Ashes 2015: So many positives for England – and Australia have plenty to ponder, says Matt Prior

Five things we learnt from the First Ashes Test

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When your foot is on the Aussies' throat, push that little bit harder

In that second innings on Friday, England had done so much hard work to get ahead in the game, then we lost four wickets in quick time to give the Aussies a little sniff again.

Yes, England finished the day in charge but if you’re being hyper-critical then you want Ian Bell and Joe Root to go on, get big runs and take the game completely out of the Aussies’ reach.

If you’re in a dressing room and you need to bat for a day and three-quarters and the best you can hope for is a draw, it completely saps you. It also messes with your head – do you attack, do you defend?

Although England won, we mustn’t in future give them a sniff when we have the upper hand because they can be so ruthless. England have to be like that too. It was what we were so good at Down Under in 2010-11 when we won that series. When we had our foot on their throat, we didn’t take it off, we pressed harder.

 

Pitch doctoring? That’s a joke

All this talk of the Cardiff pitch being engineered to help our bowlers is just ridiculous. Cardiff is slow and low and always has been – it’s like turning up at the Gabba or Perth and moaning that it’s quick and bouncy and then accusing Australia of doctoring pitches.

Test tracks in this country are generally set up to last five days but the whole of idea of us preparing pitches to nullify the Aussie quicks is a joke. Yes, the pitches here will suit our bowlers more than theirs but, hey, that’s why they call it home advantage and that’s why it’s easier for us to win an Ashes series here than in Australia and vice versa.

We go to India and play on ridiculous wickets and no one says anything. The fact is that you would hope the England bowlers do well on these wickets because this is what they’ve grown up bowling on. So let’s all stop banging on about the pitches. It’s getting boring already.

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England emerge for the start of day three in Cardiff

A Ryan Harris-shaped hole

When I heard the announcement of Ryan Harris’s retirement last week, it really stuck out for me. Mitchell Johnson took all the wickets and got all the plaudits in the last Ashes series but there was one bloke who stood out for me in that Australian bowling line-up – Harris.

He had good pace, he was accurate and Michael Clarke knew what he was going to get. In this Test, the two Mitchells have gone at four an over, which is putting a massive amount of pressure of Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon. Their roles have to change, they can’t attack because they have to do the donkey work, they have to plonk it on a line and length. Harris’s absence has stuck out massively in this Test match.

Mitch slow to catch on

On the last Ashes tour, Mitchell  Johnson was quicker than anything I had ever faced, quicker that Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Shoaib Akhtar. He was another level of pace.

In training sessions Andy Flower or Graham Gooch would stand there with the dog stick in the middle of the pitch and throw it as fast as they could. I remember telling Andy that it wasn’t fast enough and he turned round and told me that he just couldn’t get it any quicker.

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Mitchell Johnson reacts to a missed chance in the second innings

Now, if Mitch is bowling at 88 or 90mph, which is still seriously quick, then his margin for error is much smaller. In Australia even his bad balls were so hard to hit because they were so quick, but there’s a colossal difference between what he’s bowling here and back then.

The England batsmen have gone after him and they’ve succeeded because he’s such an attacking bowler that he gives you those scoring opportunities.

Moeen could be a sensation at eight

Moeen Ali looked superb with the bat in that first innings but it was his bowling that really stood out for me. There was a lot of talk about having him at No 8 but if you do have someone like that down the order it gives you an incredible batting line-up.

The fear wasn’t that he couldn’t score runs but, potentially, not take the wickets that he was effectively in the team for. At Cardiff he has proved he can do both. He got wickets against India last summer and on Thursday he claimed the scalps of Michael Clarke and Steve Smith, two seriously good players of spin.

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Alastair Cook leaps in joy as Moeen Ali traps David Warner lbw

He took the crucial wicket of David Warner, which really sparked the Aussie collapse. He’s not just getting the rats and mice out at the back-end of the innings, he’s consistently dismissing quality players of spin. That’s hugely important.

Spinners and wicketkeepers are the same, as you get older you learn your trade. Moeen Ali will only get better and this series could be huge in that development. Playing in a winning side can only help.

Matt Prior won three Ashes series with England during a career which spanned 79 Tests between 2007-14

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