Pat Cummins basked in the afterglow of a “dream start” to his captaincy of Australia as England’s bid to regain the Ashes began with a familiar feeling of despondency at the Gabba.
The hosts are being led by a fast bowler for the first time in 65 years but any concerns about saddling Cummins with the extra burden soon melted away when his first five-wicket haul in Ashes cricket blew England away for 147.
“It’s just a dream start really,” said Cummins, who replaced Tim Paine on the eve of the series and became just the second seam-bowling Australian captain to take five wickets in an innings after George Giffen back in 1895.
“It wasn’t a bad toss to lose and obviously [Mitchell] Starcy started it all off. But all the bowlers really did our job and to keep them to 147, I’m really proud of how persistent everyone was.”
Starc’s eye-popping removal of Rory Burns with the first ball of the series set the tone for two sessions of English agony only fleetingly eased when Jos Buttler top-scored with a breezy 39. For Burns it was a sixth duck in 2021 surpassing Mike Atherton’s record of five by an England opener in a calendar year set in 1998.
Australia didn’t look back, Cummins deftly marshalling an attack that feasted on a touring line-up restricted to just seven sessions of warm-up cricket. It left the England camp defending both Joe Root’s decision to bat on a moist, bouncy pitch with a green tinge as well as the much-debated dual omission of both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad for the first time in 37 Ashes Tests.
Ollie Pope, preferred to Jonny Bairstow and compiling 35 from No 6, said: “I wouldn’t look too much at the toss, we just had to execute in the first couple of hours of the game. We had the quality in the side to score the runs we needed. We’ll keep fighting and we have to see both sides bat on this wicket.”
On the early dismissal of Burns, his captain at Surrey, Pope added: “I wouldn’t say it created panic at all because you have to stay calm but it wasn’t the ideal start. I know what Burnsy is like and he’s a competitor. He’ll come back fighting.”
Anderson and Broad spent the day running drinks out to the middle and in the case of the former, this absence was combination of a calf niggle at the start of the tour, a bowling average of 75 in Brisbane and desire to have the 39-year-old primed for possible swing-friendly conditions in next week’s pink ball second Test.
Broad has simply been overlooked, the 35-year-old having been forced to make way to accommodate the left-arm spin of Jack Leach and a 90mph fast bowler in Mark Wood, while Ollie Robinson’s superior form in 2021 and the more all-round ability of Chris Woakes have also seen them preferred.
“I guess those are the reasons behind it,” said Pope, while noting the calf tear that ruined the back end of Broad’s home summer against India. “But it’s a bit above my pay grade to be honest.”
Asked about England’s selection, Cummins added: “I thought England would play one of Broad or Anderson in each Test so to leave out both was a bit of a surprise. Woakes and Robinson are pretty similar bowlers so the England selectors have gone for different options. But we will knuckle down against them and do our thing.”
Root’s players wore black armbands on the first day in memory of former England women’s cricketer Eileen Ash, who died earlier this week aged 110. For Ben Stokes the armband also featured the number “568” to denote the New Zealand rugby league cap of his father, Ged, on the one-year anniversary of his death.