Ashes 2015: England vs Australia report - Stuart Broad and Joe Root punish Australia to see England take commanding lead

England (274/4) lead Australia (60) by 214 runs

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The Independent Online

There are moments in sporting contests when events unfold in a manner which defies belief. It has become the fashion to suggest in the modern era that this, that and the other fairly commonplace occurrences are the greatest that man has ever witnessed.

What happened in the morning at Trent Bridge today was remarkable by any standards. Its like had truly not been seen before. In 18.3 overs which spanned 94 minutes, Australia were dismissed for 60 in the fourth Investec Test. It was the shortest first innings of a match in Test history, in all 2174 of them. During it the Ashes were virtually surrendered and by the end of a startling opening day that all but became a certainty.

Stuart Broad took 8 for 15 in 9.3 overs of controlled, smart seam bowling which recognised the conditions on offer and took the fullest advantage of them. The first of his haul, with the third ball of the match, made him the fifth England bowler to 300 Test wickets, the last of them with the 111th, brought him level on 307 with the great Fred Trueman, the first to achieve the landmark.

Such potency, with accurate, intelligent support from the other end, made light of the absence of the totemic Jimmy Anderson. Handed the role as leader of the attack, Broad seized the moment and found that he was abetted by batsmen unwilling or unable to play on an alien surface. Australia had not seen anything like this, oh, since the previous Test in Birmingham less than a week ago. They had learned nothing.

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Mark Wood celebrates after taking the wicket of David Warner

By the close, England had established a lead of 214. In doing so, they lost four wickets of their own. But Joe Root, who is rapidly emerging as a giant among batsmen, made a sublime 124no from 158 balls and he shared a partnership of 173 with his Yorkshire colleague, Jonny Bairstow, who was out in a moment of unexpected carelessness shortly before the end.

It was Root’s eighth Test hundred, his second of the series, his third against Australia. There was a rare assurance about his work that bespoke a man on the top of his game.

When Yorkshire are strong England are strong may be a hackneyed observation but down the ages it has usually also been true. Yorkshire are the outstanding emblem of the northern powerhouse and England are benefiting from it.

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Stuart Broad of England celebrates the wicket of Chris Rogers

On Australia’s route to disaster, it was perhaps their misfortune that everything they pushed at, or prodded at, or sparred at, or fenced at took the edge of their bats. There was barely any playing and missing from the moment two minutes into the day that Chris Rogers touched a ball that seamed away from him and ended up in the hands of Alastair Cook at first slip.

With the match fewer than ten overs old Australia had lost their first seven batsmen, five of them to Broad at that stage who thus took the quickest five wicket haul from the beginning of a Test, the first before lunch for England since Sydney Barnes in 1913. To say that he felt at home on his home ground was perhaps an understatement.

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Stuart Broad was shocked by Ben Stokes' catch

Despite the striking contributions at Edgbaston of Anderson and Steve Finn, Broad has regularly been the most impressive of England’s bowlers in this campaign.  To suggest that he was threatening to do something like this may be a stretch – 8 for 15 in a session is the stuff of fantasy – but it was clear that at some stage in this series he was likely to make a decisive intervention.

Before Alastair Cook won the toss under overcast skies there was some discussion about whether batting or bowling was the preferred option. There was an informed school of thought that allowing the tourists to have first use of the pitch would be to invite them to score the runs to force their way back into the series. But Cook did not hesitate for a nano second when the coin fell his way. He knew his opponents’ weakness.

 

Play started five minutes late because of a shower. Australia had accrued four leg byes when Broad found his range with a ball to Chris Rogers that seamed away from off stump, was edged and caught by Cook at first slip. It had been noticeable that after the toss was done, Cook had taken himself off for some last minute slip catching practice. 

Steve Smith, the world’s number one ranked batsman, turned his first ball to the leg side for two and square drove his second for four. His third found him disturbed by Broad’s movement off the seam as his ungainly method gave him little chance of countering the seam movement and he was caught by Root at third slip. The moving ball can perplex the most accomplished.

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Joe Root was full of cheer after catching Mitchell Johnson

There was no time to draw breath before Mark Wood, returning to the side in Anderson’s place, produced a corker to David Warner that bounced, swung in and took the inside edge. The procession simply did not abate and masterminding its progress was Broad.

He removed Shaun Marsh, selected in place of brother Mitchell, with another that seamed away and went, this time, to second slip, and then had Adam Voges brilliantly caught by Ben Stokes at fifth slip. England caught everything that came their way but this was the best in show, quite stunning as Stokes dived far to his right and bent backwards.

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Australian captain Michael Clarke watches his team from the dressing room

The came the most hapless dismissal of the lot. Michael Clarke’s stay of 25 minutes had been fitful. For reasons only he can know he drove at a ball well outside off from Broad, perhaps the most innocuous of a wondrous spell, and was caught by Cook above his head. It was the shot of a man who wanted to get the hell out of there.

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Joe Root celebrates his century

Resistance came only fleetingly, the last wicket survived for almost six overs, an eternity in this context before Broad finished it. England were in before lunch, lost Adam Lyth (almost inevitably) early in the afternoon to a superb ball from Mitchell Starc that bounced, followed by Ian Bell and a little later, Cook, to  Starc yorkers. The rest was England almost ball the way. The Ashes should be home on Saturday.

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