The Ashes. First test review. Time to push the panic button?

Just like the rock hard Gabba wicket, England were well and truly rolled in the first ill-tempered test of the 2013/2014 Ashes series.

England’s main antagonist in the by 381 run loss was Mitchell Johnson. Mitch was once a barmy army laughing stock. He bowled to left and he bowled to the right. This time he mostly bowled straight. Straight at the ribs, fingers and face.

Johnson brought back memories to the Gabba of the ‘good’ old days. When men were men and they didn’t have sleeve tattoos or a grooming regime.

Days when Lillee (who first noticed Johnson) and his partner in pain Jeff Thompson, bowled quick and short; hitting touring batsman into submission in front of baying crowds on hard, fast, cracked Gabba wickets.

This nostalgia was made even more real by Johnson’s slingy action that has more than a touch of Thommo thrown in; the dodgy moustaches on show and the decidedly 70’s style sledging “get ready for a fucking broken arm”.

Maybe this retro stuff is the brand of Australian cricket Boof Lehman was talking about?

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Mitch’s retro ‘tache

Just like the England touring sides of the early and mid 70’s there was little answer to the onslaught, except hopping round the crease or giving their wickets away cheaply to Nathan Lyon.

This kind of drubbing shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, so maybe it’s not time to panic quite yet Capt. Mainwaring

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England always start tours abysmally. India, New Zealand, The UAE and Sri-Lanka all resulted in collapses and losses, or collapses and narrow escapes.

Even the 2010 Gabba opener of the Australian of the Ashes, started very, very badly.

But unlike 2010 or even in India last winter, even the most media trained of cricketers couldn’t ‘find the positives’ in the batting. There was no rear guard. Little fight back, the only slight exception being Cook’s half century.

As with many of England’s batting led brain farts over the years, the bowlers performed well. Broad’s 6-wicket haul impressive. Stuart Broad seems to be powered by unpopularity.

Anderson was also good even with little assistance for his brand of bowling.

Tremlett got wickets and extracted tidy bounce, though was bowling at the pace of Paul Collingwood (a 7ft hulking Paul Collingwood). Swann was as before at the Gabba, expensive.

Though the result was crushing it could easily be an anomaly.

Johnson is mentally weak and was greatly helped by the pitch.

His career has been one of inconsistency, bowling his team to victory in one test and losing it for them in the next. The only pitch likely to play like the one at the Gabba, is The WACA at Perth. Mitchell Johnson bowled Australia to victory their in 2010 and Australia still lost the Ashes comfortably. So he will need to do it at least twice in this series.

Australia’s top order batsman also failed in the first innings – it was only the Haddin and Johnson partnership that saved them. They don’t perform well under scoreboard pressure and second innings runs and slogging, is a lot easier with lots of runs on the board.

Don’t forget too, that prior to this test, Zimbabwe and the West Indies had won more tests in 2013 than Australia. The team reaction said a lot about this – a lap of honour for a single test victory. Like Johnson himself it can’t be classed as a resurgence unless they do it a few times more, at least.

From England’s perspective, even if it is panic stations, batting options are limited so as ever the bowlers will pay after the batsman fail.

Tremlett could be the first casualty of this policy.

As many predicted, he didn’t look like the bowler of 2010/2011 and on a flatter pitch he could be mincemeat. Bresnan will come into contention if fit and the extra pace of Rankin or Finn may be risked on quicker pitches if one performs in the tour match at Alice Springs.

Panesar should play, particularly in Adelaide, which is now more like Ahmedabad if reports of the new drop in wickets are to be believed.

One thing is for sure, England’s batsman cannot afford to have another bad match en-mass. Two-down is a pretty insurmountable. They will have to raise their game considerably from the summer in England, let alone from this test, against an Australian line up growing in experience and confidence.


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