The bad blood between the Australian and English sides spilled over in the final moments of Australia’s stunning 381-run win at the Gabba, which has given the home team its first victory in an Ashes Test in almost three years.
The umpires had to step in as a slanging match developed between James Anderson and the Australians. At one stage, as No. 11 Anderson was facing a barrage from Mitchell Johnson, Australian captain Michael Clarke was picked up on the stump microphone telling him to “get ready for a broken f—ing arm”.
Test debutant George Bailey was also engaged in a sustained exchange of words with Anderson, who is an unpopular figure with the Australians.
When Johnson dismissed Anderson caught and bowled to complete the rout, Peter Siddle gave the England seamer the mother of all send-offs in a sustained verbal barrage.
This followed repeated sledging of the England batsmen by Johnson, who took out the man-of-the-match award with a remarkable nine wicket, 100 run performance.
And Australian batsmen David Warner questioned the courage of England batsman Jonathan Trott on Saturday after he was dismissed cheaply down leg side off Johnson for the second time in the Test.
Warner said Trott’s effort had been “pretty weak” and that he would be better advised “not to back away” from Johnson, adding that the visiting batsmen had “scared eyes” when facing Johnson.
After the match, England captain Alastair Cook praised the Australians, but predicted his side would fight back, just as it had in India last year. He also criticised “disrepectful” remarks made about Trott.
“I think the comment last night by David Warner was quite disrespectful to any professional cricketer,” Cook said, before adding that if there was any breach of the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct involved in Warner’s comments it was up to the ICC to pursue it.
“On the pitch it’s always going to be war. Anything said out in the middle is always going to be tough cricket, and that’s what people pay to see, so (keeping it) on the pitch is fine.”
Clarke said he did not believe the verballing of the English players was over the top, although he did acknowledge that there was a line that should not be crossed. “I still believe there’s very good mutual respect on the field,” Clarke said.
“I have the utmost respect for the England cricket team. You don’t get to be the number one team in the world, which they did, if you don’t play very good cricket. Through my career there’s always been banter on the cricket field and I cop as much as I give, that’s for sure.
“I’m sure that there are plenty of things that get said on the field that aren’t overheard on stump mike, and they need to stay on the field. I can only talk from the Australian team (perspective), but there’s not one player in the English team that anyone has a personal vendetta against or that anybody disrespects as a cricketer.
“It’s about trying to do whatever you can to help your team have success, pushing the line but not overstepping it and trying to play your best cricket. For someone like Davey Warner, or Mitch (Johnson) or ‘Watto’ (Shane Watson), they really love that competitive battle.
“They love the opposition talking to them or having a crack back at the opposition; that is what drives them. And I think Jimmy Anderson’s made it very clear that he likes that verbal battle as well.”
Johnson, asked if Trott feared him, said: “There might have been a little bit of fear there maybe – you would have to ask him that.
“There were a couple of nice ones that were zinging past his nose and as a fast bowler you give a bit of a stare and a look in the eyes…I will keep doing it – it’s working.”
In the BBC commentary box, Geoff Boycott paid out on the conduct of the Australians. “Another gobby Aussie when they’re winning, they aren’t so chatty when they are losing. George Bailey sledging in his first Test match? He’s still wet behind the ears.”
Clarke described the victory as a “proud and happy moment”. “We’ve worked hard, that started before the Ashes in England. The fact that we played with good intent, we had plans and stuck to them, made it a fantastic team performance.
“We have some aggressive players who are at their best on the front foot, but it’s not something we’ve discussed. I said at the start of the series that if Mitchell Johnson performs the way he can, he’ll be man of the series.”
For Australia, it was the first chance in 10 Tests – after the 0-3 loss in England and the 0-4 drubbing in India – to sing the team victory song. It was Australia’s longest streak without a win since 1986.
“We ran in and sang the team song as soon as we took that wicket. We’ve not sung it for a while so that was great,” said Johnson, who in fact had not been a part of those losing sides.
“To go 1-0 up in the series is a great start and the bonus being it came in four days and we get an extra day’s rest. I’ve never doubted that I could get back in the team, I just needed the opportunity. I was nervous on day one but once I got over it I used the pitch to my advantage. The cracks began to open up and it got into their minds a little bit.”
Spinner Nathan Lyon came into his own on Sunday and Johnson (5-42) capped off his stunning Test return to instigate another England collapse – 4-9 in 21 balls following a 90-minute rain delay – to bring the Ashes-holders to their knees. Only twice before has a side won the first Test in Brisbane and not gone on to claim the Ashes.
Johnson’s nine wickets and 64 and 39 not out with the bat marked one of the best allround performances in Test history. Much-maligned offspinner Lyon also turned a corner in Brisbane, snaring Alastair Cook and Matt Prior in quick succession on Sunday.
Lyon also had the privilege of leading the Australians in their victory song – Under the Southern Cross I Stand – for the first time. Mike Hussey, who previously led the song, passed the baton to Lyon when he retired in January, but Australia had not won since.
England goes to the next Test in Adelaide with serious concerns about the form of Trott, as well as off-spinner Graeme Swann. Swann was England’s leading wicket taker in the 2013 Ashes, but was severely punished by the Australian batsmen at the Gabba.
Set a mammoth 561 to win, England opener Cook (65 off 195) played a predictably fighting captain’s knock. A vicious hailstorm and then another rain interruption with England 8-160 threatened to push the match into a fifth day, before Harris and Johnson finished it off.
Australia in 1954-55 and England in ’36-37 are the only sides ever to win a first Test in Brisbane and not go on to claim the Ashes.
Going on to victory exorcised Australia’s demons from Manchester in August when rain saved England on day five, and put to bed memories from the second Test against South Africa last year when Lyon failed to stop the Proteas batting out an entire day to save a match.
To have cruised to such a comfortable win required an incredible turnaround from Australia after they had collapsed to 6-132 on day one to give Broad and England the inside running.