Match Report:


Khawaja's emotional century leads Australia's recovery

The first Ashes Test at Edgbaston is delicately poised after Usman Khawaja’s unbeaten century put Australia within touching distance of England’s first-innings declaration

An Ashes series that had kicked off at an unrecognisable, almost unseemly, clip on day one assumed a more recognisable face as Usman Khawaja's exquisitely crafted century and the comforting lilt of fluctuating fortunes sees the first Test evenly poised.

Australia spent much of day two digging themselves from the early hole into which they sunk after the loss of three wickets in the first session, as Stuart Broad's irrepressible skill and Ben Stokes' innovative leadership had England on top and the Saturday crowd in raptures.

But Khawaja's almost blemish-free 126 carried Australia to 5-311 at the close, still 82 runs adrift of England's quick-fire 8(dec)-393 but in vastly better shape than they might have been.

England can only blame themselves for not finding themselves in a more formidable position having squandered several chances to pin their rivals to the canvas during the day's second half.

While 'keeper Jonny Bairstow's muffed stumping off Cameron Green (before he had scored) and dropped catch from Alex Carey (on 26) were costly, it was the reprieve offered to Khawaja in the final hour that was the most egregious.


The opener had been in the middle for more than five-and-a-half hours when the second new ball became due shortly before 5.30pm, and he looked wearily late on a hooping inswinger from Broad's second delivery with it sent down from around the wicket.

It slammed into off stump but no sooner had Broad ended his now traditional victory sprint and applause for Khawaja's 112 begun to fill the stadium than Edgbaston's electronic scoreboard confirmed the England quick's sixth – and most costly – no-ball of the innings.

Those lapses had cost England a collective total of 78 runs and the chance to push home the advantage gained with bold batting on day one, with Carey ending the day 52no and his partnership with Khawaja unbroken on 91.

Given Australia's lengthy tail in the absence of accomplished lower-order batter Mitchell Starc, Carey's continued good form after posting 48 and 66no at The Oval last week raises his team's hopes of matching, perhaps even surpassing, England's total.

Khawaja was the constant presence in an Australia innings that lurched to 3-67 in the morning session, counter-punched by scoring at almost a run a ball in the hour after lunch, then steadily narrowed the gap throughout the remainder of the day.

While Stokes' use of creative field settings and a revolving door of bowlers – he used seven inside the first session today – made for a constant guessing game, the left-hander remained unruffled as he continued the irresistible form streak founded in the previous Ashes battle.

The 36-year-old's seventh Test ton from 31 innings since earning a call-up as a COVID-19 replacement at the SCG last year arrived with a typically effortless and neatly timed glide to the backward point boundary, sparking an atypical celebration.

Having leaped in the air that he also punched in jubilation, Khawaja then hurled his bat into the air and continued running towards a delighted Australia dressing room as it thudded back to earth behind him.

The overt emotion was doubtless a reaction to the struggles he has previously endured playing Tests in England, where prior to today's knock he had scored just 236 runs from 12 innings at an average of 19.67, having lost his place in the team during his 2013 and 2019 sojourns.

His previous best was the 54 he scored on his first visit to Lord's almost a decade ago.

The 81-run stand he forged with Travis Head for the fourth wicket was a much-needed show of defiance and intent after England's bowlers had exerted a stranglehold in the opening session.

Khawaja signalled his team's desire to break the grip immediately after lunch when he drop-kicked spinner Moeen Ali over long-on for six, heralding the only period of play for the day Australia's batters held the initiative.


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With Head filling his customary role as aggressor despite being targeted with a sustained bouncer barrage by Broad and Ollie Robinson, boundaries flowed until Stokes' persistence with Moeen's spin – which had leaked runs at more than five an over – paid off.

Having reached 50 from just 60 balls faced, Head went searching for a ninth boundary and tried to lift the recalled spinner over midwicket only to present a chest high catch to Zak Crawley.

Player of the match in Australia's World Test Championship Final triumph last weekend with a blazing 163, Head loomed as Australia's best chance of matching England's frantic scoring pace and was clearly frustrated as he thumped his bat into pad upon throwing away his start.

It should have brought a double break which would have seen Australia in dire strife at 5-148 but Bairstow's inability to glove a Moeen off-break that spun appreciably between bat and pad provided a vital reprieve.

It was the second delivery Green faced, and his attempt to muscle Moeen over extra cover while advancing down the track betrayed an understandable anxiousness in the 23-year-old.

But he soon composed and with Khawaja added 72 for the fifth wicket, with the allrounder looking to open his broad shoulders with a powerful strike for six down the ground, before Moeen produced another ball that bit on the dry surface but didn't require the keeper's help to rattle the stumps.

Soon after Khawaja reached his hundred, England successfully requested a second ball change for the day and – as was the case when the first change brought the prized scalp of Steve Smith in the first session – it almost did the deed.

However, Bairstow again failed to snaffle the chance when Carey pressed forward to part-time spinner Joe Root and looked to run the ball off an open face only for the edge to find the keeper's gloves from where it went straight to ground.

The pair of misses heightened whispers that England's best-credentialled 'keeper Ben Foakes – who stood in while Bairstow recovered from a serious leg injury sustained last year – might be a safer option even if he doesn't offer the same productivity with the bat.

It also highlighted how well Bairstow did to pluck the low, one-handed chance that accounted for Marnus Labuschagne from the first ball he faced in the first half-hour.

Fired-up Broad gets Warner, Marnus in consecutive balls

If an early refresher was needed in the markedly different approaches the rival teams were taking to the series opener, it was presented in the first four overs sent down by England that yielded three consecutive maidens and then a solitary single.

In the same initial skirmish of their innings a day earlier, England had rattled on 22 runs and lost an opener.

But Friday offered vastly different conditions, with the glaring sunshine of 24 hours earlier replaced by more traditional Midlands summer consisting of mizzling morning rain that slowly cleared but left behind a blanket of low cloud conducive to swing bowling.

England's veteran pair Broad (aged 37) and James Anderson (40) don't need coaching cues in those conditions and instinctively pitched the ball a metre or more fuller than Australia's quicks on day one, and duly gained appreciably greater swing.

However, it was the swing of David Warner's bat more than any extravagant movement of the ball that brought the first breakthrough as the left-hander looked to step up the tempo after his team's cautious start.

The first ball of Broad's third over of the day was delivered, as expected, from around the wicket but instead of zeroing in on the left-hander's front pad as was Broad's constant ploy in 2019, it pitched full and wide and Warner looked to climb into it.

With feet anchored and dropping almost to his knees to generate extra grunt, Warner found such a hefty inside edge the ball flew almost 180 degrees from where it was aimed and into leg stump, sending Broad on a celebratory run towards backward point.

It was a familiar sight given the England seamer has now knocked over Warner 15 times in Tests, with former England captain Michael Atherton gleefully hopeful that combination might strike the 19 'bowled McGrath' entries in the records as the tightest stranglehold any bowler has held over a rival batter.

The early setback brought the world's top-rated batter Labuschagne to the crease, and he immediately exercised his rank by ordering a uniformed police officer from his post alongside the Pavilion End sightscreen because he was catching the Australian's eyeline.


Which meant Labuschagne had no viable excuse for recording his first golden duck in 39 Test appearances moments later, when he fished leaden-footed at the outswinger Broad has been assiduously working on – and very publicly pronouncing – for precisely that scenario.

When his plan to target the outside edges of both Labuschagne and Smith brought instant success, Broad set off on the sort of victory lap last seen in an Ashes contest when the late Shane Warne collected his 700th Test scalp at the MCG in his penultimate Test.

Given Broad's 100 per cent strike rate with his new weapon, it seemed obvious he would launch it again with Smith at the wicket and an unprecedented third Test hat-trick beckoning.

But in addition to the four slips awaiting said edge, Stokes had positioned another two catchers behind the wicket on the leg side and the potential history-making ball instead slid harmlessly behind Smith as he shimmied extravagantly across his stumps.

If Stokes' fields were funky, some of his bowling changes were even quirkier.

His decision to deploy right-arm barely medium-pacer Harry Brook after an hour's play seemed designed to lull Smith into flicking the innocuous swingers to the pair of catchers placed in the midwicket area.

But unlike his fellow former Test skipper Kane Williamson – Brook's sole Test scalp from the eight overs he had previously delivered across 15 Tests – Smith did not tumble into the trap.

Instead, it was another of Stokes' bowling switches that brought the sought-after scalp, after the England captain took the ball himself and within three deliveries convinced umpire Marais Erasmus it needed to be replaced, perhaps in favour of his preferred 'Baz' variety.

Whatever the nature of the new model, Stokes underscored how crucial he is to England's plans having been previously prevented from bowling in the current summer due to chronic pain in his left knee by stunning Smith and inciting the crowd.

On a slow pitch where Australia's Ashes talisman had appeared to have endless time to play each of the first 58 balls he played, Smith was back to his 2019 mannerisms as he stepped across his stumps and often ended up facing front-on to the bowler.

However, he was undone by a delivery from Stokes that skidded through and nipped in, beating the prolific right-hander's inside edge and thudding into the top of his back pad, with umpire Erasmus eventually honouring Stokes' beseeching appeal after lengthy consideration.

Seemingly at a loss to work out how he had missed it, Smith immediately called for review which confirmed middle and leg stumps were in peril if not for his pad and Stokes was swamped by delirious teammates as Edgbaston erupted.

It was at the same venue four years ago that Smith scored centuries in both innings of the opening Test to set up Australia's eventual win, and the sight of him on his way for 16 became a cause for national jubilation.

It also represented the first time since the fourth match of the 2013 series that Smith has reached double figures in an Ashes Test in England and not made it to 20.

Perhaps more ominously, all of Australia's Ashes Test wins in England over the previous two tours in 2015 and 2019 have been founded on a Smith century in the first innings.

2023 Qantas Ashes Tour of the UK

First Test: Friday June 16-Tuesday June 20, Edgbaston

Second Test: Wednesday June 28-Sunday July 2, Lord’s

Third Test: Thursday July 6-Monday July 10, Headingley

Fourth Test: Wednesday July 19-Sunday July 23, Old Trafford

Fifth Test: Thursday July 27-Monday 31, The Oval

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis (wk), Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Todd Murphy, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, David Warner

England squad: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Matthew Potts, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Josh Tongue, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood