By Stephen Giles
- England 430 & 289: Bell 60, Root 60, Lyon 4-75
- Australia 308: Rogers 95, Clarke 38, Anderson 3-43
- Australia need 412 to win.
CARDIFF, UK – Australia will need to score a mammoth 412 to win the First Ashes Test as England hammered home their dominance on another gripping day in Cardiff.
The hosts wasted little time in finishing off the Australian innings, claiming the last five wickets for 44 runs to bowl the tourists out for 308 and give England a healthy looking first-innings lead of 122.
It set the tone for a near-perfect day by England, who achieved their plans to finish off the Australian innings, to perfection. Stuart Broad got the ball rolling by jamming Shane Watson lbw in the second over of the day for 30, again exposing his on-going weakness to lbw’s. Mark Wood did the same, dismissing Nathan Lyon. England were now jubilant and sensing a big lead.
James Anderson, new ball in hand turned sorcerer of the dark arts, swinging the ball wherever he wanted, which inevitably brought edges off the bat from danger-man Brad Haddin (22) and Mitchell Starc (0) to collect his 406th Test wicket, with Broad finishing off Mitchell Johnson’s (14) sporadic knock in between.
England were in total control, via some outstanding bowling from Broad, Wood and Anderson with some top-class fielding to match.
It gave England an imposing lead of 122 and presented a great chance for them to bat Australia out of the game. It was the first time in 10 Ashes series that England had ever claimed a first-innings lead in an opening Test, going back to Edgbaston, Birmingham, in 1997.
England began their reply cautiously. With lunch around the corner, Starc made the all-important breakthrough, tempting Alastair Cook to drive, but in doing so, he clipped it to point, with Lyon taking the catch down at his ankles.
With a lunch interval to assess the situation, Gary Ballance, who had looked horribly out-of-sorts, gloved a hostile Josh Hazlewood over to Haddin, departing for a disappointing zero. England were wobbling at 22-2, as often is the case,
But when English backs are to the wall, they needed a timely partnership to steady the nerves. Adam Lyth and Ian Bell decided to go on the offensive and in doing-so, brought up a smooth fifty-partnership in just 49 runs to give England huge impetus.
Lyth exhibited his determination with a solid 37, only losing his wicket to a turning Lyon delivery which was brilliantly caught by Michael Clarke. By the time Joe Root had arrived, England were now soaring, leading by 292, with big hitters still yet to come.
Bell, batting with confidence and authority decided today was the day to go on the offensive. In need of runs, in the company of Root, the pair piled on the runs and extended the England lead.
With boundaries flowing off Johnson’s bowling, you could sense an element of England playfully poking a bear – with Johnson being the angry bear. The next ball startled Bell, imagining another short-ball, he backed away slightly only for the ball to find extra zip in the pitch and comprehensively dismantled his stumps.
Cue scenes of what can only be described as Mitchell Johnson celebrating on an imaginary horse, as he picked up his first wicket of the match. A tremendous stand between Root and Bell, resulted in 97 from 20.2 overs and easing any worries about an Aussie fightback of epic proportions.
Root (60) quickly helped himself to a 67-ball half century, his second fifty plus score in the match, before Hazelwood removed his stumps to leave England 207-5 – a lead of 329.
Perhaps believing the lead was too great for Australia to chase down, England stepped it up a notch and decided to go hell for leather. Ben Stokes sparkled for 42 but England got careless. A mini-collapse to 245-8, losing four wickets for 38 in the last session gave the tourists a slight glimmer of hope, only for an unlikely partnership to extend the lead further.
The ninth wicket partnership of Wood and Moeen Ali fetched 43-runs, with Wood taking the prime role as he hit four four’s and a six to notch 32 in 18 balls, ending a day just as they had started it and taking the lead well over 400.
Another pulsating day of cricket, 15 wickets have fallen, 333 runs scored. A mini-England collapse and some reckless lower-order batting threatened to spoil proceedings but overall England have dominated the match in a way few could have believed.
Australia will need to score a record 412 to win. It would be the highest run chase in Ashes history and the third biggest run chase ever.
Only 10 wickets stand in the way of England going up 1-0 in this brilliantly unpredictable Ashes series.
Day four continues tomorrow starting at 11:00am BST. Follow the action with Britwatch Live Scores