing Hameed into needlessly playing at a wide one after lunch.
Buttler’s counter-attack, featuring drives over the covers, raised hopes and briefly knocked Australia from their length.
However, his edge behind off Starc was the signal for England to lose their last five wickets for 35 runs.
Captain Cummins leads Australia charge
After the turmoil of Australia’s build-up – former captain Tim Paine resigned after a texting scandal, then pulled out of the series completely – this was a near-perfect start for the hosts and new skipper Cummins.
It was Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood who laid waste to England’s batting in Australia’s 4-0 win four years ago, and they ran through the tourists once more by finding movement from a full length.
If both sides have had a disrupted build-up, it is worth noting the same pace trio have been bowling meaningfully in Australia’s triumph at the T20 World Cup and they showed no signs of rustiness in Brisbane.
They were supported by secure catching. Debutant Alex Carey, Paine’s replacement behind the stumps, pouched three, while Hazlewood himself took a fine diving grab at long leg to give Cameron Green his first Test wicket when Pope lost control of a pull shot.
Cummins took the final three wickets, a flat-footed waft by Ollie Robinson followed by both Mark Wood and Woakes falling to the short ball.
Lower-order batters being blown away by Australian bouncers is yet another ominous sign for England.
‘Difficult to understand Broad decision’
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “I was very surprised by England’s team. I found it quite hard to believe – a really difficult decision to work out. You lost James Anderson, although he was fit to play we’re told, but you can understand why with Adelaide next week you wouldn’t want to risk him.
“Broad is fit and he’s absolutely got the sign over this top order. What will have Australia thought when they saw he wasn’t playing?”
Ashes-winning pace bowler Steven Finn on Test Match Special: “England will have fancied their chances of getting through the first hour, when you know there are going to be difficult periods. There was evidence there to suggest that the ball was skipping onto the bat once it lost its hardness. I can understand why England made that decision but unfortunately it hasn’t gone right for them.”
Australia captain Pat Cummins: “It’s all gone to plan so far today. I’m proud of all the guys. We stayed really composed. I was probably going to have a bat, but I wasn’t upset to lose the toss. It was 50-50.”