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‘Test cricket’s alive’ as ‘Gilly-like’ Head outguns disappointing England

What an entertaining day!

When England had Australia 3-12 in that opening session, I thought there was every chance they could bowl Australia out for 100, and be batting by halfway through the day.

The next minute, at lunch, the Aussies are scoring at four an over on a green seamer! If there can be four wickets a session but runs are going at that rate, Test cricket’s alive.

Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne were sensational; the way those two played really took the ascendancy back Australia’s way. On a green wicket, with Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad bowling balls that were moving massively, I thought the counter-attack was really good.

It just showed if you weren’t proactive, you were a walking wicket.

Some will say Marnus’ dismissal was one of the highlights; he’ll probably say it was one of the lowlights!

Then all of a sudden after that early run, the ball didn’t seem to move as much for England. I thought their change bowlers bowled poorly; Mark Wood straight away didn’t seem to move the ball a lot, and just wasn’t accurate enough.

You would have thought that pitch was perfect for Chris Woakes, but he floated up a half-volley first up and just wasn’t accurate enough either. He’s not fast enough to get away with not being accurate.

One of the biggest disappointments was that they couldn’t call on Ben Stokes. He’s such an underrated swing and seam bowler, and that pitch was just made for him.

I did feel for England that they were one bowler down from the start, and then when Robinson pulled up lame with his back they were two down. Let’s hope it’s just a back spasm and he’s right to go tomorrow.

Tactically, they weren’t smart. It took until the first session for Wood to start using bouncers. He bowled four to Cameron Green, and got him out on the fourth.

He bowled two bouncers to Head, he looked uncomfortable… and then they didn’t bowl another one. When the pitch wasn’t providing variation, they needed to provide it.

For Wood, he needed to bowl fuller, but when he bowled bouncers they had to have intent at the body.

Woakes ended up getting Head with an off-cutter, and I don’t think they tried enough of those when the run rate was going away from them.

It could have been different if Robinson hadn’t hurt his back, but I still felt Wood and Woakes were very disappointing, and didn’t back up the good work from Robinson and Broad with the new ball.

With the Australians, there’s no respite with their bowling changes. Their first change is Scott Boland, their second change is Green, third is Nathan Lyon. They’re all accurate, they all build pressure.

England’s just didn’t get it right.

If Jimmy Anderson looked at that pitch and saw the way it behaved in the first hour, he’d have wanted a bowl. We were hearing there might have been some slight injury concerns over him, and that’s why they left him out, but they’d have to have been significant to deny him a game on that wicket.

If Anderson was fit, he would have been a nightmare. Unfortunately for Woakes, who’s a brilliant cricketer in England, he averages 50 a wicket here. If you can’t get a wicket in those conditions… imagine what Jimmy would have been like.

Take nothing away from Head’s performance, though. It was almost a Gilly-like innings; to have a number five that comes in and bats like that is a serious strength.

Travis Head celebrates his century.

Travis Head celebrates his century during day one of the fifth Ashes Test. (Photo by Matt Roberts – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

His strike rate was constantly a run a ball, just like his 150 at the Gabba. Throughout this series, it has been close to 90 in a bowler-dominated series.

To think there was conjecture over him pre-series. Once he got the opportunity and made a big 150 in Brisbane to sew up that number five, he’s just gone to another level.

From a technical perspective, he’s always been a fluent scorer, but he had a tendency when he was younger to drop that back leg and uppercut balls on a fifth or sixth stump line.

Now, it’s actually a strength, and the way he punched them through point for four on day one was just outstanding. Your margin for error bowling to Head now is smaller and smaller. I thought that was a brilliant hundred.

That’s the best I’ve seen Cam Green bat, too. He played the secondary role to Head really well, and technically he looked more assured than ever.

Some of the timing on those cover drives were just unbelievable. They were just little forward defensive punches, but they rocketed to the boundary!

He’ll just need to work to be a bit more selective with his shots after getting caught on the boundary with a maiden ton in his sights.

For England, it could have been the day they’ve been hoping for; but Australia will be really pleased with the intent their batters showed.



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