Mitchell Johnson

Australia surges to emphatic win

Australia has emphatically secured a one-nil Ashes lead with a 381-run win in the first Test at the Gabba despite mild annoyance posed by Brisbane’s fickle weather and slightly less irritation from another sub-par England batting effort.

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The win was Australia’s third-highest (in terms of runs) Ashes win on home soil, and keeps their formidable record at the Gabba – where they have not tasted defeat in 25 years – intact heading into the second Test in Adelaide beginning December 5.

The win, which also ends the team’s nine-match winless Test match streak that stretched back to January this year, arrived more than half an hour after the scheduled time for stumps after two afternoon rain interruptions threatened to delay their victory surge.

It was a victory that prompted spontaneous celebrations among the Australians, and was achieved amid long shadows and bad blood between Australia captain Michael Clarke and England tailender James Anderson.

Fittingly, it was player of the match Mitchell Johnson who wrapped up a win he did so much to engineer – with 103 runs and nine wickets – by catching Anderson off his own bowling.

With cracks widening in the Gabba pitch and moisture hanging heavy in the tropical heat, the chances of England surviving the day seemed risible when Peter Siddle twice found the inside edge and once the outside edge of Kevin Pietersen’s bat in his opening over of the day.

But more than an hour elapsed before Pietersen succumbed, his flick-pull shot managing to find the man rated as the best fielder in Queensland – substitute Chris Sabburg, who lived up to his reputation.

It provided a thumbnail sketch of the fortunes that have accompanied both teams throughout the series opener.

It was almost two hours later before the next incision was made, albeit a telling one as the additional bounce that has exposed England’s batting shortcomings throughout produced an edge from Ian Bell, the last of England’s middle-order hopes for batting them to safety.

That job suddenly rested with captain Alastair Cook, with the only plausible support to come from Brisbane’s thunderstorm season.

However, as it transpired it was the violent storm that briefly raised English hopes of an ill-deserved draw that ultimately triggered their undignified gallop towards defeat.

Cook and Joe Root had appeared largely untroubled when a tropical squall unleashed a carpet of hailstones and around 10mm of rain in the space of 15 apocalyptic minutes.

Even the recently-relaid Gabba turf battled to cope with the deluge, and more than an hour was lost and tea taken early as ground staff furiously mopped amid bright sunshine that only added to the day’s stifling humidity.

And it took just six deliveries after the resumption for the rejuvenated Australian bowlers and the revived wicket to make the crucial breakthrough.

Cook, who had dropped anchor in a stoic attempt to guide his team through to hopefully further weather interruptions, was undone by extra bounce and top edged an attempted cut shot from Nathan Lyon.

His departure, for 65, which constituted the best individual contribution his team could manage across two innings, gave the Australians the victory sniff they had been searching for all afternoon, and the England tail showed little heart for a fight.

A sadly out-of-form Matt Prior, whose previous two Test innings at the Gabba had produced a pair of first-ball ducks, survived a rare batting hat-trick, but his dismissal shortly thereafter for just four suggests he faces another lean series.

Australia then showed the same disdain for Stuart Broad’s batting credentials as England had displayed to Michael Clarke a day earlier, gifting Root a single to install Broad at the striker’s end against Johnson, who was approaching terminal velocity.

It took just two deliveries for Johnson, operating around the wicket, to send England’s strike bowler packing with a fearful short ball that grazed Broad’s glove and convinced the Englishman to redress recent history by beginning his walk back to the dressing room before the umpire’s finger was raised.

Standing your ground after edging Lyon to slip is cheekily defiant. Hanging around to cop another Johnson widowmaker is simply folly.

That was clearly Graeme Swann’s mindset as he poked lamely at the second delivery he received from Johnson, and appeared almost relieved when the edge was accepted by a sprawling Steve Smith at third slip.

By that stage England had surrendered four wickets for nine runs in the space of less than five hours after the initial rain break, in scenes reminiscent of the first innings collapse that had effectively decided the match.