The story of the first Ashes Test

Most Ashes Tests - and series - don't stand up to the hype, this one might have exceeded it.

Day 1

The Ashes don't always have two good teams. There have been times you could argue it doesn't have one. But at worst, it has two of the three best teams in the world right now. On top of that, England is the most interesting Test side. And also exciting.

Ashes in England usually get more hype because both timezones can watch it. England has quadruple the amount of press covering it. And being that even shit Ashes series are hyped, this one was ticking over nicely.

So to start day one with a boundary was like throwing a lamb in the Hyena enclosure. The stories in this Test never ended from that first ball until the last.

The first delivery started the story of Bazball going up against Australia. The new side changing cricket is going up against the most attacking team in the world throughout the game's history. Because Australia never trusts anything good about England, the scepticism was high.

Pat Cummins is not an attacking captain. I have often thought bowling captains come in two styles, the rare, recklessly aggressive captain. And the more pragmatic keep the runs down defensive leader. Cummins went to Pakistan with a 15-day marathon on his mind; we know his vibe. He can follow the ball a little bit. And he likes to control the tempo of the game.

When he saw Bazball, he clearly had spent months working out how many fielders he could get on the boundary. Other teams have been a bit more confused with Bazball so far. But Cummins had a clear plan; he wanted to wrap the entire ground in a fire-retardant blanket.

He didn't quite manage that, partly because the pitch was so flat. Remember, that is what England wanted (though not this slow). The idea was to get a surface that would nullify one part of Australia's cricket. You can see the thinking, the flat pitches would mean that Australia's bowling - their strength - would have to do something different against England's new batting method. Then all their bowlers needed to do was find ways to chip at the Australians.

There are problems here; the pitch was probably slower than even the England seamers would want. And also, that is what the England batters wanted. Anderson and Broad are getting near replacement hip age; they probably didn't want a home wicket that required subcontinental skills to snaffle a wicket.

The first part worked, Australia put fielders out, but England still scored quickly. And they made a few as well. They didn't do enough to end the game or score so fast that Australia was broken. But they gave it a go.

The wicket suited Crawley a lot, and he made runs. Harry Brook also seemed destined to sore when he was bowled off his hip and completely ignored where the ball was before it spun back onto his stumps. England were 176/5 at this point when Bairstow came in.

Now his new role, which is really his old role, is being the keeper again. That is why he was batting down the order. Him being the number seven, and keeping, obviously upset some people. But this was a good knock.

But as handy as Jonny was, Joe Root did the damage partly because while Australia's defensive plan made sense, using it against Root did not. They allowed for singles, and Root took them. In truth, he is the hardest player to scheme for in Bazball. The same as before. Because he is better than every other English batter.

Australia couldn't get him out. But they didn't have to because England declared. Who knows how many runs England left out there? They wanted to bowl; they wanted to baz with the ball in hand. But they didn't take a wicket, and we will never know how many runs it cost them and, ultimately, how important they could have been.

Day 2

The second day exploded because of Stuart Broad. Instead of ripping through Warner with an unplayable ball worthy of artwork like in 2019. He delivered a wider ball that Warner went after. Luckily for Broad, two things happened. The ball seamed back a little, but mostly what helped was that Warner executed his shot terribly. Almost falling over on what could have been a slash to the offside.

That got the crowd going, probably got into Warner's head again and, more importantly, excited Broad. Next ball, he dismissed Marnus Labuschagne, maybe with the new special outswinger he talked about before the series. But it puts Australia well behind in this match. A position they stayed, no matter how much they clawed.

England even stayed in front despite Bairstow's many missed chances. Even his catches had an element of roughness about his feet and hands. The conversation about whether he should have taken the gloves from Ben Foakes won't end with this level of glove work.

For all the tension and nonsense of the match, this was also when Harry Brook bowled to Steve Smith. A man who seemed to be parodying himself and had no place bowling an over in this level of contest. Spectacular weirdness.

When Travis Head comes out to bat, even though England has a slow pitch and slow bowlers, they still bounce him. He doesn't always look comfortable, but seeing a specialist batter get bounced with bowlers who look like they are delivering a Nerf ball is weird.

Moeen Ali's comeback was an incredible story, from Leach's injury to Stokes’ text message. But it looks even better when he rips one sideways through the gap to bowl at Cameron Green with the kind of ball that he bowled at his best. Is this the moment England are sure they unretired the right guy?

As good as he bowls, he can't take Usman Khawaja, though. It is fair to say that while there is much chat about Khawaja conquering England, this is not a typical local wicket. So that part is weird. But also, England bowled to him using their strengths and not his weaknesses. However, he was fantastic; his judgement and temperament were fantastic. He seemed to understand the one great truth about this pitch, it wasn't hard to stay out there, but you just had to be careful with your attacking shots.

Khawaja was just continuing his good work over the last couple of years. But you could see what this meant to him. The bat drop was an explosion of feeling for a man who has been an Australian yoyo. It got more fun when he brought his daughter to the press conference. The Khawajas took over Edgbaston.

Day 3

Khawaja was the story at the beginning of the third day as well. At first, he was making runs, but then more when he was dismissed. That was because Ollie Robinson and Stokes found a way to trick him out using weird fields and the odd slower ball. But then Robinson went and ruined his work by screaming at Khawaja.

Firstly, screaming at someone who has made a big hundred is a very stupid thing. Because it always makes you look like an idiot.

However, in Robinson's case, considering his past and the joke he made about Muslims, I don't think it's the best player to abuse in this way. Because you allow people to bring up these facts again.

It wasn't the only weird thing including Robinson, because this was the second time in the game that England used him to be a short ball enforcer. Originally it was against Head. This time it was for the tail. And it worked; Australia hasn't had a tail like this since '91. And the slowness of the wicket and bowlers actually plays against them as they can't hook sixes or get out of the way of the ball.

England get off to a reasonable start when the rain comes. When they return to bat, it is dark, the clouds are in, and Boland is suddenly jagging the ball all over the shop. England's plan of coming down the wicket to him doesn't work when he's moving the ball this much, and Australia take a couple of quick wickets to at least put the game close to even. They might have made a bigger dent in England if there had not been more rain.

But it does, pretty much all day.

Day 4

England didn't ever really get going in the third innings. It's weird because that is generally where you expect them to attack, especially with the threat of rain on the final day. But the wicket didn't allow for that.

The only time it looked like England might break free was when Brook took on Lyon. But in the end, Cummins's regular breakthroughs kept England's total low. Also interesting that he was swinging it and not using a wobble ball. Probably a pretty good sign that the pitch was very dead.

But it was clearer when the England tail batted on. Robinson, Broad and Anderson ensured that a possible 240 lead would end up at 282. It also kind of cemented the thought that this wasn't an easy pitch to get wickets on if you weren't playing shots.

It also gave Australia a chance if it rained off, bringing the draw in.

Something else in their favour was after Moeen Ali's long spell on day two, his finger had torn open up. It is not easy to go from a few T20 overs and some net bowling to a huge spell in a Test using the pronounced seam of the Dukes ball. Either way, trying to spin a ball with an open wound on your finger is basically impossible, so England was without a frontline spinner again.

Australia took advantage of the pitch and Moeen's finger to make their best opening partnership in England since 2015. Is this the sign that Warner is slightly back to form, or was this pitch so dead that it wasn't the kind of wicket that bothered Warner? He also didn't go out to Broad, but that didn't stop him from having another say.

This was his second micro Broad marauder in this Test. He took Marnus again, with another full outswing delivery that seems to be a new pattern. Then he added Steve Smith as well. It meant that at close, Australia had Scott Boland at the crease and their three biggest names out.

Day 5

The last day starts with England on top, but Boland does a decent job of taking up a few deliveries and also edging the ball onto the damp bits of the outfield after the morning rain. Enough to stop the ball from swinging, which it was the night before.

When Boland is out, it's Travis Head time. England give Moeen Ali another go. And it starts terribly; he can barely land the ball. Just as it looks like it will be his last over of the day, he gets two balls in the right spot, they both take the edge, but the second one is caught. That means that even a damaged Moeen Ali has dismissed Head twice in this match. Again a reminder of why Australia didn't want to play him when touring India.

At the other end was Usman, the man people were less sure about for England. But on this surface, it felt like all England could do was slow him down. They put out a Yorkshire wall again of fielders in an umbrella field for the seam bowlers. But they also put out a fielder called a straight hit (which really should be called straight on). This meant that against pace and spin, Khawaja had fewer chances to score, but he still didn't look like he could be dismissed.

Until Ben Stokes came on. He took Smith in the first innings and certainly played with the field a lot. And the declaration was a big deal. But still, notice how little he has factored into the narrative of this Test. But just as it looked like Khawaja was going to win the match, Stokes came into the attack bowling at Ollie Robinson speeds. You could hear his knees over the crowd in the Hollies stand. He wasn't looking particularly dangerous until he rolled a gentle leg cutter towards Khawaja, who dragged it back on.

At the other end, Joe Root took a wicket as well, he would end with 1/58 in the match, and yet still, the noise for him to be the number one spinner would be deafening. This is where England had the match. And ultimately, this is where they lost it.

This Australian tail has struggled. Even Mitchell Starc's form had dropped off last two years. But no one has been more disappointing than Pat Cummins. In 2017 he averaged 26, and since then, we've seen incredible hitting of pace bowling in T20. In Tests, he hasn't had a single year of averaging over 20 since his comeback year. Nathan Lyon is a compulsive hooker on a slow pitch where England would have everyone out, so that wouldn't work.

Making over 50 runs with only Hazlewood behind them would never be easy. Or even seemingly possible.

Even more so, some have been questioning Cummins's toughness because he thinks global warming might be an issue - yes, that is quite the stretch. He is different from the players of old (which I suppose most players are) but this seems to be a bigger issue here. And after the first innings, where he tried to stop England from scoring boundaries, which upset the five slips and one gully crowd.

The biggest slight you hear on Cummins is that he is not an alpha. Unlike the Australians of the past, he is soft. Well, let's recap his last couple of weeks. He just helped win the WTC. Then on day one here - against what is one of the weirdest trends in Tests - he went against the consensus to stop England. He took balls on the chest from Broad. When his trusty wobbleball wasn't working, he pulled out inswinging Yorkers from his back pocket. And now, on the final day, he needed to step up with the bat in what was, at times, a nearly one-person stand.

He knew he would get bounced, hit, and also, with one mistake, would likely lose the game and face more criticism. But he still went hard, was fearless, and even took on the spin of Root, never his happy place.

Because of this, he collapsed the Bazball style of England. They had seven men on the boundary to Cummins and even gave him a single off the last ball of an over. He broke their system and then won the match, to win a low down and dirty Test match that came down to the wire.

There were many stories in this match, but by the end, Pat Cummins won the day.