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What a Test match! Shades of Edgbaston in 2005 were clearly evident for every player and supporter whether they were present in Nottingham or watching the drama of the last four and a half days unfold on their TV screens.
From questionable umpiring to an outstanding 98 from debutant Ashton Agar, to a phenomenal recovery spearheaded by Ian Bell to a ten-wicket haul from Jimmy Anderson. This match had it all.
I wrote on the eve of this Ashes Series that we shouldn’t overlook the Australians, that they were a side with much to prove and that they would pose a real examination of England’s credentials. If this Test Match is anything to go by then that most certainly will be the case.
It is difficult amid the tension of the final day to recall the events four days ago. It seems an age too that England captain Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bat first on a wicket that looked a good surface, yet before the opening day was done England had been skittled out for a mere 215.
Peter Siddle who claimed five wickets during the first Ashes Test down under in 2010 was to do the damage on day one here as well removing Joe Root for 30 with a fantastic yorker, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell before he claimed England wicket-keeper Matt Prior to finish with figures of 5-50.
The aforementioned Trott top scored finishing two short of a fifty, while Jonny Bairstow was the only other batsman to offer any sort of resistance making 37 before he was bowled by Mitchell Starc.
England were firmly up against it, however a supreme spell of bowling between both Anderson and Steven Finn swung the momentum back into the hosts favour as the Australians closed day one on 75-4. Finn was quickly into his stride removing Shane Watson for 13 before Ed Cowan was caught in the slip cordon by Graeme Swann the very next ball after a loose drive as Australia stalled on 19-2.
Anderson then dismissed Australian captain Michael Clarke for nought with the ball of the match that nipped back and clipped his off-stump and shortly after he would trap Chris Rogers – playing in only his second Test – LBW for 16.
Steve Smith and Phil Hughes survived before the close and put on over fifty before the former was caught behind for 53 early on day two off of the bowling of Anderson once more. This was the start of a magical spell by England’s swing king as he combined with Swann (who dismissed Haddin for just 1 and James Pattinson for 2) to remove first Siddle for 1 and then Starc who did not trouble the scorers.
Enter Ashton Agar. The 19-year-old who was playing for Henley CC early in the year then put on a record partnership for the tenth wicket with Phil Hughes of 163 to guide Australia into an unlikely lead of 65 as they were bowled out for 280.
Agar played fluently from the start to record the highest ever score by a number eleven batsman of 98, surpassing the 95 made by Tino Best for the West Indies at Edgbaston last year – incidentally against England, but he had good support from Hughes who made an unbeaten 81 off 131 deliveries.
With a first innings deficit, England soon had their backs up against the wall again as Starc claimed the wickets of opener Root for 5 and then Trott LBW in successive balls to leave the home side at 11-2.
However Cook (50) and Pietersen (64) both made half-centuries to steer England into some sort of lead until first Pattinson bowled Pietersen via an inside edge and then Agar claimed his first Test wicket as Cook edged to Clarke in the slip region.
At this stage they were 131-4 and the match was evenly poised until Agar struck again removing Bairstow for just 15 to swing the balance once again. Prior was the next man in and he was well set on 31 before he fell to Siddle for the second time in the match, again chipping to mid-wicket, this time though it was Cowan who made the catch.
Six down and with a lead of just 153, Bell and Broad put on a massively important partnership of 138 to steer England towards a commanding lead. The latter was controversially not given out on 37 by umpire Aleem Dar even though he clearly nicked one to Michael Clarke at slip off of Agar.
With no reviews remaining the Australians could do nothing and Broad was to eventually pass 50 with a streaky four through the slip cordon early on day four, before eventually falling for 65 having been caught behind by Brad Haddin off of the bowling of Pattinson.
His partner Bell also added the five runs he needed to his overnight score to become the first man to reach three-figures in the series, yet he was to fall victim to Starc for 109 to leave England on 371-8.
Both Swann and Anderson did not offer much resistance as both fell to Siddle in quick succession to leave them all out for 375. Both Siddle and Starc ended with three wickets apiece – 3-85 for the former, 3-81 for the latter.
As a result, England set Australia a demanding 311 to claim victory in the first Ashes Test but they would have to have done so in record breaking fashion as the highest successful run chase at Trent Bridge was the 284 England scored against New Zealand in 2004.
Both Watson and Rogers made light work as they survived unscathed at 28-0 at lunch on the fourth day and then scored quickly early in the afternoon session surpassing 50 without loss.
However, Watson was to fall four short of a deserved fifty as he was trapped LBW by Broad for 46, though he wasted a review in the process and had to walk anyway. Rogers though did make his maiden Test half-century this side of tea, although he would see his partner Cowan dismissed with the final delivery just before the end of the afternoon session.
Captain Cook made the timely decision to introduce part-time spinner Root into the attack and it paid major dividends as Cowan edged to slip for 14, falling on the dreaded nelson – 111-1 and handing the 22-year-old his first Test wicket.
Rogers – who made 52 – would soon follow with a cheap dismissal off of an Anderson off-cutter as he chipped to Bell at short mid-wicket for the simplest of catches.
And then came the defining moment in the match. First Clarke fell for 23 as he edged to Prior off of the bowling of Broad and then Smith was trapped in front by Swann to leave Australia in a spot of bother at 161-5.
It got worse when one of the more productive batsman from the Australian first innings – Phil Hughes – also fell victim to Swann without scoring and suddenly the momentum had flowed back into England’s favour at 164-6.
Both Haddin and Agar saw out the evening session on day four untroubled and also managed to survive for the first hour on day five as Australia resumed on 174-6 requiring a further 137 runs for victory.
The hero from the first innings Agar was to only make 14 this time around as Cook made no mistake with the catch off of who else but Anderson. He then removed Starc shortly after to leave the Aussies truly reeling at 211-8.
Peter Siddle made a quick fire 11 before he was caught by Cook again off Anderson which made victory seem somewhat inevitable with Australia well short of the victory target of 311 at 231-9.
Nevertheless, Haddin and his new partner Pattinson – who incidentally had scored 42 versus South Africa in 2012 and 30 versus India in 2013 – dug in bravely, showing tremendous resistance as Haddin went past 50 for the 11th time in 45 tests.
Finn was expensive as Haddin had struck three successive boundaries to reduce the target to 49, while he also dropped a catch in the deep off of Swann who was less than pleased with the tall-pace bowler.
With lunch approaching, and then pushed back to the later time of 1.30pm, England were beginning to feel the pressure as the target was being whittled down. It is fair to say the interval was to prove to be more beneficial for England than for Australia.
At lunch it was in the balance again as comparisons to the drama of Edgbaston in 2005 where England claimed victory by two runs were unsurprisingly being made. Australia were 291-9 requiring a further twenty runs for victory, while England were looking for that final wicket that had alluded them to this point.
Almost fittingly in a match that has had drama from the start, a sense of unpredictability to it and with Australia closing in on a famous win, Anderson found the inside edge of Haddin that just carried through to Prior. Umpire Dar was unmoved and with two reviews remaining Cook decided to take the small gamble which was overturned by third umpire Marais Erasmus to send the capacity crowd into jubilation and the Australian balcony into stunned silence.
This surely represents the first time a match has been decided by DRS, but at least the right decision was eventually made. England winning by the slenderest of margins – only 14 runs, to take a 1-0 lead in the five match series.
This has seldom been the case in recent memory with a defeat in the first Test in 2005 and a draw in Cardiff on the final day in 2009.
If this match at Trent Bridge is anything to go by we are sure to be in for a wonderful summer. The Australians will take a lot from the grit and courage they showed to dig in and almost claim an unlikely victory. Still – while there are positives – there are question marks over the top order which on the whole failed to live up to the hype and had to be bailed out by the lower order in both innings.
For England, there is still a decision to be made on Finn who proved expensive in the match as Bresnan may be the bowler better suited to come into the side for the second Test match at Lord’s on Thursday.
Yet, England tonight will be celebrating. They will be relieved to have come through. Haddin batted beautifully and England were pushed all the way but they did enough – thanks in no small part to the match figures of Anderson who claimed 10-158 and Bell’s century which both proved to be match winning contributions.
Roll on Lord’s and roll on the rest of The Ashes – particularly if these four and a half days are a sign of things to come!
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FIFA’s announcement on Tuesday that the Pots each country will be drawn from on Friday will be changed slightly beforehand was met with surprise and shock.
One team from Pot four, the Pot containing all the unseeded European teams, will be switched to Pot two, along with the unseeded teams from the South American continent.
The hosts Brazil were as expected drawn in the same Pot as the other members of the FIFA top ten ranked nations, which England are not part of. The team that will be chosen at random from Pot four will immediately switch to Pot two to even the numbers up.
The result being that the team that moves will definitely end up facing one of the seeded teams from South America and another European team from Pot four.
The bad news is England could well be that team, and with that comes with the possibility of not qualifying for the next phase from their group for the first time since 1994 where the team did not qualify for the tournament in the United States at all.
So with that in mind, the worst case scenario for England has potentially become a whole lot worse than it was already going to be, with a realistic chance of finishing bottom of their group when the draw is made on Friday in Brazil. The teams in this list could all be drawn in England’s group, but the Three Lions will thankfully not face all of them. Not all in the group stage at least…
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