‘Un-Australian’ tactics shredded in final Ashes Test


Australia has edged ahead in the fifth Ashes Test after Steve Smith and the tailenders steered the tourists towards a narrow first-innings lead on day two at The Oval.

After a disastrous collapse in the afternoon session, Smith received support from captain Pat Cummins and youngster Todd Murphy as Australia posted 295 on Friday, giving the visitors a 12-run lead.

England needs nothing less than a victory to deny Australia its first Ashes triumph on foreign soil since 2001.


Day one of the fifth Ashes Test seemed to play out in fast motion. England scored at quicker than five runs per over in the first innings, with wickets falling every few overs.

Friday morning’s action at the Oval was a stark contrast.

Usman Khawaja (47 off 157 balls) and Marnus Labuschagne (9 off 82 balls) embarked on an old-fashioned blockathon, scoring 13 runs off the bat in the first 15 overs of the session.

Day two started with four consecutive maidens as England’s seamers repeatedly bashed away at a good length outside off stump. Labuschagne left the ball with confidence, while Khawaja defended with absolute authority.

Australia passed 100 runs in the 48th over, the longest it has taken them to surpass the milestone in a Test innings in England since 1981.

England fans, recently accustomed to the theatrics and fireworks of Bazball, were less than impressed with how the morning session unfolded — some called it ‘Snoozeball’, others branded it ‘Boreball’.

Khawaja and Labuschagne, unlike their opponents, weren’t trying to entertain the spectators — they wanted to win the Ashes.

Labuschagne was the lone dismissal to fall before lunch, edging through to Joe Root at first slip, who claimed a stunning one-handed catch behind his body.

The Queenslander, who didn’t score a boundary in 82 deliveries at the crease, finished with a strike rate of 11.11, the lowest for a Test innings in England since 1994 (minimum 65 balls).

England bowled 28 maidens in the first innings at The Oval, while Australia’s bowlers have achieved 32 in the entire series.

Speaking on BBC Test Match Special, former England captain Michael Vaughan declared it was the worst he’s ever seen Australia bat.

“They are taking home the urn, but I’ve never seen Australia play with so much fear,” Vaughan said.

“They are usually so aggressive and try to take the game forward.

“They have just sat in to bat a long period of time without remembering you have to put a bit of pressure on the bowlers.

“This morning I thought it was the worst I’ve ever seen Australia bat in my time watching them. They never play like that.”

Former Test batter Callum Ferguson argued the “very stagnant” innings was “un-Australian”, while cricket legend Mark Taylor called for the Australians to be “more proactive”.

“No doubt England bowled well, but you have to tell the opposition you are after them as much as they are after you,” Taylor said on Sky Sports commentary.

“I’m not suggesting for a minute we try to match Bazball, but be a bit more proactive.”

Speaking to Sky Sports at stumps, Australian vice-captain Steve Smith declared there was “no set plan” to bat defensively ahead of day two, confessing the slow scoring rate may have created pressure after the lunch break.

“I thought England bowled really well this morning, they didn’t give us a lot of freebies. Credit where it’s due,” Smith explained.

“If we take it a little bit deeper, make them bowl more overs, it allows us to score runs at the end of the day like we did.

“You want to try and keep the scoreboard ticking as much as possible but guys are also allowed to bowl well.

“It’s Test cricket and you’ve got to respect those periods at times. We could’ve got rewards back end of the day if we had more wickets in the shed and they’re a bit more tired.”


Alex Carey hasn’t been the same since Jonny Bairstow’s controversial stumping.

The wicketkeeper, having put down a regulation catch on day one at The Oval, fell cheaply in Australia’s first innings of the Ashes finale, exposing the tail on Friday afternoon.

England part-timer spinner Joe Root, having just been smacked back over his head for six, drifted a loppy delivery outside off stump — and Carey took the bait.

The left-hander looked to cream it through the covers, instead chipping a catch towards rival captain Ben Stokes for 10. It was the fourth time Root had dismissed him in Tests, with the South Australian averaging 11.75 against the off-spinner in the five-day format.

Former England opener Ian Ward called the tame dismissal “soft”, and former Redbacks teammate Callum Ferguson agreed.

“His beans were going, he couldn’t hold back,” Ferguson said on Channel 9.

“Really disappointing dismissal.”

Carey has scored 43 runs at 10.80 since the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, where he became England’s public enemy No. 1 for stumping Bairstow. He also missed a run-out chance on day three of the Old Trafford Test, with the standard of his wicketkeeping dipping off as the series progressed.

Speaking on Channel 9, former Australia captain Mark Taylor speculated whether England’s hostile response to the Bairstow stumping at Lord’s contributed to Carey’s form slump.

“His batting certainly has fallen away a bit throughout the series. Whether that’s fatigue or not, you can’t help but think it might have started with this incident,” Taylor said.

“It’s his first Ashes Tour in England and the crowd have been giving it to him.

“There was quite a bit after the incident. Every time he goes out to bat or keep now, he gets booed.

“You won’t meet a nicer guy playing cricket in Australia at the moment than Alex Carey.

“I can’t help but think that might have impacted his performance over the last couple of Test matches.”


Stuart Broad was at risk of missing selection for the Ashes opener at Edgbaston, narrowly beating out Mark Wood for the first Test.

England captain Ben Stokes confessed the decision was partly due to Broad’s dominance over David Warner in the Test arena — but the 37-year-old has been the host nation’s first-choice quick since.

Broad turned the fifth Ashes Test on its head after lunch on day two, removing the resilient Usman Khawaja and the dangerous Travis Head in quick succession.

Khawaja was trapped on the pads, while Head tickled an edge through to Jonny Bairstow with the gloves — Australia had suddenly stumbled to 4-127, putting England in the dominant position.

The dismissal of Khawaja was Broad’s 150th in Ashes cricket, becoming the first England player to achieve the milestone. Only two Australians sit above him on the all-time list — Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

He is also now the leading wicket-taker of the series, leapfrogging Australia’s Mitchell Starc and finishing the day with 20 scalps at 28.15. It’s the fifth time Broad has taken 20+ wickets in an Ashes series, and only one cricketer has achieved the feat more often — the King of Spin.

“Stuart Broad, he loves the Ashes,” former England spinner Phil Tufnell said on BBC Test Match Special after Head’s dismissal.

“It’s a brilliant delivery. That’s an absolute cracker that would get any of the best out in the world. That’s a beauty. This is where that first session all of a sudden comes and bites Australia on the backside.”

Most Ashes wickets

195 — Shane Warne

157 — Glenn McGrath

151 — Stuart Broad

141 — Hugh Trumble

128 — Dennis Lillee

128 — Ian Botham


Steve Smith just loves batting at The Oval.

His maiden Test century came at the iconic venue in 2013, and the New South Welshman backed it up with another classy hundred two years later.

Smith scored a century during last month’s World Test Championship final against India as well, combining with Travis Head for a match-winning partnership to ensure Australia secured its maiden title.

Despite wickets tumbling at the other end on Friday, Smith scratched his way towards 71 to frustrate England and give the tourists a narrow first-innings lead — he was the only Australian to reach a half-century.

It was the fifth time he had passed fifty in Tests at The Oval, equalling the record among overseas players. During his knock, he also leapfrogged the legendary Sir Donald Bradman for most runs among overseas players at the Kennington venue, where he currently boasts 617 runs at 88.14.

“I thought I was in good positions today,” Smith told Sky Sports at stumps.

“There are a couple of things I’ve been working on this week and I really love batting at The Oval. You get value for your shots and the bounce is pretty consistent.

“Unfortunately I couldn’t capitalise.”

Most Test runs among touring players at The Oval

617 — Steve Smith (AUS)

553 — Sir Donald Bradman (AUS)

478 — Allan Border (AUS)

448 — Bruce Mitchell (RSA)

443 — Rahul Dravid (IND)

Originally published as ‘Un-Australian’ tactics shredded after 42-year first; Steve Smith topples another Don Bradman record — Day 2 Talking Points


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