The Ashes were finally ignited into life this week after months of build-up and preparation. While thoroughly entertaining, there were few surprises and all of the ‘talking points’ to follow were largely apparent even before Mitchell Starc sent down the first ball to Alastair Cook.

Aside from the untypically sluggish Gabba pitch, England’s bold newbies, and the dramatic turning of the screw from Australia – everything was predicted. Here are the main talking points to emerge from the Gabba:

How to combat Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon?

While the Australian quick bowlers were baffled and frustrated by the Gabba pitch, Nathan Lyon couldn’t have asked for more.

England’s batsmen allowed the off-spinner to bowl at his own desire with Moeen Ali the only batsman to show real attacking intent. The sweep shot has been the main weapon of attack when facing quality spin bowling previously on the subcontinent. But perhaps England’s batsmen were cautious given the amount of topspin Lyon was producing.

Still, aside from Moeen Ali’s clear intent, Jonny Bairstow’s six over mid-wicket, and Jake Ball’s three boundaries in one over – there was little to behold regarding attacking intent. Right from the first day, Ben Stokes’ absence was felt.

England’s bowlers, on the other hand, were able to expose Australia’s batting frailties thanks to Joe Root’s clear and inventive plans.

At 76-4 and 209-7, England felt they were ahead in the game and a historic victory was potentially on the cards.

Step up Steve Smith. The only batsman Joe Root was unable to produce a clear and decisive plan for. They tried bowling wide of off stump and dead straight. The discipline was good, but Smith’s was far superior. The only moments of hope occurred when the Australian was unable to fully control a hook shot and also to ride a Jake Ball bouncer.

While the threat of Nathan Lyon may be accounted for with attacking intent on a more Australian wicket; there is no quick fix to Steve Smith. He is one step behind Shivnarine Chanderpaul on the evolutionary scale of unorthodox batsmen and could give England serious nightmares before the tour is over.


Four fifties and no hundreds.

It is a recurring story of recent English Test cricket with the simplest fix (on paper). While the performances of Vince, Malan, and Stoneman were hugely encouraging, they are not enough to produce Ashes wins. Joe Root and Steve Smith’s Test statistics are remarkably similar but Smith’s conversion rate (21/21) is far superior compared to his opposite number (33/13). Root has passed fifty more times in career but Smith has won more matches for his country.

Sting in the tail:

England’s lack of lower order runs is a far bigger problem than it should be. It’s an outdated cricketing cliché, but bowlers are not expected to score heaps of runs. However, there is a difference between surviving and rotating while your best batsman scores 140* (adding 119 runs for the last three wickets) and consistently losing your last four wickets for ten runs.

England’s batsmen have the quality to bat with the tail and face 4/5 balls an over. But, at the moment, Australia will fancy their chances with the sixth.

Despite scoring three ducks in three innings on the tour so far, Craig Overton will score more runs and face up to the short ball far better than Jake Ball. Mark Wood would find it far easier to duck out of the line of fire at 5ft 10inchs if England were to go down that route.

Taking 20 wickets:

This particular problem is on par with England’s conversion issues, if not a slightly greater concern. More Tests have been won without a batsman scoring a century compared to a team not taking 20 wickets. James Anderson and Stuart Broad were excellent throughout the match and produced exactly what you would expect from two bowlers with 900 Test wickets between them.

What remains is a cause for concern as Anderson and Broad will surely not be able to produce that level of quality and quantity across five Tests. Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali should be given the benefit of the doubt given their efforts in the tour matches in Woakes’ cases and during the English summer in Ali’s.

Jake Ball is the first casualty of the axing bandwagon and plenty are on it already. The Nottinghamshire seamer failed to cause many problems and often bowled aimlessly short and wide outside the off stump. Many felt that Overton should’ve been given the nod ahead of Ball and there is every chance that could happen at Adelaide.

Positives for England:

All of the negative attention is focussed on the England camp.

Of course it is, Australia won by ten wickets. But England competed excellently for three days and Steve Smith’s masterclass shouldn’t shadow Australia’s batting vulnerability.

The hosts bowling showed far less vulnerability and should only get stronger as the series moves on you would have thought. England did a good job in the first innings of getting plenty of overs into Australian legs and they will hope this aids them later in the series.

England needs their senior players to stand up both on and off the field in showing that it isn’t all doom and gloom. Mark Stoneman looked well at home in the biggest arena and was completely unfazed by the Australian aggressive demeanour. James Vince showed he can provide a counter-punch should his team need it.

And Dawid Malan demonstrated his ability to build and grind out runs in the middle overs.

England should be massively frustrated that their efforts resulted in a ten-wicket hammering and be ready to release those frustrations when the two sides lock horns again in a few days time.