Cricket-England on back foot after horror Ashes start at Gabba

  • Cricket
  • Wednesday, 08 Dec 2021

Cricket - Ashes 2019 - Fifth Test - England v Australia - Kia Oval, London, Britain - September 15, 2019 England's Joe Root during the end of series presentation Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An insipid batting display lasting two sessions left England with a lot of catching up to do after a horror start to their Ashes campaign against Australia on Wednesday.

Barring the toss, hardly anything went right for Joe Root's men in the Ashes opener at the Gabba, where they were dismantled for 147 on the opening day with rival captain Pat Cummins (5-38) leading the rout in his first match in charge.

And even Root's decision to bat at a venue where England have not won in 35 years backfired almost as soon as it had been made.

The start could not have been more calamitous for the tourists as Mitchell Starc fired a searing yorker at the base of England opener Rory Burns' leg-stump.

As England's horror Ashes starts go, it ranks alongside Steve Harmison's opening delivery of the 2006/7 series, which was so wide it ended up at second slip.

Getting safely through the first hour is a time-honoured strategy for any batting side but by the sixth over England were already gasping at 11-3.

Root fell for one of the three ducks in the English innings, star all-rounder Ben Stokes' return to action proved a low-key affair, and an overall lack of intent blighted England's batting.

Jos Buttler's counter-attacking 39, while inadequate, provided a template how to thwart Australia's relentless pace attack complemented by their superb catching.

It was a "disappointing start" for the visitors, conceded middle-order batsman Pope, whose 52-run stand with Buttler was the only significant partnership in England innings.

"There was frustration that we haven’t been able to put on that big score that we wanted," Pope said.

"Obviously frustrated as a unit, but we’re not going to get too down.

"It's a long tour, it's a long series. Going to keep our spirits high, come fighting tomorrow."

Even the weather gods appeared against England.

Rain in Brisbane washed out the final session, denying their pace attack an opportunity to operate on a green-tinged wicket in overcast conditions.

The onus is now on those bowlers to haul England back into the contest, in the absence of paceman Stuart Broad, whose omission surprised many.

England are already without James Anderson through injury and this is the first time in five years that neither has bowled in a test.

"I think we've got the skillset in our bowlers to drag this back," Pope said.

"We're going to keep fighting.

"We don't know how (the wicket) is going to react tomorrow."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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