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5 reasons why England are still in The Ashes

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After all the hype and pre-match sledging, the first ball was bowled and the 2017-18 Ashes series finally got underway in Brisbane, Australia.

England were well drilled and focused allowing the hosts, Australia, a small 26 run lead. But then the wheels came off and an avoidable England batting collapse in the second innings virtually handed Australia a ten-wicket victory.

Because of this, home fans are already fantasising about a repeat of the 2013-14 5-0 series whitewash. However, the sports writers at The National Student remain optimistic and we explore five reasons why England can still retain the Ashes.

They Matched Australia for three days

England skipper Joe Root said it best: “It doesn’t really feel like a ten-wicket defeat. For three days we were excellent.”

And the Yorkshire man has a point. After day one most would’ve said England had a slender advantage on 196-4. On day two England scored 302 runs and restricted Australia to 165-4. By the close of day 3, Australia had been bowled out for 328 runs and England had responded with 33-2. The Test was very much in the balance.

But the collapse of England’s tail on the fourth day set Australia just 170 runs for victory which they comfortably chased down without loss.

If England can replicate the discipline shown in the first three days and eradicate the errors of day four, the team will immediately increase their chances of a victory in the second test.

Vince, Stoneman and Mallan came good 

For the past 12 months, it seemed like the national side were suffering problems with its top five. Opener Mark Stoneman, number 3 James Vince and number five Dawid Malan are all Ashes debutants with just 15 tests between them.

But all three looked assured and confident in the first innings each surpassing 50. Surrey’s Stoneman was persistent, surviving Australia’s harsh attacks. Vince looked set for a tonne until Nathan Lyon’s superb fielding resulted in a runout. Malan too looked assertive before a poor choice of shot saw him caught at deep square-leg.

The challenge now for England's top order is to build on these good starts, seven England players reached 38 at the Gabba, but Vince's 83 was the highest score. If a member of England’s top order could score 150, an innings could be built around him causing Australia serious problems.

Australia looked vulnerable

Steve Smith proved why he is the number one test batsman in the world in Brisbane. The Australia captain’s score of 141 not out single-handedly gave his side a first-innings lead, swinging the momentum in in the home side's favour.

England, however, can take pride in the fact that, in addition to Smith, only three other Australian batsmen posted a total greater than 50. This included Cameron Bancroft’s and David Warner’s unbeaten 82 and 87 in the second innings when the game as a contest had realistically already been decided.

Smith took Australia from 76-4 to 209-7 in the first innings, he was the keystone to Australia’s victory. Take Smith out of the equation and Australia’s structure will collapse; that though is the question, just how do England remove Smith?

The next test is in Adelaide  

 

Brisbane Cricket Ground, more commonly known as the Gabba, was always going to be tough for any away side, Australia has not lost a test match there since 1988.

But at Adelaide all bets are off, England have a much greater record and the introduction of the series’ first day-night test is sure to throw up variables no Ashes Test has seen before.

Who will be batting as the light fades and the sun lowers its angle impairing a batsman’s vision? The pink ball and cooler twilight conditions are also more similar to an English summer and should favor the English bowlers. Adelaide could be a real leveller.

It’s the Ashes - Anything can happen!

It ain’t over ‘till it’s over. True the last 3 series have been won by the side who was victorious in the first test but with four fixtures still to play for England will believe they are still very much in this.

In the 2005 Ashes series, arguably one of England’s greatest victories over Australia, the Aussies won the first test at Lord’s by a staggering 239 runs. England famously bounced back at Edgbaston winning by just two runs and won the series 2-1.

Likewise, in Botham’s Ashes in 1981 Australia took the first test, this time by 4 wickets, but England responded drawing the subsequent fixture before winning the next three claiming a 3-1 series win.

If history tells us anything, it is that a losing side can often regroup and come back stronger. England will undoubtedly need to analyse their performance and highlight the key areas of weakness within their ranks.

But with confident debutants, more favorable conditions and by reestablishing the adept and reassured performance of the opening three days at the Gabba, England can enter Adelaide with the real belief that they can win and level the series.

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons




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