The opening Ashes Test was memorable and controversial in many ways. There were many ups and downs, and it was never the case where one side was dominant. In fact, even till the last wicket fell on Sunday, it was not clear which team held the upper hand. Such was the evenly-matched nature of the Test. At the same time, there were plenty of controversial decisions throughout the game, none bigger that the reprieve Aleem Dar gave Stuart Broad. Also, it was unfitting that the match ended up the DRS being used to declare last man Brad Haddin out.
Although there were many memorable performances in the Test held at Trent Bridge the one that made the significant difference was the innings played by Ian Bell. Following Australia’s magnificent fight back in the first innings with the bat, England were in a spot of bother in their second innings. Bell, who hasn’t been having a great time of late, however resurrected his career and well as England’s prospects with a wonderfully composed knock. It was his superb century that gave England’s bowlers the edge on the last day. Had the Aussies got Bell early they could have been chasing a much smaller score.
While Bell’s knock was crucial, his partnership with Stuart Broad was the match changing one. The Aussie bowlers were on top when Bell and Broad joined forces. Of course, Australia would feel let down by the fact that umpire Dar gave Broad a massive reprieve at a time when the match was swinging their way. By the time Broad was dismissed, England pretty much held the upper hand. Half centuries by Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen during the second innings also came in handy in the overall picture.
Although Australia’s bowlers could not keep England down to a low score the second time round, it was the batting that let them down in a big way. In the first innings, Ashton Agar’s unbelievable knock and Phillip Hughes’ dogged batting saved the day for them, and in the second innings it was Brad Haddin’s amazing resoluteness under pressure that got them as close as they eventually did. What Australia needed was for the seniors like Michael Clarke and Shane Watson to stand up. But while Clarke failed in both the innings, Watson could not convert a start into a bigger score in the second essay. Chris Rogers did well to register his maiden half-century, but he also failed to carry on.
For England, they had their set of heroes with the ball as well, none bigger than James Anderson, who reiterated his ever growing stature in world cricket as a match-winning bowler. Anderson’s ten-wicket haul in the match never allowed the Aussie batsmen to settle. It was only fair that he picked up the last wicket to seal victory for England. Of course, the win would have tasted sweeter had it not come through the DRS mode. All said and done though, England had better men to handle the pressure situations, and it helped that the rub of the green went their way.
--By A Cricket Analyst