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November 24, 2013
Australia 295 (Haddin 94, Johnson 64, Broad 6-81) and 7 for 401 dec (Warner 124, Clarke 113, Haddin 53) beat England 136 (Johnson 4-61, Harris 3-28) and 173 (Cook 65, Johnson 5-42) by 381 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The Huddle: 1st Ashes Test
The field set for Mitchell Johnson summed up Australia's supremacy as they closed in on victory in the first Test at the Gabba. Every fielder was there for the kill: four slips, a fly slip, two leg slips, silly mid off, short leg. Australia were all over England - or at least Johnson was - and after tea it briefly felt like the 1970s again with Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson in their pomp.
Australia needed this win badly. They had not won a Test in 10 attempts and an Ashes Test in eight goes. But from such a fallow period they have somehow learned how to dominate again. They have backed up their talk by inflicting on England one of the heaviest drubbings in Ashes history.
They cranked up the sledging with England nine down with the stump mic picking up conflicting opinions from their captain, Michael Clarke, and T20 captain, George Bailey, about whether James Anderson was going to get his arm or his hand broken. The umpires had to step in as feelings became heated.
Clarke insisted that "mutual respect" remained off the field and that it was good, tough cricket. "I cop as much as I give," Clarke said. "I have had a lot worse. There is not one person in the England team that we have a personal vendetta against." Alastair Cook, England's captain, suggested that back-to-back Ashes series made a rise in tensions almost inevitable.
Johnson finished with 9 for 103 in the match, freed from the technical doubts that have dogged his career, technically sounder for the moment at least and relishing the thrill of bowling fast. Every time he came on, the crowd roared with anticipation.
Maybe it should always have been this way. It has come late in the day - he is 32 now - but this could be the Ashes series that cements his reputation. Australia just need to give him quick, bouncy pitches and feed him steak every time he looks likely to lapse into self-analysis.
At the Gabba three years ago, Johnson made a duck and took none for 170. On this occasion, his 64 alongside Brad Haddin rescued Australia's first innings and his bowling, physically threatening at times, will have left England mentally scarred. Graham Gooch's dog thrower, used to hone England's batsmen against quick bowling, will have to be employed with such ferocity that it could wrench his shoulder.
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Roofs have been ripped from houses in Queensland, power lines are down and there was even a report of a tornado. There were three storms at the Gabba on the fourth day and only one of them was called Johnson: he was the most violent of the three. The first curtailed the afternoon session to 16 overs as hailstones fell the size of marbles and then soon disappeared, as marbles tend to do. The final storm was barely a whimper.
England lost four wickets for nine runs in 20 balls after the first storm, their second collapse of the match. The first of them was Cook, their redoubtable captain, and the one batsman who shaped as if saving the game was within his ken. Cook fell to his second ball after the resumption, immediately after tea, seeking the cut shot that had been his most productive stroke, and undone by a little extra bounce and turn. Nathan Lyon's ability to find overspin has been beneficial on a pitch of decent bounce and he has outbowled Graeme Swann here as a result.
Cook is designed for the long game. Endurance defines him. His 65 over three-and-threequarter hours was patient and unflustered, intent purely on survival, and scoring occasionally by happenstance. When a ball slipped out of Lyon's hand and arrived as a juicy full toss, he could not quite compute it and the ball rapped into his thigh.
Fragility followed upon Cook's dismissal. Matt Prior obligingly turned Lyon to leg slip and Stuart Broad and Swann followed in Johnson's next over, Broad jumped across his crease to fend Johnson off his glove down the leg side and Swann collected the first Test pair of his career as he pushed half-heartedly forward. The Nottinghamshire pair can be outlandish counter-attackers down the order but neither look well equipped to cope with Johnson thundering in at 150kph. Not many would.
Chris Tremlett blocked stoutly for a while and Joe Root, on his first Ashes tour, will find his two hours at the crease invaluable. But Tremlett departed at short leg as Ryan Harris slammed one into the splice, and the second over with the new ball rounded things off as Anderson proferred Johnson a return catch amid a flurry of verbals.
Once again, the Gabba had come to Australia's aid. Two down overnight, and with two days remaining, England's task to save the Test looked insurmountable without major intervention from the weather. If they could draw sustenance from anywhere it was from the Brisbane Test three years ago when they batted for ten-and-a-half hours, Cook made an unbeaten double hundred and the series shifted irrevocably in their favour. But their batting possessed more substance then.
In the morning, England lost Kevin Pietersen; in the afternoon, Ian Bell. Such was Australia's dominant position that one wicket per session was acceptable progress because as became evident the tail can depart in no time. Bell, on 32, became the fourth England wicket to fall, during a wholehearted spell by Peter Siddle, failing to withdraw as Siddle found extra bounce and cramped his shot.
Pietersen's 100th Test has failed to pour kindness upon him. He made 26 before he fell to the first over after the drinks interval. His swivel pull against Johnson felt smooth enough but all he did was pick out the fielder at fine leg. It was only the second ball Pietersen had faced from Johnson on the third morning and his determination to assert himself proved to be his downfall. But it seemed a bit harsh to condemn it as injudicious. Sometimes things just turn out badly.
Pietersen, whose knowledge of first-class players is not encyclopaedic (he once played a match with Hampshire's Chris Wood without knowing who he was) could be forgiven for not knowing that the fielder in question was Chris Sabburg, specialist fielder and smiter for Brisbane Heat, a man given a rookie contract by Darren Lehmann last year before he abandoned the Heat for a hotter job altogether.
Sabburg, his job done, immediately left the field, replaced his orange substitutes' bib and yanked his sunnies over his ginger hair, a look of total satisfaction on his face. It was the finest substitute's intervention in an Ashes Test since Gary Pratt ran out Ricky Ponting at Trent Bridge.
No side can fail to win for so long without nagging doubts remaining, even in such a powerful position. When Australia introduced Shane Watson before lunch it invited fears as to whether his damaged calf would stand the strain. For Ryan Harris to slide into the boundary boards in a failed attempt to stop Bell's straight hit against Steve Smith crossing the boundary, it felt like an Extreme Sport, but he rose again and Australia breathed easily. Siddle left the pitch for treatment on his back. Even now, Australia, Mitchell Johnson could be slipping on a bar of soap in the shower.
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