The timing of England's drama

England's decision to bat first, and far more importantly, the fact Australia chose to bowl well while England decided to bat poorly.

If you are an English fan and stayed up to watch the first few overs of the Ashes, Mitchell Starc punched you in the eyeball and spat on your grave. And with England doing predictable England batting after that, it was easy to look at this as a sign of the apocalypse.

Or even just a massive mistake. England could have bowled first. The easy thing is to point out that they might still live in fear that Nasser Hussain won the toss and bowled at the Gabba. And that was a dramatic day, in fact, when Nasser sent Australia in, they almost made more runs that day than England did in the entire match.

And some experts thought both teams should have bowled first. Allan Border, who is the most Queensland man to ever not be born or grew up there, thought this looked like a first class Gabba wicket. Which are generally nothing like their more staid Test cousins. And I can see that, but I also lived through Border's captaincy and his commentary. Border on the mic would say that, but Border on the ground is batting first and telling his guys to tough it out.

We also know that Pat Cummins said - for whatever that is worth - that he also would have batted first. I believe him, the ghost of Nasser Hussain might not be the reason, but the Gabba flattens out.

But it wasn't flat early on, because look at all the wickets. So let's look at them.

Rory Burns

According to Shane Warne, he received a straight leg stump half volley and missed it. But there was a bit more happening there. Burns moved right across, showing his leg stump.

And the ball did swing.

It actually swung quite a lot. It was hurtling down the leg side and more often than not, even with Burns moving too far across, it just ends up flying down the leg side and everyone talks about how Starc has to get his line right pretty quick.

It was between a Yorker and a half volley, but it didn't York him. He stepped past it, and it snaked around his legs. It also wasn't the pitch. Sure, when you decide to bowl first swing comes in. But there really wasn't much movement in the air at all. There is an element of fluke, luck and poor technique that ended with Burns looking back at his broken stumps first ball.

Dawid Malan

Australia did not attack the stumps much. Looking at the beehive, it almost feels like they were trying not to. And you can see how many of these balls were going over the top. The bounce was very trustworthy from the start.

Josh Hazlewood delivered an angled ball across Malan, it was the kind of ball in the 90s that got Curtly Ambrose and Glenn McGrath a lot of wickets. But it's not as common now. Partly because players do leave those a lot more. Malan played it. It would be wrong to say it did nothing off the pitch, but it did little. It didn't seam violently or bounce unpredictably. This is a pretty standard ball to face early in an Australian Test. Malan just nicked it.

Joe Root

Hazlewood's first spell was kind of wrong. Six overs, three maidens, three wickets for two runs. But while the Malan wicket exposed England's better players to the morning, it was the Root dismissal that was the best. It was just a perfectly placed wobble ball.

Angling in, moving away, and Root nicked it. It didn't go extravagantly, but just enough, and there is no way Root could have left it, or would have known which way it was going. Hazlewood was in the middle of a you-can't-touch-this spell, and Root was gone.

Ben Stokes

Australia got Stokes on the back foot. They didn't want him driving, especially as he walked down the wicket at their bowlers. So they worked him over from a hard length. The exact ball that dismissed him doesn't appear to do much with the naked eye. But Cricviz say it moved 1.7 degrees.

Which at that length is a fair trip.

But the fact with the naked eye it doesn't look to have straightened much at all again lets you know this wasn't an unplayable dramatic ball, just a good Test delivery that was challenging. His feet tell you it squared him up, but while it's a top ball, it's not like the pitch made it impossible.

Haseeb Hameed

Pat Cummins bowled two balls that landed on a near-identical line and length to Hameed. The second one was delivered from wider on the crease and still moved further away. And the second one makes him play.

It's angle and just a slight movement from the wobble ball that makes him unsure. There will be people who think he should have left that, and in truth, Hameed probably believes that too.

But while Australia didn't bowl many deliveries that were hitting the stumps, Cummins and Hazlewood angled a lot in, and they made the batters feel like they had to play. That and just a little sideways movement beat Hameed.

Buttler and Pope

Buttler played a fantastic innings before Starc bowled a superb delivery that bounced and left him a little. It was so good even Shane Warne couldn't abuse it. And then Pope tried to pull Cameron Green, and the ball got a top edge. Tall bowler + Gabba Pitch = wickets. Starc's ball did a bit, but the angle and bounce helped the most. And Green's wicket was either bounce or a lack of execution/concentration.

The rest was the tail. It would be hard to look at all of that and decide batting first was the issue. Batting poorly was the issue for some of it. Good bowling for the rest. This wasn't a 147 all out wicket. And I think we can prove it.

So Cricinfo have something called control factor, where they rate each ball on whether the batter was hitting it where they want too. Last three years in Tests batters have been out of control 17.1%. In Australia, that was 16%, as the pitches are still fairly true. Here it was 18.6.

That makes it a slightly more difficult pitch, but not nuclear. England were bowled out because Australia bowled well and England aren't great at batting. Maybe they should have bowled first, but perhaps Australia would be four wickets down and that would look like a mistake.

Even if England made a mistake with the toss today - which clearly I don't really believe they did - it's not a Nasser level detonation.

The bigger error here is the decline of an entire generation of English batters and turning up to face Hazlewood, Starc and Cummins. A collapse on day one is always going to seem more apocalyptic than any other. But this one was barely discernable in the world of English collapses and mistakes.

The only difference was the timing, first day of the Ashes, first ball of the Ashes, and a dance around your legs. That ball that wasn't helped by the pitch was the most dramatic moment on it all day.

If you need more of me, I also did a piece on bowling captains.

Or this podcast about English cricket and class.