Ashes talking points: Poor umpiring and how to stop Smith
LONDON (AP) — Australia took an early lead in cricket’s oldest regular international series when it rallied from 122-8 in the first innings to win the first Ashes test by a huge 251 runs against England on Monday.
The teams meet at Lord’s for the second of five tests starting Aug. 14.
Here’s what we have learned so far:
England proved in the first test in Birmingham that it can get Australia batting great Steve Smith out — but only when he’s in his 140s.
Man of the match Smith scored 144, which was more than half of Australia’s first-innings total 284, and 142 in the second innings. He became only the fifth Australian to record a century in both innings of an Ashes test, and now has 25 test tons in only 65 matches.
To stand any chance of regaining the Ashes, England needs to find some way of getting Smith out or, worst case, keep him in only double figures.
And if that doesn’t work, slow him down as it tries to get the rest of Australia out.
The former Australia captain admitted he had enjoyed “a dream comeback” as he marked his first test in more than a year following suspension for his role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.
Smith’s current test average of 62.96 is bettered only by the great Sir Don Bradman among batters with a minimum of 20 innings.
Ashes tests are intense encounters but fielders and batters from England and Australia appeared united in one thing: they didn’t trust the umpiring decisions.
Always a tough job, with leg-before-wicket decisions notoriously tricky, umpire Joel Wilson from Trinidad tied the test match record for the most decisions overturned by the Decision Review System — eight.
Wilson gave Root out twice lbw in England’s second innings — both times reviewed by the England captain who was smiling during one of them, knowing that he was safe — before those calls proved incorrect.
Social media reaction was unforgiving. Former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: “When Joel Wilson gives you OUT .. You just review it .. #Fact.”
Wilson will be the TV umpire for the second test at Lord’s, and stand in the third test at Headingley, but has no involvement in the final two games at Old Trafford and The Oval.
Can England hope that archrival Australia will get over-confident after gaining some revenge over the same opponents for its semifinal exit from the Cricket World Cup at Edgbaston last month?
No, according to Australia captain Tim Paine.
“We’re obviously happy to win the first test. It’s a huge step in the right direction, but we’re certainly not satisfied with that,” Paine said. “It’s a big win for us, but they lost their premier bowler (James Anderson) so we’ve got to be realistic about it and that’s why it’s one test win and there’s four more huge games for us to go.”
England confirmed Tuesday that Anderson, its record test-wicket taker, will miss the second test with an injured right calf.
Anderson and out-of-form spinner Moeen Ali could make way for paceman Jofra Archer, if fit himself, and slow left-armer Jack Leach.
Under fire for including Anderson in the first test — where he bowled only four overs — Root cautioned against making “too many emotional decisions” for the second test, including batters, adding “we’ll sit down as a selection panel and pick a squad from there.”
Root oversaw a 4-0 defeat Down Under in 2017-18.
Edgbaston is seen as England’s most hostile venue for cricketing visitors with its raucous soccer-style atmosphere.
That continued in the first test with Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft — the three Australians involved in the ball-tampering scandal against South Africa last year — singled out for endless jeers from the crowd.
England had won their last 11 matches in all formats at the Birmingham venue.
The Australians claimed their first triumph at Warwickshire’s ground since 2001 — the last time they won the Ashes urn on English soil.