Brook & Woakes impress but Australia edge day one of Fifth Test as England risk first home Ashes series loss since 2001 | The Sun

IT was a day when Harry ‘Becher’s’ Brook played another thunderous, perilous innings and England broke another record, yet Australia ended up the happier team.

So here again was the great Bazball paradox – how do you judge an England side trying to sprint their way through a marathon?

And how do you comprehend a series between two teams playing entirely different sports?

First England clattered their way to 283 all out at an unparalleled rate of knots, with Brook cracking 14 boundaries in a thrilling 85 more reminiscent of a Grand National ride around Aintree than an innings by a top-order batsman on the opening day of a Test.

Then the Aussies ground it out at a snail’s pace – playing L’Escargot to England’s Red Rum – scoring at less than half of England’s rate.

Pat Cummins’ side have already retained the Ashes, while Ben Stokes & co remain determined to win a BAFTA for the best light-entertainment performance.


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Despite the Mancunian monsoon that robbed England of near-certain victory and allowed the Aussies to keep the urn, this final Test matters greatly to the reputation of both teams.

Cummins & Co are desperate to become the first Australians to win a Test series on English soil for 22 years, while England are after a ‘moral victory’ rather than a morale-sapping 3-1 defeat which would give great fodder to critics of their ultra-aggressive Bazball style.

The Aussies dropped five catches during England’s latest white-knuckle ride, which included two mini-collapses of 3-11 and 4-28.

But, at a rate of 5.17 per over, it was the most rapid opening innings of any Ashes Test in history.

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With Moeen Ali prevented from bowling, after suffering a groin injury while batting, England’s seamers face an uphill battle today and they struggled to make much impact as the Aussies inched along to 61-1 from 25 overs at stumps.

Chris Woakes, who had played an important tail-end knock, grabbed the wicket of David Warner but the Aussies, playing old-fashioned Test cricket, will fancy themselves in the stronger position.

If there was any England hangover from the frustrations of last weekend’s Old Trafford wash-out, then openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett didn’t show it.

Duckett was soon plundering 11 off a Mitchell Starc, then leathering a straight four off Josh Hazlewood which almost poleaxed his batting partner.

The duo scored off 16 consecutive balls – an extraordinary stat in the early overs of a Test – before the first of England’s collapses.

Duckett had been dropped by Warner at slip off Cummins’ first delivery of the day before he gloved one down the leg side.

After his magnificent 189 at Old Trafford, Crawley reverted to his usual pleasing cameo, edging Cummins behind soon after.

When Joe Root swiftly chopped on to Hazlewood, England were in the cart at 73-3 but Brook and Moeen staged an invigorating century stand either side of lunch.

First, Brook was the aggressor – having been spilled by Carey on five, he was soon pulling Mitchell Marsh for six and then took Mitchell Starc for 14 runs from three balls, including a mighty hooked maximum.

His half-century from 44 balls was England’s fastest in the opening innings of an Ashes Test and he soon followed it with glorious drives to the boundary from successive Cummins deliveries.

Moeen had dropped anchor until he edged a ball into his groin, and after undergoing lengthy treatment he switched into hell-for-leather mode.

The all-rounder hammered an extraordinary premeditated six over midwicket off Cummins – in an over which cost 19.

Moeen pulled another six and then came an uppercut over the keeper’s head for four.

But it was never going to last and Moeen was out mowing at spinner Todd Murphy after a whirlwind partnership of 111 off 18 overs.

That sparked England’s second slump, with Stokes clean bowled by an away-swinging beauty from Starc which uprooted his off stump.

Jonny Bairstow chopped on to Hazlewood and then, straight after Brook had played the shot of the day by straight driving Starc to the boundary, he was out next ball slashing at a wide one.

Not for the first time in this series, Woakes and Wood dug England out of a hole – the Geordie hammering three boundaries before tea.

Their 49-run stand was ended when Wood got carried away and was bowled by Murphy and after Woakes had hammered Stokes for six and carved him for four, he was out, pulling, to end England’s innings for a below-par 283.

Jimmy Anderson was steady but ineffective and Broad was appealing noisily to no avail, burning a review against Warner.

Even speed merchant Mark Wood was having little joy, a Warner edge somehow failing to reach Bairstow.

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But when Warner edged again, at Woakes, Crawley took a fine diving catch.

Nobody is really sure who is ahead, and nobody has a clue what will happen next – which is why we will all be glued again on day two.

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