He’s gone! A rare howler from Marais Erasmus, and a brilliant way for Australia to end the session. It’s been their morning, just about.
Australia appeal for caught behind against Crawley! This looks like a straightforward nick – but Marais Erasmus didn’t give it on the field.
26th over: England 121-2 (Crawley 61, Root 17) An intriguing move from Cummins, who brings Lyon back for a single over before lunch. It’s a low-key over, from which Crawley and Root milk five low-risk runs.
25th over: England 116-2 (Crawley 58, Root 15) Boland got Root four times in the Australia 18 months ago, which I must confess had passed me by. In my defence, the darts world championship was really good that year, and I’ve had a lot of therapy about the 2021-22 Ashes
The fourth ball of Boland’s over is a bit too straight, which allows Root to work his first boundary behind square on the leg side. He has 15 from 26 balls; Crawley has 58 from 70 Bazballs.
“I write to you from Oxford, where (little more than 12 hours after my final Final) I’m sitting in a pub garden with my mates, nursing a hangover — and a Stella — and jittering about Crawley’s tendency to waft merrily down the corridor of uncertainty,” writes Felix Kirkby. “Things couldn’t be any better.
“(Isn’t it funny, by the way, that Ashes series run like a thread through every cricket fan’s life? I still remember languishing in the garden with my mates, aged 13, as Broad plus Trent Bridge turned the Aussies inside out and wore them like one of Stokes’s bucket hats. Scenes.)”
You have no idea how lucky you are to be this age at this moment in Ashes history. Savour every last
24th over: England 111-2 (Crawley 58, Root 10) Root is sporadically walking down the wicket to Hazlewood, which usually takes the LBW out of the equation. There is definitely some swing now, which will change the balance between bat and ball.
Five runs from Hazlewood’s over, including a pull for two from Crawley.
“So the main story in the first session is that Australia didn’t appeal aggressively enough?” says Thomas Atkins. “I bet that wasn’t on anyone’s bingo card.”
23rd over: England 106-2 (Crawley 56, Root 7) Okay, Tim de Lisle (17th over) isn’t at Glastonbury, mainly because the festival isn’t till next weekend.
Boland replaces Cummins; you’d expect him to bowl well to Root as well given his ability to nick the ball back from a length. Root, who has made an entirely orthodox start to his innings, cuts a couple and then works a single behind square on the off side.
Crawley is then beaten on the inside, driving extravagantly at a big inducker. There has been a hint of movement in the last couple of overs.
22nd over: England 103-2 (Crawley 56, Root 4) Smith shrieks for LBW when Root, pushing forward to Hazlewood, squeezes the ball between bat and pad. I’m pretty sure it was pad first, but he looked outside the line. Nobody else seemed too interested, and replays confirm Root was indeed outside the line.
It was good bowling though, and that is how Hazlewood will try to get Root, by working him across the crease and then nipping one back. Later in the over Root’s head falls over a touch and he gets a leading edge that lands safely on the off side. For a man who has played so little Test cricket in recent times, Hazlewood’s rhythm looks absolutely fine.
21st over: England 102-2 (Crawley 56, Root 3) A short ball from Cummins is slugged to the midwicket boundary by Crawley. Doesn’t look like there’s much value in the short ball on this pitch. Cummins has been pretty expensive: 7-0-32-0. Only once in his magnificent Test career, at Dharamsala in 2016-17, has he had a higher economy rate. Long way to go, I realise.
“Hi Rob, thanks for the reply, but I feel a bit of a seamer would be a real worry for some of our batsmen,” says Scott Campbell. “And I absolutely agree some of the pitches in Australia have not been a real bat/ball contest. (Hobart last ashes, Brisbane versus SA last season).”
I agree. But, as the last Ashes showed, they’d be an even bigger worry for the England batters! In 2015, slow seamers made perfect sense and helped England win the Ashes. This year it feels different; I’m not sure England can beat Australia on such pitches.
20th over: England 96-2 (Crawley 50, Root 2) Pat Cummins hooks Nathan Lyon, who took the wicket of Pope with the last ball of his previous over. And with good reason. Josh Hazlewood, who along with Cummins has a fine record against Root, is back in the attack. Eventually he’ll try to trap Root LBW, but for now he’s working him across the crease. Root opens the face to steer another single.
It’s an odd thing to say when the run rate is nearly five an over, but this has been a fairly cagey morning session. Fascinatingly so, I must stress.
“Glorious weather, exciting cricket, and I’m enjoying it parked in front of the telly in London,” writes Sarah Bacon. “Australia DO need a wicket right now — thanks, Tubs — but I’m just letting all this Bazball vs Aussie-tactics deliciously wash over me. I’m in for the long haul though! Sarah, Aussie in Ingerland. Still.”
19th over: England 93-2 (Crawley 50, Root 1) Root is beaten by his first ball from Cummins, almost yorking himself as he walks down the pitch. Mark Taylor wondered if there was an edge but I don’t think so. There was a similar incident at the start of his innings on the first day in the 2015 Ashes, when he edged Starc and was dropped by Haddin, except nobody noticed the edge.
I’m rambling. Root gets off the mark with a steer to third man.
18.2 overs: England 92-2 (Crawley 50, Root 0) Crawley pushes Cummins for a single to reach a charming half-century from 56 balls. He’s had a couple of moments of fortune – of course he has – but he has also played some storming shots. And if England do win this series, his belting cover drive off the first ball of the series will go into Ashes folklore.
18th over: England 92-2 (Crawley 49, Root 0) “Why has England served up an Australian pitch/road in England?” says Scott Campbell. “Us Aussie fans like to see conditions where batters are challenged by the moving ball not having the keeper stand up to a fast/medium bowler on the first morning of a much anticipated Test match!”
They think it’s their best chance of winning/entertaining. It’s notable that the pitches in the last two Ashes series have almost been the wrong way round – some very lively seamers in 2021-22, and now a load of roads.
Three reds and Pope is on his way, swishing his bat in disgust because it was an avoidable dismissal. Australia needed that wicket. It was a really good ball from Lyon though, which turned a fair way and skidded on to hit the pad.
Pope, who had driven the previous ball through mid-off for four, goes for 31 from 44 balls.
Lyon got one to straighten sharply from round the wicket to Pope, who missed an attempted work to leg. I can’t see much wrong with this.
Australia review for LBW against Pope! This looks really close to me.
17th over: England 84-1 (Crawley 46, Pope 26) Cummins replaces Boland, whose figures of 4-0-23-0 should have a one in them, and I’m not talking about a maiden. The defensive fields continue, and Crawley plays a couple of confident drives for two and one. The first was made possible by a misfield from the sub Josh Inglis (I think).
Tim de Lisle, who will be part of our coverage later in the series (I think he might be at Glastonbury) points out that this is already in the top 25 per cent of Crawley’s Test innings.
In other news, this pitch looks seriously flat.
16th over: England 79-1 (Crawley 43, Pope 24) A few more low-risk singles off Lyon. It was worth a look from Cummins, but I’m not sure it’s working.
“Can I just say,” begins Romeo, “that Brian Withington is not only an old friend to the OBO, he is a very kind, generous and good person.”
You can indeed. That County Cricket Live! community you have is in danger of giving the internet a good name.
Hang on, Crawley was caught behind but Australia didn’t appeal! UltraEdge shows that he nicked that jaffa from Boland in the previous over, but nobody appealed. Crawley turned straight on his heels and smiled broadly.
15th over: England 75-1 (Crawley 41, Pope 22) Carey stands back again for Boland, so Pope charges him and carves the ball past point for a single. Boland digs one in to Crawley, the first short ball of the match from memory, but Crawley has plenty of time to sway out of the way.
It’s a flat pitch, I know, but Zak Crawley is batting delightfully at the moment. He slams a back cut for four more to bring up the fifty partnership, his first with Pope apparently, in 10.5 overs. But then he gets a big carried away, trying to whip Boland to leg on the walk and missing completely. It was a cracking delivery which bounced more than expected. Funnily enough, that extra bounce might have saved Crawley from getting a leading edge.
“On the subject of first days, in 2006 at the Gabba my wife and I had a great one,” writes Dan Johnson. “We managed to miss Harmy’s first ball due to the usual faffing around with getting through the turnstiles (so that was good) then heard about a local brew-your-own place doing free beer, which we spent the lunch break drinking (even better). Then, likely due to the free beer, we found ourselves in a sort of chant-based Barmy Army ceilidh in the car park at some point after the match, which ended up on local TV.
“We went back to the brewery for liquid lunch on days two and three, but then they asked us if we were actually going to BUY anything; we hadn’t realised it was only free to try if you committed to brewing 72 bottles of the stuff. Bit difficult to take back to our apartment in Sydney so we had to go and buy some beer after that, terrible.”
14th over: England 69-1 (Crawley 36, Pope 21) “It’s fantastic to see Australia so defensive,” says Kevin Pietersen, starting his stint with the commentary equivalent of a slog-sweep for six. A Red Bull single would’ve sufficed Kev! In fairness, his fellow commentator Mark Taylor concurs that Australia went on the defensive too early and that England have adjusted their approach well. Three more singles from Lyon’s over, including a confident reverse-sweep from Pope.
“Knocking off singles against the spinner,” says Jonathan Wood. “I do hate these boring middle overs.”
13th over: England 66-1 (Crawley 35, Pope 18) The first bit of swing for Boland, though Crawley offers no stroke outside off stump.
Both sides have taken a backward step of sorts, which in many ways has made the first hour even more intriguing. England haven’t hit that many boundaries of late – three in the last nine overs I think – but they are milking the bowlers well enough to still be going at five an over.
Hang on, make that four boundaries in the last nine overs: Crawley has just driven Boland’s last ball magnificently through extra cover. That’s drinks.
12th over: England 59-1 (Crawley 30, Pope 17) Lovely bowling from Lyon, who gets one to turn sharply into Crawley from around the wicket. Crawley inside-edges onto his pad, with the ball rebounding past off stump and between Carey’s legs. He almost caught it in his pads, but he had no chance of taking an orthodox catch.
“It’s all very well to call for off-the-wall discussions in the OBO,” says John Starbuck, “but if the A.N. Onymous Whimsy had had his/her name included, we wouldn’t have to debate the probity or otherwise of nameless contributors.”
Ach, it was our old friend Brian Withington. I’ve amended it now.
Apologies for the absent scoreboard, which has now been digitally erected. You may have to press F5 though.
11th over: England 55-1 (Crawley 28, Pope 15) Pope charges Boland but is unable to do much with the ball. A single to third man brings up the fifty in the 11th over. “Slow going for them…” deadpans Nasser Hussain on Sky.
Carey comes up to the stumps for Boland to stop England’s batters walking down the pitch. Crawley stands tall in his crease and bashes the next ball to the extra cover boundary. He’s playing ever so well and has reached 28 from 31 balls.
At this stage in 2005, since you asked, England were 50 for none.
10th over: England 47-1 (Crawley 22, Pope 13) Nathan Lyon is coming on for a bowl. I really like this move from Pat Cummins, because Pope has had trouble with offspin in his Test career – especially Lyon and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Lyon starts around the wicket to Pope, who does well to keep out a grubber. “Just like Adelaide boysssss!” barks somebody behind the stumps. After a few singles, two of them reverse swept, Crawley drives through extra cover for four. That’s another beautiful shot from Crawley, who has started very fluently.
“John Dalby mentioned Edgbaston 97, and that brings back fond memories for me,” writes Steven Pye. “I was young, I was in love, I had hair, and the Ashes were coming home!”
9th over: England 40-1 (Crawley 17, Pope 11) This is a big moment: Scott Boland (Test average: 14.57; Ashes average: 9.55) replaces Pat Cummins. He doesn’t do looseners, so Crawley has no chance of hitting his first ball for four as he did against Cummins and Hazlewood.
Crawley does crash the fourth ball through extra cover, with the sweeper Head running round the boundaries to save two runs. Boland responds with a textbook delivery that straightens to beat the edge. He’d find seam movement on the M4.
“Amongst all the analysis of the strengths and potential pitfalls of the Brave New World order, I have seen no recognition of one of the sadder casualties of unrelenting all-action Test cricket,” writes Brian Withington. “I refer of course to the demise of the occasionally heated OBO threads of yore on esoteric topics like number theory (and cricket-themed cocktail design). These helped to while away the quieter passages in play that were such a feature of cricket in the BB era.
“When again will we be able to discuss at length why 0.999… recurring and 1.0 are exactly the same number? Or explain that the range of potential cricket averages is countably infinite, whilst between any two such averages, however close together, there exists uncountably infinitely many other numbers that can never be expressed as an average? I ask you (for a friend).”
Can’t you save these emails for a more sedate format? England start their 50-over series against New Zealand on 8 September.
8th over: England 38-1 (Crawley 15, Pope 11) This is a really interesting struggle, with Hazlewood in particular trying to tempt Pope to chase slightly wider deliveries on an awkward innings. Pope has probably left more balls in this short innings than Ben Duckett has since his recall last year.
Pope, who doesn’t want to be hemmed in, runs down the track but is unable to beat midwicket. Hazlewood tarnishes an otherwise fine over with a slightly short ball that is back cut for four by Pope. That’s his first boundary, and he follows it with a confident flick through square leg for two.
“1997, also at Edgbaston, is the first day of an Ashes series that sticks in the mind,” says John Dalby. “I was at Uni and about 20 of us bundled into a single halls common room to watch on the biggest TV any of us had – a portable 20in job. Half still in pyjamas, all hungover, the uproar as an Australian collapse played out was sublime. One chap, Graham I think, missed two wickets while making breakfast because he assumed our cheering was fake and didn’t want to get gotcha’d.”
Were the two wickets Blewett and Blewett? (13m 15s if it doesn’t open at the right bit.)
7th over: England 32-1 (Crawley 15, Pope 5) Crawley edges Cummins short of slip! He felt for a channel delivery, and on a faster pitch that would have gone straight into the hands of Smith at second slip. This time it landed well short.
Australia have had reasonable control of the scoreboard since the wicket: 20 balls, 10 runs, no boundaries.
6th over: England 30-1 (Crawley 14, Pope 4) Cummins and Hazlewood are into their work now, bowling with the usual control of line and length – if not, so far, of the scoreboard. Pope receives a few good deliveries in a row and plays them respectfully, culminating in a flick for a single. He has 4 from 10 balls, Crawley 14 from 16.
Thanks again for all your emails. There are loads I haven’t had chance to read, never mind publish, but we do appreciate them.
5th over: England 27-1 (Crawley 12, Pope 3) Australia have a very defensive field for the first morning of a Test match, though I keep coming back to how well that counter-intuitive approach worked for Michael Vaughan in 2005. What was it Shane Warne said about the start of a legspinner’s spell: attack with the ball, defend with the field.
The defensive field allows Crawley and Pope to work three singles and then a two on the leg side. That’s clever cricket, a reminder – not that it should be needed – that Bazball does require a decent IQ.
“Surprising pitch so far from my eyes,” says Huw Swanborough. “Those first two overs had a lot of deliveries relying on some seam action, but the bounce has been lacking. It almost seems like it might be spongey.
“If this pitch doesn’t turn into a dustbowl within three days, we’re going to be looking at a very high scoring draw I suspect as I don’t think spinners or paces will get much at all here.”
I suppose England’s plan is for scoreboard pressure and funky fields to do what the pitch can’t. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
4th over: England 22-1 (Crawley 10, Pope 0) The new batter is Ollie Pope, who had a grisly Ashes 18 months ago but has re-emerged as England’s No3 and vice-captain.
“Re: Dave Adams (10:47) and memorable Ashes first mornings,” says Si Williams. “In November 2006, after playing (and losing) at the world frisbee championships in Perth, I was in NW Australia at a place called Monkey Mia. With the timezone difference to the Gabba there were seven of us packed into a Toyota listening to the radio at 7am in a baking hot car park… After Harmison’s first over, we gave up and went paddling with the dolphins.”
Goddim! The ball after inside-edging past off stump for four, Duckett edges Hazlewood behind. It was a good delivery, with a tight line and length, and Duckett edged an attempted cut. The ball started to die on Alex Carey, who dived forward to take a fine low catch. Duckett goes for 12 from 10 balls, and he’ll be annoyed to fall to one of his favourite shots.
3rd over: England 18-0 (Crawley 10, Duckett 8) Ben Stokes asked for fast, flat pitches in this series. One out of two ain’t bad: the pitch looks slowish but an absolute belter. Duckett, who has a strike rate of 97 since his recall last year, times Cummins off the pads for his first Ashes boundary. Three overs, three boundaries for England.
Pat Cummins is already fiddling with the field. Mike Atherton wonders whether Australia have been “spooked” and are being too defensive, certainly with the new ball: the only close fielders are two slips and a gully. It’s a fine balance, especially as the ball is doing absolutely nothing.
“Hard to convey just how febrile the atmosphere is here – expectations are sky high!” writes Gary Naylor. “Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know. But Test cricket does not look like it’s in the midst of an existential crisis, that’s for sure!”
2nd over: England 11-0 (Crawley 10, Duckett 1) Josh Hazlewood takes the new ball ahead of Scott Boland, who can take the new ball but is a perfect first-change bowler. He has played very little Test cricket in the last two years because of injury, just four Tests since January 2021.
Hazlewood’s first ball is a real loosener, on the pads and pinged through square leg for four by Crawley. It was beautifully timed, even if it was a bit of a freebie. Ricky Ponting, commentating on Sky in England, doesn’t like the field – he thinks they should have a deep square rather than a deep point to Crawley.
The deep point is in action later in the over when Crawley clouts a wide ball for a single. Michael Vaughan used a similar tactic to great effect in 2005, most crucially when, with three needed to win on this ground, Brett Lee creamed a Steve Harmison full toss to the cover sweeper.
Back in 2023, Duckett gets off the mark with a work round the corner for a single. Australia are already bowling a really tight line to Duckett, which makes sense because he is so good between backward point and mid off when he can free his arms.
A technical note (with thanks to OBO regular John Starbuck): if the preamble is still appearing at the top of the page, press F5 and it will magically disappear.
1st over: England 5-0 (Crawley 5, Duckett 0) Crawley leaves the next two deliveries, then thinks of a single to the right of Green at gully. Duckett wisely sends him bad.
Crawley gets his single next ball with a push to mid-on. Cummins’s first ball to Duckett is on leg stump and pushed to midwicket. Was he trying to bowl him round his legs there?
“England’s brave new style is making Test cricket interesting again,” writes Philip Sutherland. “Many cynics here Downunder. Love to see England’s way triumph because Test cricket is otherwise doomed in modern society.
“Spent ten years in Yorkshire at Ampleforth in school days. Loved our cricket. Fred Trueman bowled an over to me one day in the nets. Such a gentleman; he missed my stumps! Lovely man.
“Best of luck with your commentary during the series. Watching with great interest. Postscript: can’t stay up all night watching because tomorrow Saturday my wedding anniversary and we have 6am start.”
0.1 overs: England 4-0 (Crawley 4, Duckett 0) Zak Crawley wallops the first ball through extra cover for four! That was so reminiscent of Michael Slater cutting Phil DeFreitas to the fence in 1994-95, and a thumping statement of intent. Even Ben Stokes looks a bit shocked.
Pat Cummins will bowl the first ball to Zak Crawley, and his field includes a deep backward point.
“A ain’t got nuffink to say, Rob,” says Peter Gibbs. “Just that it’s good to be back with the gang.”
Amen to that. Often when journalists talk about their work being a privilege, I instinctively cringe. Today, I get it.
The anthems have been sung with abundant gusto, and now the 13 active players are getting ready for business. That drum-and-bass track you can hear is Zak Crawley’s heartbeat. And yours.
“Just to let folks know that Aussie station SEN Sports 1116 radio have full Ashes commentary and it’s not geo-blocked,” writes Nick Varley. “It’s what I normally use to listen to Aus Tests, living here in Manila, Philippines.”
And their team includes our very own Adam Collins.
I’m off to grab a coffee and give my eyes a little break. I’ll leave you with this lovely analogy from Dave Adams.
“One of the almost infinite number of things I love about the first day of the Ashes is that where you were for the first ball serves an amusing personal fossil record…
“For example, for 1990/91 I was 12 and tucked up in bed, listening to Radio 4 longwave on those headphones with the foam outer, hoping to avoid a parental brollocking. For 1997 I was sat in a student union bar. In 2002/03 I heard about Nasser’s brainfade at the toss on the radio in a mate’s car coming back from Wolves v Pompey. In 2009 I missed the first few balls because I was outside the Walkabout hammering on the door to get them to open up. By 2010/11 I had a small baby son (who gets a mention in ‘766 & All That’) and I watched the opening exchanges with him sat on my lap.
“Do other people know where they were at the start of every series?”
I do with the exception of 1998-99. I mean, I know where I was in life – straight out of university, temping in the civil service, dreaming of writing about sport – but I can’t remember anything specific about the first day.
“Rob, I am surprised to find you local to Pylle and its animal shelter,” writes Dan Catton. “This email comes to you from sunny Evercreech, where the pre-Ashes excitement level is only subdued by the thought of the impassable roads that await us next week, thanks to Mr Eavis’s little gathering…”
This is my first year living close to Glastonbury during the festival. I haven’t really noticed it yet, apart from all the people wearing bucket hats on my TV.
Moeen Ali speaks
“My concern with Hazlewood is fitness,” says Robert Speed. “He hasn’t been able to get through a Test match unscathed for a while now. I would have stuck with Starc instead.”
Yeah I can understand that, though Green (and Lyon) give you enough insurance I think. The conditions, and the potential for reverse swing, is another reason why I thought they might play Starc.
“First, let’s get one thing straight,” says Matt Dony. “The bucket hat has never not been fashionable. (Possibly the Welsh football fan in me talking…). Second, English cricket has often gone in cycles, focussed on Ashes series. What if the whole Bazball thing has actually been a fantastic ploy to confuse the Australians? Really playing the long game? What if Crawley and Ducket come out and put on an obdurate 37-0 in the morning session? Admittedly, it’s not likely, but it would mess incredibly with Australian heads.”
You do realise only two 1.5 overs will be possible in the morning session because of an unexpected storm?
What do you think of Hazlewood over Starc? I suspect England would have preferred to face Starc, simply because he is more hittable. Hazlewood’s Test economy rate is 2.71, Starc’s 3.32. It probably comes down to that.
Ian Ward’s last question to Pat Cummins is simple. “England will come at you, is that okay?” Cummins smiles broadly. “Ah, I think so. Yeah.”
“Tough call on Mitchy,” says Pat Cummins, “I thought he was really impressive last week. The squad mentality… it’s a good problem to have. Managing the bowlers and conditions will be important.”
England Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes (c), Bairstow (wk), Ali, Broad, Robinson, Anderson.
Australia Warner, Khawaja, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Green, Carey (wk), Cummins (c), Lyon, Hazlewood, Boland.
“Looks a really good cricket wicket,” says Ben Stokes. “Good toss to win, now we’ve gotta put some runs on the board.”
Pat Cummins says he would have batted as well.
“Morning Rob,” says Dom Besley, though it’s anything but in his part of the world. “9:15pm in New Zealand and the family are in bed. I’m getting ready to pull an all-nighter. My first energy drink is open and the coffee machine is ready. When my four-year-old wakes, I’m likely to be as bouncing off the walls as he is.
“I’ve not been this excited for an Ashes since 2005. I’m really looking forward to seeing how England’s aggression fares against this Australian attack and how the plan goes if they find themselves in a spot of bother.”
If in doubt, go even harder. I don’t know if it will work, but I’m 99.94 per cent sure England won’t change their approach.
“Mornin’ from a chilly Southern Highlands NSW,” writes Jon Greig. “Despite wishes to the contrary… Can see Eng being three down within an hour… or, Oz 90 for one at lunch. Forever optimistic. Ahem.”
Ricky Ponting on Steve Smith
Hopefully this isn’t geoblocked in Australia.
Here’s Geoff Lemon on David Warner, the great survivor who wants to land one last haymaker on England. If the pitches are generally flat, I fancy him to have a good series.
“Regarding whether England were better than India in 2005: worth remembering that England went to India a few months later and held them to 1-1. Though that was admittedly after the 0-2 drubbing in Pakistan, so maybe England were actually behind Pakistan, not India.”
Ah but Pakistan were Pakistan: they hadn’t won a series for two years before beating India. For reference, these were the rankings at the start of the English summer: 1 Aus 2 Daylight 3 Eng 4 Ind 5 Pak.