England can take a sigh of relief now as they have taken a critical 1-0 lead at Ashes 2013 but Australia ran it pretty close. When Brad Haddin and James Pattinson walked out to play the post-lunch session on the fifth day of the match, it could have gone either way.
The media-bandwagon tipped this Australian squad to be the ‘worst ever’ to tour England, and if there was any similar opinions in the England dressing room, they would have been wiped away by the end of the first Test.
The victory at Nottingham might go a long way in deciding the eventual fate of this series but it was definitely a moral victory for Australia at the end of the day as they put up a fight at critical moments of the Test match.
Australia, however, still have plenty of areas to address before they turn up at Lord’s for the second Test of the series. The middle order failed to absorb the pressure that was built upon them by the English fast bowlers in both innings.
Michael Clarke and Ed Cowan failed to contribute to the team’s efforts in both the innings.
James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc did just enough to trouble the English batsmen but their inexperience was rather visible.
On the positive side, Australia have produced a huge talent in 19-year-old Ashton Agar from nowhere. Peter Siddle gave his 100% as usual whereas Chris Rogers proved that he can anchor the innings at the top of the order. They should take this loss in the best possible way and come back a better side at Lord’s.
That was, in brief, what Australia can take away from the test. Here’s a look at five things that the home side can take away from the first test played at Trent Bridge:
5. Lower-middle order needs strengthening
Australia saved face in the first Test match on the strength of their lower-middle order’s contribution. It was Steve Smith who steadied the ship for Australia in the first innings and Philip Hughes who batted alongside the tail to move ahead of the English total.
Haddin dug deep into his reserves of patience in the second innings and almost chased the English target with the contributions of their tail-end batsmen.
England, on the other hand, looked vulnerable as Jonny Bairstow and Matthew Prior failed to make significant contributions with the bat. Stuart Broad deserves a pat on the bat for sticking it out with Ian Bell in the second innings but England will need more runs from their last five batsmen the way this series is shaping-up.
4. Steven Finn or Tim Bresnan?
This question is likely to raise its head once again as Australia looked rather comfortable against Steven Finn excepting a crucial spell on Day One.
But, apart from that spell, Finn was scored of at more that five runs per over in the first innings and bowled only ten overs in the second innings.
He is an attacking bowler but he is not a threat with the old ball. Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions are two options that England can go with if they decide to drop Finn. Onions will be a better option bowling as the first-change bowler and with the old-ball whereas Bresnan will be able to extract greater swing in supportive conditions.
3. Review carefully
England were fortunate that their opponents were a little extravagant with their reviews but England deserve the credit for exhibiting a better judgment.
They were on the wrong side of a decision in the case of the dismissal of Jonathan Trott in the second innings but they benefited from the fact that Stuart Broad controversially survived when he was at 37 (and went on to score 65, the extra 28 run covering England’s 14-run margin of victory).
They had the review to fall upon when they did not get the correct decision on the final wicket of Brad Haddin or otherwise who knows what could have happened.
Decision reviewing, thus, become almost as important a job for the captain as setting the right-fields.
2. Only one way to ‘Cook’ a grand total
England put up 550-600 on the board with Cook scoring a double-ton, Pietersen or Trott chip in with a century and Anderson picks up 10 wickets in the match to lead England to a victory with an innings to spare.
That’s roughly the plot the average English cricket enthusiast would have had in his mind when he was given the rude surprise as England bundled out for 215 in the first innings.
If you look at the last two years in English cricket, the plot is not so improbable as Alastair Cook has consistently laid the ground for a big score, but his failure in the first innings triggered a meltdown. His role as the anchorman at the top-of-the-order increases the efficacy of the other batsmen as well and hence, it is crucial that he stays out there for as long as possible.
1. Over-reliance on James Anderson
One part of that dream plot did come true after all as James Anderson finished with 10 wickets in the match. He took these ten wickets in two sets of five-for’s, the latter of which was critical.
He took all four wickets on the last day of the Test match when Australia were gradually climbing to the total set by England.
Anderson is a master of many arts as he can pick up wickets with customary swing with the new ball, bowl the-odd unplayable delivery when the ball is not doing much, and produce lethal reverse swing with the old ball.
However, the work-load that is being carried by him can produce an injury and even if that does not happen, a bad patch will definitely leave England scattering for those 20 wickets.