Australia’s defence of the Ashes urn started in remarkable fashion with Steve Smith’s 24th ton helping the visitors fight back strongly on day one of the first Test at Edgbaston.
The visitors had been reduced to 122-8 after electing to bat first with Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes doing most of the damage for England.
However, a gritty century from Smith on his Test return helped the Aussies eventually post a challenging first innings total of 284 in what was a gripping day of Test cricket in Birmingham.
After what was an electric start to the five-match Ashes series, we look at the key takeaways from the first day.
Warner’s DRS gaffe
David Warner’s Test return for Australia was a brief and eventful one with the opening batsman lasting just fourteen deliveries.
The left-hander should have been dismissed in the very first delivery bowled by Broad but was given a huge reprieve. Warner feathered an edge to a leg-side delivery bowled by the England pacer which the on-field umpire as well as the fielders failed to spot.
Broad and England did opt to take a review in the next over when their appeal for lbw was turned down but DRS showed the ball to be missing Warner’s stumps.
The relief on Warner’s face didn’t last too long with Broad finally getting the umpire to raise his finger after trapping the batsman on the pads again in the same over.
It was Warner this time who opted not to review the decision and it proved costly with replays showing that the ball would miss the stumps completely.
Smith stands tall in comeback
As Australia’s batsmen fell like a pack of cards at the other end on day one at Edgbaston, Smith stood tall with a defiant innings on his Test return.
Like Warner, the former skipper was loudly booed by a packed crowd at Edgbaston but he did not show any signs of flinching under the pressure in an epic display at the crease.
With his gritty innings, the right-hander has sent out a loud message that he is still the best when it comes to the five-day format. It wasn’t the prettiest of knocks by any means by Smith but he absorbed all the pressure in his characteristic unorthodox batting style.
Waves of ‘sandpaper’ were mockingly aimed at aim throughout day one but the Aussie star was a picture of concentration at the crease as he brought up a magnificent ninth Ashes ton.
England’s day marred by Anderson’s injury
While England will feel they have the upper hand after an eventful day one, it might have come at the big cost of James Anderson. The veteran England pacer had come into the game under an injury cloud after only recently recovering from a calf injury he picked up for Lancashire.
Anderson bowled just four overs in the first session of the day before complaining of tightness in his right calf. The 37-year-old did not take the field again after lunch with word from the England dressing room being that he was being sent for scans.
The hosts now face the dreaded prospect of losing their pace spearhead for the rest of the match and, potentially, a big chunk of the five-match series. Being one leading bowler short for the rest of the match could take its toll on Joe Root’s men and cracks were already starting to show in the final session as Smith and Australia’s tail-enders made waves.
The start of the 2019 Ashes series very much lived up to its billing with England and Australia serving up a fantastic day of cricket in the first Test at Edgbaston.
In the end, it was a day which was completely dominated by Steve Smith with the Australian batsman marking his return to Test cricket after a one-year absence with one of his greatest innings ever.
Joe Root’s men made an electric start with the ball despite losing the toss and they had Australia on the ropes at 122-8 before Smith weaved his magic wand at Edgbaston.
The former Aussie skipper unsurprisingly copped plenty of abuse and boos from the Edgbaston crowd on Friday but he silenced them in style with a 144-run knock that helped the visitors ultimately post a challenging 284 in their first innings.
Here, we take a closer look at Smith’s epic Test comeback at Edgbaston.
Balls faced: 219
Smith arrived at the crease in just the eighth over of the day after Australia’s openers fell early, and he could only watch on haplessly at the start as wickets kept falling at the other end.
The visitors were reeling at 122-8 before Smith turned the tide with an epic display that turned the Edgbaston boos into loud applause at the end. He forged a valuable 88-run ninth-wicket stand with Peter Siddle before bringing up his ninth Ashes ton and 24th overall in the format.
The right-hander was the last Aussie batsmen to be dismissed but not before he had performed one of the greatest rescue acts in Ashes history.
The right-hander absorbed all the pressure at the crease despite the chorus of boos that greeted him with every delivery and helped revive Australia’s fortunes through sheer focus and grit.
He very rarely went for any expansive strokes with barely any shot played in the air while his defense was rock-solid as ever despite the unorthodox technique. The only time Smith took the aerial route before reaching a triple-digit score was when he slammed Moeen Ali for a straight six down the ground.
Unlike David Warner, he did not make the mistake of not opting for a review when trapped lbw on the pads by Stuart Broad and his decision was vindicated with the DRS reversing the on-field decision in the end.
144 - Steve Smith has a first innings Test average of 79 for @cricketcomau and displayed immaculate control during his knock (144) at Edgbaston, despite frequently losing partners early on. Fightback. #Ashes pic.twitter.com/qbrg52MuJy— OptaJim (@OptaJim) August 1, 2019
There isn’t too much that Smith got wrong on Friday with the right-hander in a completely different class to the rest of Australia’s batsmen. It was only when he was batting with last man Nathan Lyon that Smith finally unleashed the shackles and took the game to the England bowlers.
The last hour of the day was when he lived dangerously at the crease but it was all in the pursuit of some important runs for Australia.
VERDICT – 10/10
It was a colossal innings of defiance from Smith in a cauldron of pressure at Edgbaston and it was one which arguably restores his credentials as the best Test batsman in the world.
The 29-year-old was reveling in the pressure and occasion by the time the day wound down after battling for nearly the entirety of the 90 overs at the crease. His knock averted a disastrous start for the Baggy Green in the Ashes and has instead shifted the momentum of the game towards the visitors heading into day two.
He has hurt England plenty of times in the past in the Ashes but his ton at Edgbaston will definitely go down as the best of his nine centuries against the Aussies’ arch-rivals.
Holding back the tears: that really is a special century from Steve Smith. What a player.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 1, 2019
The West Indies and India are about to shake off their post 2019 World Cup slumber with the two sides set to lock horns in a three-match T20I series which begins in Florida on Sunday.
With the 2020 T20 World Cup just a year away, both sides will be hoping to use the series as a launchpad for their preparations for the tournament in Australia.
As the Windies and India prepare to battle in the United States, we look at the three key players from each side who will be worth keeping an eye on in the three-match series.
It was largely a World Cup campaign to forget for the Windies in England but there were still some big positives to take away for the Caribbean side. The most prominent of them was the performance of young wicketkeeper batsman Nicholas Pooran.
The 23-year-old southpaw struck a fine ton and two half-centuries in the tournament and has been growing in influence at the international level. His aggressive stroke-play makes him a dangerous player in the T20 format and India’s bowlers will be wary of his prowess with the bat.
The star Windies all-rounder’s World Cup campaign turned out to be a damp squib in the end despite the hype surrounding his IPL performances for Kolkata Knight Riders.
Russell was good with the ball but failed to show up with the bat before a troublesome knee injury cut short his campaign. He has now been deemed fit to play in the T20 series and the powerful unit will be eager to make amends for his World Cup displays.
If he gets going, India’s bowlers could be in for a torrid time.
The all-rounder had announced himself to the world in style with his extraordinary heroics in the 2016 World T20 final against England but all that promise was starting to fade away with unconvincing subsequent displays.
Brathwaite’s international career has now been revived following his sensational ton against New Zealand in the World Cup which nearly dragged the Windies to an improbable victory.
The 31-year-old has been handed the captain’s armband for the upcoming series and he will be determined to show that his World Cup showing was no fluke.
It was an unfortunate and premature end to Shikhar Dhawan’s World Cup campaign with the opening batsman’s injury in the second match against Australia ruling him out for the remainder of the tournament.
It was in all probability the last 50-over World Cup campaign for the 33-year-old and he will be determined to now shift his focus to the T20 World Cup in Australia.
The left-hander is a veteran of 50 T20Is and has maintained an impressive strike-rate of more than 130. He will be keen to make the opening slot his own in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup.
India have omitted the wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav from the T20 squad and instead handed a maiden call-up to young leg-spinner Rahul Chahar.
The 19-year-old made his mark in the IPL earlier this year with an excellent debut campaign for eventual champions Mumbai Indians. He claimed 13 wickets in as many matches and did it while maintaining a terrific economy-rate of just six.
Chahar has shown that he has a calm head on young shoulders and he will not be fazed while facing up to the Windies batsmen in his maiden international outing.
This will be a chance for Rishabh Pant to stake his claim as India’s main wicketkeeper in the limited-overs format with MS Dhoni making himself unavailable for the entire tour.
Pant had some promising knocks in the World Cup at No4 but failed to produce a really big display. His prowess in the shorter formats is undeniable and the southpaw has been excellent for some time now for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL.
The explosive wicketkeeper batsman is yet to really justify his talent in the limited-overs formats for India and he will need to start adding some consistency to his game, starting with the tour of the West Indies.