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.
Stuart Broad starred as England had Australia 83 for three on the first morning of the 2019 Ashes but an injury scare for fellow seamer James Anderson cast a shadow over the hosts’ bright start at Edgbaston.
The tourists opted to bat in the first Specsavers Test but lost their top three for just 35 as Broad accounted for openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft – both booed to and from the crease following their roles in the sandpaper scandal – while World Cup winner Chris Woakes sent back Usman Khawaja.
A stand of 48 between Steve Smith, the third of Australia’s reunited ball-tampering trio, and Travis Head evened up the scales heading into the break as the rivals jostled for supremacy on day one of a possible 25 this summer.
Anderson’s fitness could yet prove to be a decisive factor, with the 37-year-old restricted to just four overs in the session after feeling tightness in his right calf. The nation’s record wicket-taker was sent for a scan on the problem, leaving England sweating over the most reliable bowler.
Tim Paine’s decision to bat first after winning the toss meant Warner and Bancroft were straight into the lion’s den. Catcalls rang around the ground as they walked to the crease, with the Hollies Stand upping the ante with a chorus of “cheats, cheats, cheats”.
Bancroft began by playing back an Anderson maiden but Warner almost gave his detractors their dream outcome when he nicked his first ball of the day down the leg side.
James Anderson has tightness in his right calf and will have a scan on it this afternoon 😞 pic.twitter.com/tumrCogl0m— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) August 1, 2019
Broad appealed, as did wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, but neither umpire Aleem Dar or captain Joe Root were persuaded.
That was the start of a colourful but unaccomplished knock from Warner, who was spoken to about batting too far down and survived a loud lbw shout before being given for two when Broad beat him again bowling fast and full from round the wicket.
Dar was quick to raise the finger this time and Warner trudged off to widespread jeers as England fans sang “cheerio” and waved squares of sandpaper. Once again, though, replays told a different story, suggesting the ball would have slipped past the leg stump.
It took Bancroft 25 minutes to get off the mark, with a punched drive down the ground, but it was only a matter of time before Broad had his way. Having successfully pushed the opener deep with a series of yorker-length deliveries he pulled one back and drew a flimsy edge that Joe Root snaffled at slip.
Bancroft crossed with the incoming Smith as he left, inviting the loudest reactions yet, with Broad signalling to the fans to keep up the noise.
The seamer beat Smith’s outside edge three times on nought but Khawaja was next to go for 13, DRS confirming he had feathered Woakes behind.
Smith (23no) began to find his feet and Head (26no) hit four boundaries as Australia restored calm to their innings before the interval.
Provided by Press Association Sports