Ashes 2013: Five things we learnt at the thrilling battle of Trent Bridge

Stephen Brenkley considers what the first Test told us about what lies ahead during the remainder of an Ashes series which promises to be enthralling throughout
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Hopes rest with Jimmy

During this match, Jimmy Anderson’s worth to England became incalculable. Without him, they will not win the Ashes.

True, it is the great players who make the difference but yesterday as the match approached its thrilling denouement, Alastair Cook, England’s captain, had to make a big decision.

He knew that Anderson was done in but he had broken Australia. All his colleagues had to do was take one more measly wicket. They failed. Anderson had to come back to finish the job. The second Test starts at Lord’s on Thursday. Cook made the only possible call but he now has to hope there is something left in the tank.

Swann can still step up

England were meant to win this series through Anderson and Graeme Swann. But although he took four wickets in the match, Swann did not do the job he was expected to do yesterday.

It is much too soon to worry, however. Forget that Trent Bridge is his home ground, which he purports to love. The truth is that his record there is extremely moderate. His record against Australia is fairly poor too but they will recall how Swann bowled them to defeat at The Oval in 2009 and Adelaide in 2010. He is not in this series yet but he is not out of it.

Bell merits the awe at last

For more than a decade Ian Bell has been spoken of in awed tones as a batsman of the highest class. Just before this series began, Matt Prior recalled that when they shared a dressing room as schoolboys, Bell was the golden child. Despite 17 Test hundreds and an accomplished record, something was still missing.

Not any longer. Bell’s innings of 109, which took six and a half hours, was a craftsman’s masterpiece. He assessed the conditions and reacted accordingly, slicing the ball repeatedly through and wide of the slip cordon with the dexterity of a surgeon. It was also a persevering innings that nobody else in the side could have played with such elan.

Australia are up for a fight

It was always likely, despite the hype, that England were not as good as they hoped and Australia not as bad as they feared. Over five days of high theatre the teams have set up a series which promises to be perpetually enthralling and close.

There are weaknesses in Australia’s batting but England did not expose them brutally enough. While Australia’s late order scored too many runs, England’s made too few. If Australia’s bowling attack, much the superior part of their team, comes to the party at Lord’s, it may be closer still.

Root and Finn at risk?

England made a harsh but well-judged selection call in deciding to drop Nick Compton, at least for the start of the series. To justify it, they will want his replacement as opener, Joe Root, to do better at Lord’s than the 30 and 5 he made in the opening match.

But they may also have to make another severe decision. Steve Finn took two important wickets at the start of Australia’s first innings. It seemed his poor form might be behind him but it proved illusory.

By the end, Cook hardly dared turn to him and must have regretted doing so yesterday when Brad Haddin suddenly became belligerent. Until Finn sorts out his run-up and regains his pace, he may be too much of a risk.

Escapes to victory: England’s narrow Ashes wins

1981, Headingley

An unbeaten 149 from Ian Botham helped England overcome odds of 500-1 after slumping to 135 for 7 after being made to follow on. Australia still needed just 130 to win but then Bob Willis’s 8 for 43 completed England’s rescue act.

1997, The Oval

In a low-scoring match lasting three days, England bowled out Australia for just 104 to seal a 19-run victory. The tourists had by then, however, already claimed victory in the series.

1998, Melbourne

Six wickets taken by Dean Headley – added to a first-innings century from Alec Stewart – helped England skittle the Aussies for 162 to seal a 12-run victory and give the tourists hope – albeit short-lived – of levelling the series.

2005, Edgbaston

Chasing 282, Australia were set to go two up in the series as the tail wagged. But Steve Harmison took the final wicket of Michael Kasprowicz with the tourists two runs from victory, leaving Brett Lee disconsolate.

... and one improbable draw

A defiant rearguard action from Monty Panesar left the Aussies frustrated in Cardiff in 2009. England ended on 252 for 9, seeing out the final day for a draw.