The look on Stuart Broad’s face when Ben Stokes plucked the ball out of the air behind him to give England their fifth wicket, was pure disbelief. He wasn't the only one dumbfounded by an extraordinary morning of cricket.
If the first three wickets were good, this was great. Adam Voges pushing out in front of his body, the ball flying wide of the fifth, yes fifth, slip, and then Ben Stokes sticking an arm out, diving at fulls stretch, hauling the ball in behind his body. Yeah, there’s gonna be some disbelief.
21-5 is a ridiculous score, but what was so ridiculous about this was the speed in which the wickets came. The fifth went down in the fifth over, as the runs flowed (mostly off the inside edge) and the wickets flowed just as much. Most scores of 21-5 will be a slow dirge with the bat as the bowling team pile on the pressure and the batsmen start to just try to survive. This was a hurricane, as wickets fell, runs scored and Australia crashed their way to 60 all out.
As the Australians subsided, your thoughts could easily turn to Clive Rice. Before play, the former Nottinghamshire all-rounder who passed away recently got a minute’s applause at his home ground, and the Sky team reminisced about pitches so green you couldn’t tell them from the outfield. This wasn’t quite that green, but Australia are so discombobulated by movement and the sight of green below them or white clouds above them, it doesn’t bear thinking what Hadlee and Rice could have done against them on a 1970s green mamba.
It bears saying again that this wasn’t an unplayable pitch or devilish bowling. The pitch offered help, and the skies offered swing, but it was mostly Australia’s fault that at 29-6, the top scorer was extras with 12.
Chris Rogers and David Warner got good balls, but Steve Smith played at one he didn’t need to touch. Adam Voges pushed too hard at a ball that needed playing, but Shaun Marsh and Michael Clarke were both culpable, the captain most so, slashing at a wide half-volley which was taken head high at slip.
With the wicket of Clarke, Stuart Broad had a five-for before lunch on the first day, better still, a five-for before 11:40. The last man to do the first feat was Sydney Barnes back in 1913, who coincidentally also took eight in the innings (whether Broad can match Barnes’ 9-103 in the second innings is yet to be seen). When you’re ever talked about in the same breath as SF Barnes, let alone surpassing him, you’re doing something right: this was an Edwardian morning of cricket.
At 47-9 it felt like groundhog day. Stuart Broad bowls, and Mitchell Starc guides one to Joe Root at third slip. Stuart Broad bowls and Mitchell Johnson guides one to Joe Root at third slip. Perhaps it was best that Mitchell Marsh was left out.
Broad has made a habit of Ashes clinching spells. In 2009 he sealed the urn and in 2013 the series win, with virtuoso performances at The Oval and Chester-le-Street, and this one will be the most special of the lot. The urn may not be in England’s hands yet, but the pendulum has swung far enough for England to catch it and hold on to it.
This is how England broke the cycle. Win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win… hand out an absolute shellacking. It takes a lot to break a cycle that was so entrenched, this was a lot, a whole hell of a lot.
The records just tumbled. Stuart Broad had his best Test bowling figures by a distance and the quickest five-for in balls bowled ever. Nine wickets went down caught behind the wicket, whilst one was bowled. Broad had the cheapest eight-for since the nineteenth century, and the 21st best innings figures in history. The only better bowling figures for England versus Australia were Laker’s twin efforts in 1956, and this was the most wickets before lunch on the first day ever in a Test match. Add to that the humiliation of the quickest any team has ever been bowled out in the first innings of a Test, and the stats rain down humiliation on Australia.
Just compare him to the man he’s drawn level with on the England wicket takers list: Fred Trueman. He also had an eight-for, but his came against India, at the time an unproven Test team uncomfortable against true pace, Broad did it in the heat of an Ashes battle.
Compare it to day one of 4th Ashes Test in 2010 for certainty of scorecard. Then England finished the day on 157-0 after bowling Australia out for 98. This time it’s compressed, 60 all out followed by 13-0 at Lunch. It’s pretty certain, as was the lead of 214 England held at the end of day one.
With the game how it is at the end of day one, it would take a comeback of Headingley ‘81 proportions for Australia to steal a win here. They won’t do that. This will be Broad’s match, Broad’s Ashes perhaps. England’s almost certainly.