HEADING INTO day five of what has been an absorbing, tightly contested first Test at Edgbaston, there are distinct echoes of 2015 and 2005 in the air…
Australia is three down for 107, requiring a further 174 runs for victory, after fast-bowling nemesis Stuart Broad struck twice late on the fourth day to remove Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. England require seven wickets for victory, with night-watchman Scott Boland and first innings centurion Usman Khawaja surviving till stumps. The pair will resume the chase this morning against a fired up Stuart Broad.
Few Aussies can forget Broad’s nightmarish spell of 8 for 15 at Old Trafford in 2015, which saw Australia bowled out for 60. The cherubic-faced fast bowler loves to play the villain and can be nigh on unplayable on his day. With rain forecast for the morning, Broad could be a handful under grey skies – witness how conditions turned against England after the rain delay on the third day, when the home side lost both openers before stumps on a pitch that suddenly made Bazball seem as suited to Test cricket as a super yacht is to Botany Bay.
With the lively Edgbaston crowd behind him, surviving a hostile spell from Broad will be critical if the Aussies are to prevail.
The 281-run target could also be bad omen for Pat Cummins’ men. It’s just one run shy of the 282 Australia were set back in the second test in 2005, in which they came up an agonising two runs short. “You can tell this group is massively inspired and motivated by that series,” Broad said of the famous ’05 victory. “We were all watching that [at the time] and wanting to play Ashes cricket, and to have this series being talked about in the same sentence gives us a huge boost.”
The fact is, chasing down fourth-innings totals has long been Australia’s Achilles’ heel. The last time the team scored more than 250 to win a match in England was at Headingly back in 1948. A fellow by the name of Bradman played a big part in securing that victory. Needless to say, the Aussies are going to have to find the modern-day equivalent – at least for one day.
Could that hero be ‘Ussie’? The opener is playing the best cricket of his life at 36, reeling off 1747 runs at a remarkable 69.88 since re-joining the team in January 2022. He takes the crease this morning unbeaten on 34 not out. A first innings century often bodes well for second innings success. Perhaps he’s the man to subdue the ghosts of Ashes past.
Ben Jhoty covers sport and wellness for Esquire Australia.