An unbeaten 64 by Jos Buttler helped England end day 1 of the fifth Ashes Test with 271/8, despite Mitchell Marsh’s late swing that took the hosts by surprise. Marsh was the standout Aussie bowler with impressive figures of 4/35.
On a batting beauty at The Oval, Tim Paine’s decision to bowl first at the toss raised quite a few eyebrows. England didn’t mind it as it gave them an opportunity to pile on the runs for a change. But in spite of Australia’s horrid day in the field, the English batsmen failed to capitalise on the starts they got. Quite contrary to the trend in this series, it was an atypical first day of Test cricket. England had the edge at the start but dug their own grave towards the end. Australia, on the other hand, started poorly but made a spectacular comeback to dry up the runs. Neither team completely dominated proceedings, making it a rather dull affair.
Australia’s day of errors
If serving a perfect batting wicket to the hosts wasn’t enough, Australia endured even more misery in the field. Pat Cummins sent Joe Denly packing in the ninth over, but it was Rory Burns (47) and Joe Root (57) who dented the Aussie bowlers, adding 76 runs for the second wicket. However, it wasn’t before the visitors had dropped Root thrice in six overs. Two of those dropped catches came in successive overs of Cummins, who has consistently troubled the England skipper. Root raced away to his 45th Test half-century and completed 7000 runs in the format.
Josh Hazlewood then broke the stand by banging in a short one that Burns tried to pull unsuccessfully. England were 103/2 at this point. Australia needed another quick wicket to unsettle the hosts. That’s when Marsh showed up, getting the in-form Ben Stokes (20) to heave across the line and top-edge an ugly looking shot to point. Root was the next one to fall, an almost identical dismissal to the one at Manchester. Cummins bowled a good length ball that angled in to rattle Root’s off-stump. Bemused, the England captain walked away to yet another poorly converted fifty.
Mellow Marsh rips England
By tea, England were comfortably placed at 169/3. But once Root departed, Marsh took over and ripped England’s middle order apart. An inswinging yorker trapped Jonny Bairstow plumb in front, but the wicket-keeper still reviewed it. Bairstow was a tad late in getting his bat down and the ball crashed into his middle and leg stump. Marsh continued to enjoy the late swing he found in the last session as he got rid of Sam Curran (15) and Chris Woakes (2) in consecutive overs.
Known to be injury-prone, Marsh did send a temporary scare in the Aussie camp when he broke down in his 16th over. He pulled up after bowling the first ball to Jack Leach and walked off in the 74th over, only to return in search of his fifer in the 80th.
Buttler serves it hot
A flat wicket, clear blue skies and loads of sunshine cooked up a perfect day to bat one’s heart out. Unfortunately for England, from cruising at 130/2 at one point, they stumbled to 205/7 thanks to their own mistakes and poor shot selection. Although, Australia were quite generous with their lengths and fielding blunders.
However, Jos Buttler was determined to make the most of a rare opportunity to bat on the first day of a Test match. His knock of 64 included six fours and three sixes with beautiful stroke-making on display. When the rest of the batsmen succumbed to Marsh, Buttler kept counter-attacking Australia alongside a supportive tail. He added 21 runs with Jofra Archer and 45* with Leach as stumps were called. With Buttler’s good touch and Leach’s ability to dig in, England could well finish their first innings with a respectable total. But having taken the new ball taken towards the end of the first day’s play, Australia will aim at wrapping things up in the first hour on day 2.
Brief scores: England – 271/8 (Jos Buttler 64*, Joe Root 57, Rory Burns 47; Mitchell Marsh 4-35, Pat Cummins 2-73, Josh Hazlewood 2-76) vs Australia.