Sport English lament poor choices as Australia enjoys dream start to Ashes series

English lament poor choices as Australia enjoys dream start to Ashes series

England was on the back foot from the first-ball dismissal of Rory Burns on Wednesday. Photo: Getty
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The BBC’s Test Match Special perhaps summed up the mood best: ‘‘It was a day to forget for England in the Ashes.’’

And even though it was only the first day of a five-Test series that will stretch well into January, pessimistic English media are already piling on the pressure that will demand nothing less than a Lion-hearted shot at redemption.

England captain Joe Root claimed the first victory of the series by winning the toss, but his decision to bat first backfired when his side was dismissed for 147 in just 50.1 overs shortly before tea.

It was England’s lowest total when batting first in an Ashes series since 1958.

Fortunately for Root and his teammates, a thunderstorm brought an early end to the day’s play before the Australian openers David Warner and Marcus Harris had their chance to strike potentially more telling psychological blows.

But as the tourists prepare to take the field on day two on Thursday, perhaps this fragile display of batting may be overshadowed by the “very difficult decision” to leave out paceman Stuart Broad – coming after the earlier call on Tuesday to rest Jimmy Anderson.

It leaves England in its first Ashes Test since 2006 when at least one of the pair – who have a combined 1156 Test wickets – are not steaming in to bowl at their Antipodean arch rivals.

‘Interesting’ selection call on Broad

The omission of Stuart Broad (right) took many by surprise. Photo: Getty

The news stunned the Australians, with captain Pat Cummins admitting “I thought one of those two would play in every game, if not both”.

Left-arm pace bowler Mitchell Starc, whose first ball of the series cannoned into Rory Burns’ leg stump, labelled the selection decision as “interesting”.

“If you asked anyone a couple of days ago, no one would believe you (they would both miss out),” Starc told the Seven Network.

“To take 300 Test matches and over 1000 wickets out of their side is interesting.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan didn’t hold back, saying he was “staggered” by the snubbing of Broad, while Fox Cricket pundit Mark Waugh termed it a “huge gamble”.

“Why not play to your strengths?” Waugh pondered.

How much of a gamble will be determined largely in the first session, with the seaming conditions expected to continue as heat and humidity remain high in the Queensland capital.

Can England bounce back from ‘wrong decision’

Former skipper Nasser Hussain said it was a harder toss for Root than his own “diabolical decision” in 2002 when he put Steve Waugh’s Australia in to bat and the home side reached 2-364 on the first day before comfortably winning the match.

“It was a green pitch here and it had been raining but while everyone focuses on what the pitch is doing on the first morning, as a captain you have to think what the pitch look like on days three, four and five,” Hussain wrote in his Sky Sports column.

“The humidity, the cracks in the pitch, the fact it tends to get a bit quicker – you have to think ahead.

“Obviously 147 all out tells you it was the wrong decision with the way it seamed around and bounced and sometimes you can confuse it all. I know, I did it.”

Hussain, however, said that Australia have a “fragile” batting line-up and that England could bank on their bowlers to get back into the contest.

“They (Australia) have two world-class players in Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, but David Warner is under a little bit of pressure and they have a few players coming back into Test cricket,” Hussain added.

“The pitch will still do a bit and (Ollie) Robinson and (Chris) Woakes in these conditions will be a handful… England have a decent bowling attack and Australia have vulnerabilities with the bat.”

Fighting words

Ashes debutant Ollie Pope said day one ‘‘wasn’t the ideal start’’, but England would fight back.

“I wouldn’t say it put a massive dent into our confidence,” Pope said.

“But obviously at the time you prepare for the start of the game, and it does create a little bit – I wouldn’t say panic because you’ve got to stay calm and collected – but it’s a bit like ‘oh, here we go, we’re in here’.

“Obviously it wasn’t the ideal start.”

Cummins off to a flyer

In the perfect start to his captaincy, the hardest decision Cummins had to make – being asked by the umpires which roller he wanted – caught him off guard.

“The roller threw me. I’ve never done that before even for NSW in one-dayers,” Cummins said shortly after capturing 5-38 off 13.1 overs.

“I had to ask Smithy [vice-captain Steve Smith] that we definitely go big [heavy roller] don’t we and he said ‘yeh big’.

“It was a bit of a different dynamic [than just being a bowler], but totally manageable with a lot of help from Steve and a few of the other guys threw some ideas my way.”

Smith also helped with field settings and the odd chat, but he kept it low key in a partnership Cummins has acknowledged will look a little different to the norm.

“Everything went to plan,” he told Fox Sports.

-with AAP