Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 1st day November 21, 2013

No magic cave for Australia

Australia were billed as a different side to three months ago but emerged as the same flawed team with a penchant for self-sabotage

Australia had improved. Despite a batting average of 37, David Warner was to be feared. Even though he finished his last Ashes series as a puddle of doubt, Mitchell Johnson would save the day.

In the few months between the series Australia had somehow magically improved their game. Alastair Cook's defensive captaincy wouldn't work in the Australian sun. They had found an in-form player in George Bailey. Even Shane Watson's body had switched from batsman to allrounder mode.

During the last two Ashes series, the Australian press looked nervous going into the series. Instead of being the vicious, bile-sledging 12th man, they had been reduced to noting more than the odd bit of chirpiness.

This time the Courier Mail walked into the Ashes like not only would Australia win, but England would end up shaking on a hospital gurney. It was back to the glory "banter" years. England were smug arrogant cheats that no one liked. Stuart Broad's name could not even be uttered. Unless you were calling him a medium pacer.

Despite the paper suggesting strongly that Broad should not be mentioned by name, the crowd decided their chant, which referred to him being a self-satisfier, would not work without his name in it. There was even a horror-themed banner inferring about his non-walking past.

Warner played some big shots, but did his best work by getting to the non-striker's end with ease. Watson kept planting that foot and watched the ball very intently as he defended most of them. With Warner and Watson solid at the crease, between 87 and 93 per cent of TV viewers on Channel 9 decided Australia would win the Ashes.

Somehow in the three months since the last series, Australia had found a magic cave of awesomeness to transmogrify them into a fierce Test team. The talk was right, Australia were back.

Then that smug arrogant cheating medium pacer with no name would not go away. The sun blared down on a flat pitch without much sideways movement, while he ended Australia's top order. Watson got stuck, as he has throughout much of his Test career. Either Clarke's back or his arch nemesis brought him down in a familiar way. Warner bunted an innocuous ball to cover point when he was well set. And Bailey and Steve Smith got out to bowlers who could be named, both tentatively, caught behind the wicket. That was the end of the top order.

That was the end of more than just six wickets. The bubble had burst. The emperor had no clothes. Schrodinger's cat was dead. Australia were still the fifth best Test team on earth.

Despite Johnson's moustache, Australia had not turned into apocalyptic demons in their months off, they were still the same team of inconsistent cricketers that lost a series just a few months earlier. Which considering they had not played a Test since, had a weird adventure in India and are not as used to the Gabba as they make out was not altogether surprising.

The best two shots were an uppercut from Warner and the front cover of the Courier Mail. Yet Warner got out with a shot that inspired not fear, but fearlessness. And a few minutes later the Courier Mail's headline was "Aussie Wickets Fall".

Then Australia had another lower order fight back. It seems they have one in every game now. Their lower order players face new balls at practice, just in case they are needed early on again. Every easy drive from Haddin and Johnson must have stung at the pride of the top order. Even Twitter is getting bored at the "reverse the order" jokes about Australian cricket.

Other than Haddin, Australia made it to stumps with all the panache of a limbless, bloodied ingénue dragging themselves away from an axe-wielding maniac. Hoping beyond hope that the axe-wielding maniac would trip and fall on his own weapon.

Australia might still do better in this series, Haddin might cobble together enough for Australia to defend. England may also fall in a heap on this batsmen-friendly pitch. But what is clear is that for Australia almost nothing has changed. Australia are the same flawed team with a penchant for self-sabotage we saw a few months ago. There was no magic cave. Australia had not improved. They just had not had a chance to fail for three months.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Wayne_Larkins_Barnet on November 22, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    Oh boy it really is hilarious reading some of your comments from yesterday! You must desperately wish there was a 'delete' button! Or, perhaps access to your own magic caves lol! Seriously though, apart from the pure fear the English batsman showed facing the Aussie attack, there is still a lot of cricket to be played, even in this match.

  • dnorbury on November 22, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    What a difference a day makes. If Australia is the 5th best team in the world, what does that make England?? As you would by now no doubt agree, it's generally advised to reserve judgement until both teams have had a chance to bat. Sweeping statements and rash, over-the-top condemnations can look pretty foolish 24 hours later...

  • humdrum on November 22, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    So, end of play on day 2 and oz ahead by 222. Now, if they bat for the first 2 sessions tomorrow and the overall lead crosses 400, it will set the game up nicely for the fab four of english cricket- to boldly go where no (english)man has gone before and get the 400+ required for an astounding win.Looking forward to that.

  • humdrum on November 22, 2013, 6:54 GMT

    Now is the time for captain Cook to stand up and be counted. For a start, he has to nanny the bowlers ( he is adept at it) as every minute wasted brings respite for England. Besides,you never know as to when it will rain and england might just muddle through.

  • humdrum on November 22, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    Ahem! Seems to me that the record of Eng not winning at the 'Gabba' since 1986 is in no danger. Dear me, the poms don't quite appear to be up to it,but I'll not jump the gun. Still early days in the series ,but already halfway through in this test. The pommies have much redeeming to do.

  • humdrum on November 22, 2013, 2:47 GMT

    Australia's strong point is their attack,and Jarrod has jumped the gun and sought to trample on the aussies even before their bowlers have a crack at the opposition.How is that for some learned words of wisdom ? I would like his response should aussies get a first innings lead. And oh,by the way,there are two innings in a test match,when I last checked.

  • wix99 on November 21, 2013, 23:25 GMT

    The selection of George Bailey says everything that is wrong about Australian cricket. Bailey may be a great leader and have performed impressively in one day cricket but that doesn't make him a Test cricketer. At least half a dozen others should be ahead of him in the queue.

    Australia also face the loss of Haddin and Rogers due to age in the next year or so. This will only further underline the lack of experience in the team. There are more dark days ahead for the Australian cricket team.

  • 2MikeGattings on November 21, 2013, 21:21 GMT

    @Green_and_Gold You are right, the Australian team are world-striding, unbeatable giants. People are just wrongly jumping to conclusions based on what is happening on the cricket pitch. Again!

  • Bonehead_maz on November 21, 2013, 21:07 GMT

    Australia ARE better - because this Mitchell REALLY CAN win matches. I know it's a long shot, but striking the ball so nicely was a good start ?

  • Partyman on November 21, 2013, 20:56 GMT

    OK. The reaction from the Aussies are over the top. If anyone bothers to cast their mind back to the last three Ashes series, England were always behind the Aussies in the first innings in the first test before going on to win the series. So Aussies are still in it big time. It feels depressing for me to say that, but England don't hold the upper hand by any means after the first day. Having said that, I hope they gain the upper hand at the end of second day and stay there for the rest of the 23 days remaining in this series.