1. Photo finish
Of course it finished like that. There could be no more fitting conclusion to this extraordinary Test match than a DRS decision to hand one side a narrow victory after yet another outrageous twist in fortunes, another lurch on the rollercoaster, another swing of the pendulum.
After four days, England appeared to be in control. When James Anderson removed Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle in quick succession the game appeared to be up.
But no. This Test that kept on giving had two more treats in store yet.
First, a remarkable 10th-wicket stand between Brad Haddin – who can rarely have batted better – and James Pattinson, taking on the role of Batting At Number 11 But Not Really A Number 11 after Agar’s promotion.
Then, the best of DRS to settle the game. After Haddin had initially been given not out, replays and Hot Spot (and later the non-DRS snicko) confirmed a thin edge through to Matt Prior. The decision was overturned, and England celebrated.
2. King of the swingers
Jimmy Anderson, a master of his art, took all four wickets to fall today – the first three of them in an epic 13-over, 110-minute spell at the start of the day – to collect his second five-wicket haul of the game, 10 wickets for the match and victory for England.
He also took his Test wicket tally to 317 and, for the first time in two months short of 10 years, his Test bowling average is on the right side of 30.
His greatness has been beyond question for some time now. Bald statistics are not and never can be a true judge of a player’s talent or worth. That said, it’s undeniably satisfying to see Anderson’s upward curve finally take his overall stats where they belong. We are simple creatures.
Anderson was, again, magnificent today. Not just in his skill in hooping both old ball and new this way and that, but his heart to continue his lung and limb-busting efforts long past the point others may have called a halt.
Let us not become bogged down in Steyn v Anderson debates; let us enjoy a pair of master craftsmen at work.
3. Brad: not bad
The clichés will be scant consolation, but all apply today. Shame there had to be a loser. Didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.
Brad Haddin played a superb hand for his side and came within a Hot Spot smudge of perhaps sealing one of the all-time great Australia victories.
As with Anderson, there was so much more to enjoy here than simply the skill. Haddin was ice-cool in the heat of battle, resisting when times were hard and always sensing the moment to attack.
His brutal counter-attack when the fragile Steve Finn came on to bowl was as clinical example of devising and then executing a gameplan as you could wish to see.
Credit also to Australia for having the guts to bring back a cricketer whose sheer flinty-eyed gritty Australianness added so much to this game.
Back to clichés, and the oft-pondered identity of scriptwriters for sports stars or sporting events. This match, of course, sits firmly in the real life better than a script ever could be category.
If it did have a scriptwriter, though, they’re a despicable plagiarist, cherry-picking highlights from Edgbaston 05, Edgbaston 12, Brisbane 06 and Lord’s 09 to produce a heady concoction even before the various umpiring controversies were added to the mix.
5. To Lord’s
So, what now? When the dust settles, the facts are these: England are 1-0 up with four to play.
For the neutral, it’s hard to shake the notion that an Australia victory would’ve been a better result here, for the sake of the series. However much pride Australia take, however high their heads may be held, this will be a tough defeat to swallow.
They must now regroup for Lord’s on Thursday. Winning the toss and batting first against an attack – Anderson especially – that has expended such energy in sapping conditions here would be a good start.
They must consider changes to the batting line-up, though. Ed Cowan struggled terribly in the pivotal number-three position and looks vulnerable to both Usman Khawaja. Across both innings, Australia’s first nine wickets produced just 348/18, while the 10 wicket accrued 228/2. That, clearly, is unsustainable.
For England, we still await conclusive evidence of the wisdom or otherwise of both Joe Root at two and Jonny Bairstow at six, but Steven Finn will be lucky to be inside the XI at his home ground next week.
He clearly does not enjoy the confidence of his captain, and his two overs today handed an initiative to Australia that almost proved decisive. While Anderson bowled himself into the ground, Finn grazed at long-leg.
Graham Onions or, more likely, Tim Bresnan will surely come in at HQ.
- Ashes 2013: England defeat Australia in dramatic finale to first Test (chronicralph.wordpress.com)
- Exhausted Anderson hails victory (bbc.co.uk)
- ‘Australia can fight back in Ashes’ (bigpondnews.com)
- Ashes live score: Day five latest updates on England vs Australia with our ball-by-ball 1st Test scorecard (mirror.co.uk)
- Alastair Cook keen for England to regroup after drawing first blood in Ashes (standard.co.uk)
- Ashes 2013 First test: James Anderson ends epic resistance as England beat Australia (chronicralph.wordpress.com)
- Australia loses first Ashes Test (bigpondnews.com)
- Ashes Test, Live cricket score: England vs Australia – Haddin stands in the way of England triumph (sports.ndtv.com)
- James Anderson helps England wrap up Ashes opener win (thesun.co.uk)
- Ashes 2013: James Anderson hails win (chronicralph.wordpress.com)