England captain Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat first in the opening Ashes Test against Australia at the Gabba on Wednesday (December 8) as the tourists omitted paceman Stuart Broad in a major surprise. But the visitors were left reeling by the Australian fast bowlers led by Josh Hazlewood, who picked up 2/1 in his first three overs including the wicket of Root for a duck.
England opener Rory Burns was dismissed off the first ball of the Test, Mitchell Starc hitting the base of his leg-stump with a searing yorker. Dawid Malan (6) coming in at No. 3 was next to depart, edging Hazlewood through to the keeper while Root followed soon after edging the same bowler to David Warner at first slip to leave the visitors at 11/3 in the first six overs with opener Haseeb Hameed and all-rounder Ben Stokes in the middle.
Three early wickets for the hosts.
Dig in, lads.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) December 8, 2021
With seasoned quick James Anderson also rested until at least the second pink ball Test in Adelaide, England are leaving players with 1,156 wickets on the bench. Root said the decision was an issue of man management over a long series.
“It was a very hard decision to make but there’s five Test matches and all those guys will be wanting to play a big part in the series,” Root said on a humid morning at the Gabba. It’s important they are all ready to go when their time comes.”
That leaves Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood to lead the pace attack, with spinner Jack Leach recalled for his first test since the India tour. All-rounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes will also offer seam-bowling options.
Root noted grass on the pitch but felt the conditions favoured batting. “(The field) is quite soft underneath and might harden up and go faster on the second or third day,” he said.
Australia hold the Ashes after retaining the urn in the 2019 series in England. Former wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist presented Australia’s baggy, green cap to test debutant Alex Carey, who replaces former skipper Tim Paine in the side.
New captain Pat Cummins said Australia would have batted first if they won the toss. “We were probably going to have a bat, but I think it’s 50-50,” said Cummins. “Really excited to get out there, looks like there’ll be a bit in it for us. I would have thought one of Broad and Anderson would have played the first test but it`s not a huge deal. They`re a good XI and we`ll have to play well.”
Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (captain), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc
England: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (captain), Ollie Pope, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Mark Wood
(with Reuters inputs)