Ashes 2013: James Anderson, DRS and other talking points from the 1st Test at Trent Bridge

England’s pulsating 14-run win over Australia in the first Test at Trent Bridge centred around James Anderson’s (second from right) bowling performance © Getty Images

After five pulsating, chaotic and topsy-turvy days of Test cricket at Trent Bridge, where judging which way the result would go was next to impossible until the final delivery, England finally came out on top in the afternoon of Day Five after bowling Australia out 15 runs short of their target. Jaideep Vaidya goes through the major pub discussions in the build up to the second Test at Lord’s.

Detractors of Test cricket went into hiding, while the weaker ones dug their own graves as England and Australia, the most celebrated and historic rivalry in the gentlemen’s game, played out a crackerjack of a match at Trent Bridge. Throughout the four and a half days of play, there were enough twists and turns to beat a rollercoaster track. Records tumbled, tails wagged, umpires blundered, technology howled, but still, as the popular cliché goes, Test cricket was the winner. May your soul not rest in peace, you detractor!
While there were several talking points about the match, here’s a list of five that are sure to dominate the bar-room discussions over the next five days in the build up to the second Test at Lord’s:

1. Agar the Horrible

Nineteen-year-old Ashton Agar, with his wiry frame and cherubic looks, may not resemble Dik Browne’s famous comic strip character Hagar the Horrible — a shaggy and overweight Viking — but to the England team, he was nothing less than a barbaric raider who inconspicuously walked in at No 11 and almost singlehandedly stole the initiative from the hosts’ grasp. Brought into the side as a left-arm spinner, ahead of the vastly experienced offie Nathan Lyon, not many expected Agar to last more than a few deliveries after coming in at 117 for nine, with Australia around a 100 runs short of England’s first innings total. But the teenage debutant made the capacity crowd stand up and take notice as he stylishly went about his batting.

As Agar eased into the crease, he began to play like a seasoned pro. He made proficient use of a consistent length of short-pitched bowling from the Englishmen, an error they could have regretted dearly. The cover-drives were Lara-esque, the pulls would have pleased Matthew Hayden, while the cuts would have made Sanath Jayasuriya smile. He even lofted off-spinner Graeme Swann over either arm of the ‘V’ for a couple of maximums with the flair of a top-order batsman — the Agar Bombs, as compatriot Pat Cummins wittily named them on Twitter. But the one shot that made you want to worship him was the on-drive he hit with the raised back leg. You could watch it a million times over.

Agar scored 98 — exactly his team’s deficit when he walked out — and took Australia 65 runs ahead of England before holing out to deep midwicket going for another pull. Among the multiple records he broke that day, it included the world record for the highest score by a No 11 batsman — previously Tino Best’s 95 at Edgbaston last year — and shared a world-record 163-run stand for the last wicket with Phil Hughes. As he walked off the field with a wide, yet sheepish smile and raised bat, the crowd stood and applauded a marvel. The press from either nation, and around the world, followed suit the next day.

Agar then recorded his first two wickets in Test cricket, before returning with the blade in the second innings to go past Sir Don Bradman‘s average, albeit temporarily. Although he could not save Australia a second consecutive time with the bat, scoring just 14, he’s done enough to prove he’s there to stay. Agar is one of the very, very few distinguished Australian players to have become an adopted son of the English — perhaps even the only. With his spot in the playing eleven all but guaranteed for the rest of the series, we’re in for a treat over the next 40 days if his debut performance is anything to go by.
 

2. DRS beat Australia by 14 runs

The headline for the match might well have been the abovementioned, as the controversial Decision Review System (DRS), which has its share of critics, threatened to play a major role in deciding the fate of the game. It all started on Day Two when England’s Jonathan Trott was given out leg-before to what appeared to be an inside edge. Umpire Aleem Dar concurred and turned down Australia’s appeal, who decided to review the decision. To Trott’s shock and Australia’s delight, Hot Spot thermal imaging failed to reveal a white spot on the Englishman’s bat, who had to reluctantly walk back. As it later transpired, there was a technical glitch with the technology’s side view which led to the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) seeking clarification from the International Cricket Council (ICC) on whether an on-field decision can be overturned if all technology isn’t functional. 

However, over the course of the five days, England were the team which utilised the technology better. Australia wasted one too many reviews and were left to regret it when there were genuine doubts regarding the on-field umpires’ decisions, the most stand-out case being the now infamous Stuart Broad non-walk in England’s second innings after he had clearly edged Agar to Michael Clarke at first slip, only to be reprieved by the umpire. The Australians had exhausted all their referrals for the innings, having wasted one on Jonny Bairstow earlier, and were understandably incensed, but had no choice but to carry on.

The story of Australia’s luck, or lack of, with technology reached a shattering end on Day Five when, 15 runs short of what would have been a spectacular turnaround victory for the tourists, England reviewed the umpire’s decision after they felt Brad Haddin had nicked one to the wicketkeeper. Hot Spot concurred and Haddin was given out on 71, after sharing a defiant 65-run last-wicket stand with James Pattinson that left Australia so near, yet so far from victory.

Australian skipper Clarke was the first to admit that his team hadn’t used the system efficiently and refused to blame the technology for their loss. “I am not happy with my use of DRS but both teams are using it and England have used it better than I have. It is consistent for both teams,” he said. 

His counterpart Alastair Cook concurred: “I think it’s pretty fair as there is a bit of skill in using DRS,” Cook told the Guardian. “You have to have a little human element. We have been quite poor with DRS in the past. In this game we’ve been a bit better. You have to be careful as a captain. Bowlers in the heat of battle think it is definitely out and you can waste them.”

“I think the bottom line with the review system is it does get more decisions right,” Cook said. “Well, it should get more decisions right, that’s probably the best way of saying it.”
 

 
3. James Anderson’s love affair with Trent Bridge

James Anderson loves Trent Bridge. He loves it enough to have taken 39 wickets in six Tests played here prior to this match — two short of Sir Alec Bedser’s record at the venue. He was also one short of passing Fred Trueman’s record of 307 Test victims. Anderson was to sail past both records and added 10 more to his tally in the first Test, ending up with match figures of 10 for 158. It was his second such haul since the 11 for 71 he took against Pakistan in 2010.

However, a mere statistical analysis would do gross injustice to Anderson’s Man-of-the-Match-winning display. In Australia’s first innings, he teamed up with Prior behind the sticks as the duo added “c Prior b Anderson” to the scorecard thrice. Anderson bowled with nagging accuracy and purchased just the right amount of reverse swing from the conditions to torment the batsmen as he regularly found their edges.

However, the absolute monster of a delivery that he produced to get rid of Clarke is one that is sure to go down as one of his best ever. The 17,000-odd spectators around the ground did not know what happened; the commentators on the telly had no clue; 10 Englishmen, two Australians and two umpires on the pitch were bewildered; probably Anderson himself didn’t realise what he had done amidst all the euphoria. After several replays, it seemed that the ball had zipped in, before swinging out just enough to clip the off-stump.

In the second innings, Anderson decided to switch loyalties and targeted his captain Cook standing at first slip as the duo contrived to send back three lower order batsmen on the final day. He bowled a tireless 13 straight overs, picking up four wickets for 12 runs, which speaks immensely of his everlasting stamina and unwavering accuracy. His second five-wicket haul in the match was achieved after finding the faintest of faint edges off Haddin’s bat as Australia fell short by the shortest of margins.

“He deserved to pick up that last wicket,” said former England captain and Anderson’s fellow member in the 300 Test wickets club. “He used to just want to be the quickest bowler in town, he’s curbed that like Richard Hadlee and learned his skills and now bowls within himself. He has great control and that doesn’t just happen. He’s just terrific and I think England need to wrap him up in cotton wool, he needs to sit and do nothing and slowly wind up for the next Test on Thursday.”
 

4. Australia’s batting needs to show up

Twice in the course of this Test match were Australia rescued by their last-wicket pairing. If in the first innings it was Hughes and Agar, in the second essay it was Haddin and Pattinson who saved the tourists the blushes after the regular batsmen proved incapable of carrying the team’s batting. Aside from the two aforementioned partnerships, Australia have just Shane Watson and Chris Rogers’s opening stand of 84 in the second innings, and the 55 runs shared between Steven Smith and Hughes to boast of. Having just one century stand in a Test match is a cardinal sin and Australia would look to work on that aspect ahead of the second Test.

Among the batsmen, Ed Cowan is the one who finds his spot in the side under considerable threat after failing to show in either innings (0 and 14). While changing your eleven after just one loss and game isn’t the wisest of options, the Australian team management is known to pop up surprises. With David Warner set to join the Australia A squad in South Africa for some match practice, don’t be surprised if 26-year-old Usman Khawaja gets to play his first Test since December 2011 in this series.

Ashes 2013: James Anderson, DRS and other talking points from the 1st Test at Trent Bridge

Phil Hughes (left) and Ashton Agar added 163 runs for the 10th wicket in the first innings which gave Australia a handy lead of 65 © Getty Images

5. 10-0? You must be joking!

Predictions were rife prior to the start of the series that England would mop the floor clean with the Australians. Botham even went a ludicrous step further by saying that Cook’s men would win the double Ashes series over the next nine seven months 10-0. However, if the events of Round 1 of 10 are anything to go by, you can toss such predictions in the bin. With both bowling attacks taking 20 wickets, it is clear as soup that this series is going to be decided by who bats better. On paper, England have the better batting line-up with a string of match-winning performers, thus having the more superior side. However, Australia have proved in the first Test that the hosts cannot afford to write them off. With an inexperienced team in transition, Clarke’s men fought their backsides off and all but scripted an inconceivable win for themselves, only to fall short at the last hurdle. But the series is sure to be decided by who performs better in the marathon.

Click here to read all the talking points of Ashes 2013

(Jaideep Vaidya is a correspondent at CricketCountry. A diehard Manchester United fan and sports buff, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook)