4th Test, Nottingham

England v Australia, 2015

Lawrence Booth


Stuart Broad is delighted after the win, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day, August 8, 2015
Stuart Broad starred in the fourth Test that helped England regain the Ashes © Getty Images
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Tour and tournament reports : England v Australia, 2015
Teams: Australia | England

At Nottingham, August 6-8. England won by an innings and 78 runs. Toss: England. Before this Test, a local hotel offered a free stay to anyone called Alastair Cook. A year earlier, with the captain fighting for his credibility, the stunt would have looked like a spoof. But the PR people had gauged English cricket's temperature. Forty minutes into the third morning of another indecently hasty Test, Cook joined W. G. Grace and Mike Brearley as the only England captains to have won at least two home series against Australia. Since there are an estimated 43 Alastair Cooks on the British electoral register, this was unlikely to cause queues at Nottingham's Premier Inn. But everyone could agree it had been a good few days to be called Alastair Cook.

The early finish might have jarred with spectators, but a capacity Saturday morning crowd were in a forgiving mood - and, for a couple of hours on the first day of the new football season, cricket had the headlines. As England's players did their lap of honour, pausing for autographs, selfies and a quick trot for Wood's imaginary horse, the (Australian) hairs on the back of coach Trevor Bayliss's neck were, he said later, standing on end.

Emotion was in the air. Clarke had to collect himself as he announced he would be retiring after The Oval; moments later Cook wavered too, gently chiding his opposite number for setting him off, and allowing the ups and - mainly - downs of the previous 18 months to wash over him. Kim Hughes was once defined by his tears, but Clarke and Cook are post-Diana Test captains, and no one else batted an eyelid. With the Ashes usually climaxing in south London, Nottingham had rarely had such fun. Well, not for 48 hours, anyway.

The first day had dawned damp and grey, lending a malevolent tinge to the pitch's light coating of green. At a venue that had become a shrine to Jimmy Anderson's swing, English observers wondered what mischief he might have inflicted had he not been injured at Edgbaston. That allowed Wood to return from an ankle niggle, and - after Cook won a crucial toss - Broad to bowl the opening over for the first time in four years. Anderson could not have done better: after six deliveries, Australia were ten for two. Trent Bridge settled down for something special. What followed was not so much a batting collapse as the repudiation of a philosophy. For so long a term of praise, "the Australian way" now amounted to little more than the two-minute walk from pavilion to pitch and back again. In 18.3 overs - or 111 balls, the shortest completed opening innings in all 2,175 Tests - Australia subsided to 60. It was their lowest Ashes total since Brisbane in 1936-37, and their joint-sixth-lowest (all out) anywhere. Broad, meanwhile, finished with eight for 15, England's best since Devon Malcolm's nine for 57 against South Africa at The Oval in 1994, as well as the best Ashes figures by a seamer, and Test cricket's cheapest eight-for since 1896. His disbelieving expression - hands clasped in front of mouth, eyes agog - when Stokes dived to his right at fifth slip to pouch an edge from Voges which seemed to have gone behind him, earned that highest of contemporary compliments: it went viral.

At his home ground, Broad had stressed to team-mates the importance of nailing a Nottingham length: full enough to give the ball a chance to swing, not so full that batsmen felt emboldened to drive. The cordon soon twigged they were in business. Rogers registered his first duck in 46 Test innings when he poked the game's third delivery to first slip, making Broad the fifth England bowler to reach 300 wickets in Tests; three balls later, Smith - after a fierce drive through point - was squared up and edged to third.

Wood immediately took care of Warner with one that nipped back to kiss the inside edge, which meant both Australian openers had made nought in the same Ashes innings for the first time since Jack Moroney and Arthur Morris at Brisbane in 1950-51. From ten for three, things actually got worse. Shaun Marsh, a curious replacement for his younger brother Mitchell - since he weakened the bowling without strengthening the batting - prodded Broad to second slip, before Stokes pulled off his instant candidate for catch of the season: 21 for five.

A more raucous ground might have been dancing in the aisles. Instead, the crowd sat in rapt fascination. With the first ball of his fourth over, Broad had the out-of-sorts Clarke flashing a wider one high to Cook at first slip, to leave Australia 29 for six and the bowler brandishing a still pristine ball in acknowledgement of a five-for. At 19 deliveries, it was the quickest from the start of a Test; not since S. F. Barnes at Johannesburg's Old Wanderers in December 1913 had an England bowler pilfered five before lunch on the first day. Broad, needing only 39 minutes, had done it before the mid-morning drinks.

Finn bowled Nevill with a beauty that threatened to shape away before jagging in, and Broad had 7-3-11-7 when, in three balls, Starc and Johnson fended to Root at third slip. Six overs later, Lyon became the ninth to fall in the cordon, which took Broad level with Fred Trueman, on 307. If there was a freakishness to the collapse - every fend produced an edge, every edge a catch - then it also told of two cultures separated by a common sport: the swing and seam of England versus Australia's hard hands and thrusting bats.

Their entire innings, ball by ball, fitted into a tweet, with room to spare for weeping emoticons. By 12.40, the heavy roller was in use. Australia needed a miracle, but had to settle for Starc's early removal of Lyth and Bell, who was trapped by an inswinging yorker, before Cook played round another full-length delivery just before tea. But, from 96 for three, Root and Bairstow took control as the sun emerged, scoring the bulk of the 175 runs that came in a final session of 36 overs. Bairstow was the more obviously busy, urging himself forward and meeting the bowlers head on; Root hung back and cut late, toying with an attack that strained in vain to replicate Broad. Not long after Root had reached the most complete of his eight Test hundreds, and shortly before the close, Bairstow clipped Hazlewood to square leg on 74. Still, after a single day's play, England led by 214, and had a hand on the urn.

Starc struck back as the ball swung again on the second morning, only for Ali and Broad to notch up their third half-century stand of the series. That prompted a declaration from Cook 20 minutes before lunch - the earliest by an England captain armed with a lead and batting second. That lead was 331 and, for the second Test in a row, talk turned to a two-day finish (for which Nottinghamshire, unlike Warwickshire, were insured). As if distracted by the prospect, England began making errors. Cook dropped Warner at first slip on ten, and so did Bell, at second, on 42; when Root held Rogers at third, replays revealed a Wood no-ball. Australia's openers were past 100; the ground had gone quiet.

Stokes, however, was making it swing like never before in his England career. In successive overs, he removed Rogers, Warner - reprising his careless flick-pull from Edgbaston - and Marsh, taking his wicket tally for the series to five. And when Smith lacerated Broad towards a shortish cover point, it was Stokes who made the catch look easy. Tea was taken at 138 for four. Australia were disintegrating once more. England's quicks again took turns. Wood had Clarke fiddling to Cook in the slips, where he juggled the chance, then - falling backwards - finger-tipped the ball towards Bell. After a superb spell of 10-2-22-3, Stokes had given way to Finn, whose first three overs had cost 30. But his next nine yielded just 12, and would have brought him a wicket had he not overstepped when Nevill edged him on two. He soon shouldered arms to Stokes, who had recovered from cramp and then had Johnson fending to slip. The lights were on, but gloom was descending, scotching the possibility of an extra half-hour. Australia were seven down, still 90 behind.

The third and final morning was a formality. Stokes picked up Starc in the fourth over - he would finish with a career-best six for 36 - and Wood yorked Hazlewood in the seventh, both for ducks. When Wood bowled Lyon off the edge four overs later, Trent Bridge erupted. It had been 599 days since England surrendered the Ashes on a mercilessly hot day in Perth. Now, under the gentler blue skies of Nottingham, a man called Alastair Cook was claiming them back. Man of the Match: S. C. J. Broad.

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