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Australia tops England by 381 runs in Ashes opener

November 24, 2013

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Some lightning-fast bowling from Mitchell Johnson at a hail-hit Gabba propelled Australia to a comprehensive 381-run win over England with a day to spare in the Ashes series opener.

After two rain interruptions, including a hail storm that scattered the crowd on day four, Johnson took five wickets as Australia dismissed England for 179 in the second innings late Sunday to claim its first victory in 10 test matches.

There were some heated verbal exchanges and finger pointing between opposing players, setting up what should be a hotly contested five-test series. Only three months after retaining the Ashes 3-0 at home, England came to Australia aiming to win the “old urn” for a fourth straight series for the first time since the 1800s.

But Australia hadn’t lost a test in Brisbane since 1988, was desperate to start the summer with a big win at its traditional series-opening venue and give Darren Lehmann his first win since taking over as coach before the last Ashes series.

“As a team, (we’ve) copped a fair bit of criticism of late, and our performances have probably deserved that,” Australia captain Michael Clarke said. “The win is very important, very special to us, and it’s a great way to start the series.

But, “we know there’s a long way to go. We’d be very silly to be overexcited with what’s just happened.”

Johnson, recalled to the Australian lineup after missing selection for the last tour to England, took five wickets in the second innings and four in the first, as well as contributing a half century and an unbeaten 39 with the bat in a man-of-the-match performance.

Fittingly, he finished it off with a caught-and-bowled dismissal to remove No. 11 batsman Jimmy Anderson. The Australians bowled England out twice for under 180.

“Obviously it’s going to hurt us, this game, but we’ve got plenty of character,” England captain Alastair Cook said. “It’s just one loss, it’s a five-match test series so there’s plenty of time to fight back. We’ll go away, regroup, be honest with ourselves and come back. We’ve done it before. There won’t be any hiding.”

Clarke, who along with David Warner scored a century in Australia’s second innings of 401-7 declared, urged his players and the public to be patient.

“Fantastic start. Some fantastic individual performances, none better than Mitchell Johnson,” Clarke said. “I really hope this is the start of what lies ahead for the rest of the summer.”

Johnson formed a successful new-ball partnership with Ryan Harris, with offspinner Nathan Lyon chipping in with two wickets in each innings.

Brad Haddin scored an innings-salvaging 94 in Australia’s first stand and added a half century in the second, as well as surpassing 200 test dismissals in a successful 50th test match.

In the brief period between the two afternoon interruptions for rain, England slipped from 142-4 to 151-8.

Cook’s defiant innings ended on 65. He didn’t add to his score after the first rain delay and was deceived by some extra bounce from spinner Lyon and top-edged an attempted cut to Haddin.

That triggered a slide of wickets, with England losing four for nine runs in another meek, middle-order collapse.

In the first innings, the English lost 6-9 to slump to 136 in reply to 295 and handed the Australians a massive advantage.

Matt Prior (4) was out edging Lyon for the second time in the test, making it 146-6, and Johnson took two wickets in the next over.

In a provocative comment after the third day, Australian opener Warner claimed the England batsmen had “scared eyes” facing the pace and short-pitch bowling from Johnson.

And it seemed that Johnson did unnerve the English middle order again.

After removing Jonathan Trott (9) before stumps on Saturday evening and Kevin Pietersen (26) in the morning session Sunday, Johnson struck twice in three balls to have Stuart Broad (4) caught down legside and Graeme Swann (0) edging to third slip as England slid to 154-8.

After the second delay, every Australian fielder stood within 15 meters of the bat for one of Harris’ overs against Chris Tremlett, who fell to the paceman soon after to make the total 172-9. Joe Root, who had a big reprieve on a run out appeal because the TV umpire ruled that Lyon had broken the stumps before catching the ball to dislodge the bails, finished unbeaten on 26 when Johnson dismissed Anderson.

The 32-year-old Johnson responded to his recall with venom on a wicket with the kind of bounce that the English batsmen are not accustomed to.

He was non-committal about backing up Warner’s assessment of the England batsmen, but agreed there may have been a bit of fear in at least one when he sent a “couple of nice ones that were zinging past his nose.”

“I’ll keep doing it,” Johnson said. “It’s working.”

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