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  • Jason Regan

Aussies on top after Ashes Day 1

It was a dream day for new Aussie skipper Pat Cummins on his first day in charge of the Australia Test Cricket Team.

Losing the toss under grey skies and staring at a green Gabba wicket, he wasn't unhappy when asked to bowl. The smile quickly grew when his good mate Mitchell Starc, under pressure to deliver, hit Rory Burns' leg stump with the first ball of the series.

He brought himself on to bowl at rival captain Joe Root, but didn't get a chance because Josh Hazlewood had him edging for a duck. When Cummins did get the ball in his hand he didn't miss out, dismissing Ben Stokes then ripping through the tail to finish with 5-38. In a blink, England was skittled for 147.

Cummins had hardly celebrated his milestone when he was stumped by the umpires, asked what roller he wanted ahead of Australia's innings.

"The roller threw me; I've never done that before even for NSW in one-dayers," Cummins said.
"I had to ask Smithy (vice-captain Steve Smith) that we definitely go big (heavy roller), don't we, and he said 'yeh big'.
"It was a bit of a different dynamic (than just being a bowler), but totally manageable with a lot of help from Steve and a few of the other guys threw some ideas my way."

Wickets fell so regularly that there were hardly any head-scratching moments to test Australia's 47th skipper. But he remained proactive with his bowling changes, presenting allrounder Cameron Green with an opportunity to claim his first Test wicket and extracting the best out of Starc in short bursts.

And he leant on the former captain and new deputy. Smith helped with field settings and the odd chat, particularly when off-spinner Nathan Lyon was bowling.

But he kept it low-key in a partnership Cummins has already acknowledged will look a little different to the norm given his rare position as a fast-bowling captain.

He now possesses a better Test average (21.18) and strike rate (46.2) than any other Australian in 58 and 113 years respectively in his 35 Tests.

"Everything went to plan," he told Fox Sports of his dream start.
"I was handed the team sheets (before the toss), it was a bit of a moment.
"I walked out and thought 'I haven't done this in so long'.
"I came back and told the batters I'd won the toss and chose to bowl, looked after you."

Cummins admitted he wasn't sure how he'd handle the glare and added responsibility of captaincy. The early signs are promising.

On a day of momentous firsts it was fitting Cameron Green's maiden Test wicket sparked arguably the most joy among Australia's XI.

Australia's Cameron Green, right, is congratulated by teammates after taking the wicket of England's Ollie Pope during day one of the first Ashes cricket test at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

Green, having toiled for 44 wicket-less overs throughout Australia's 2020-21 series against India, removed a well-set Ollie Pope for 35 in Wednesday's post-lunch session.

Euphoric scenes ensued at the Gabba, where Mitchell Starc was the first of many ecstatic teammates to make a bee-line for the young gun.

Alex Carey's cap presentation and catch to dismiss Dawid Malan ignited somewhat similar responses, as did Starc's stunning series-opening scalp and various highlights of Pat Cummins' record-breaking start to captaincy.

But it was Green's breakthrough, in the knowledge of how much he has toiled over the past year while wrestling with the expectation that comes with being Australia's next great allrounder, that triggered unfiltered delight.

Green, aged 22 and likened to Andrew Flintoff long before donning the baggy green, will unfairly be compared with superstar Ben Stokes throughout the Ashes series. Yet there is no hiding the fact the West Australian's output with the ball will have wide-ranging effects this summer, on both teams.

Green is the circuit breaker that holds the key to Cummins, Starc and Josh Hazlewood backing up as much as possible in a taxing schedule of five Tests in six weeks.

If the right-armer and Nathan Lyon are able to keep things tidy and lighten the load it will ensure the frontline quicks are as fresh as possible.

Green was relatively unthreatening against India but Cummins said the bashful talent loomed as a major factor this summer.

"Greeny's a beauty, he's just so polite ... (after taking the wicket) he said 'oh sorry I think I probably celebrated a bit too much," Cummins said.
"I said 'it's Test cricket mate, you can do what you want'.
"We're really happy for him; he's a huge player for us, not just a fifth bowling option. He's a real fourth seamer.
"He's talented and has got all the skills; big, bowls fast, hits the deck.
"It was a shame he didn't get a wicket last season, but it's nice to get off the mark today." 

For the tourists, it wasn't just the questionable decision to bat first on a green deck and overcast Brisbane sky's that raised eyebrows.

England's James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ollie Pope, right, inspect the pitch ahead of play on day one of the first Ashes cricket test, against Australia, at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

The snubbing of veteran pacemen Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad may put England under the pump after just one day of this Ashes.

Anderson's omission was confirmed on Tuesday when the visitors dismissed murmurs about the 39-year-old nursing a calf niggle on Test eve.

Root then swung a big surprise at the toss, revealing Broad had been overlooked in what proved a "very difficult decision".

It marked the first time England have played a Test without either Anderson or Broad, the most prolific new-ball pairing in the sport's history, since losing to Bangladesh in Dhaka five years ago.

It is also the first Ashes Test without at least one of the iconic duo, boasting a combined 1156 Test wickets worth of experience, since 2006. Australia, having rolled England for 147 before rain ended the day's play, didn't try to conceal their shock at the Gabba.

"I thought one of those two would play in every game, if not both," captain Pat Cummins said.
"But they've got plenty of other bowlers to step in."

The image of Anderson and Broad, who insisted last week he was ready to go after recovering from a calf injury, running drinks grated many of England's fans and former players.

Mitchell Starc quipped he was glad he didn't have to break the bad news to the legends, the only members of the current Test squad who were part of England's victorious 2010-11 group.

"If you asked anyone a couple of days ago, no one would believe you (they would both miss out)," Starc told the Seven Network.
"To take 300 Test matches and over 1000 wickets out of their side is interesting."
Former England captain Michael Vaughan was "staggered" by the snubbing of Broad, while Fox Cricket pundit Mark Waugh termed it a "huge gamble".

Express paceman Mark Wood, five-Test seamer Ollie Robinson, right-armer Chris Woakes and gun allrounder Ben Stokes will perform fast-bowling duties this week.

Ollie Pope explained that Wood's pace, Robinson's impressive debut home summer and Woakes' batting resulted in Broad missing out.

"That's our reasons behind it. But yeah, obviously it's a bit above my pay grade," Pope said.

The gamble will be judged as a masterstroke or madness, depending on how this Test unfolds. The bulk of Broad's momentum-shifting Ashes spells have come at home but he still boasts 34 wickets at 37.2 from 12 Tests in Australia.

Broad admitted to contemplating retirement in 2020, after being sensationally axed, then bounced back from that demotion.

"I've been frustrated, angry, gutted – because it's quite a hard decision to understand," Broad noted at the time.


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