The current 5-match Investec Ashes Test-series is going from one extreme to another. If Australia thought they had England cowed down with a massive 405-run win in the Lord’s second test, they couldn’t have made a bigger error. That premise was effectively destroyed by James Anderson, whose magnificent swingers single-handedly accounted for Australia’s wretched performance in the first innings. At the end of the first day of the third test, Anderson returned with magical figures of 6/47 in less than 15 overs as Australian innings caved in at 136 all out in 36.4 overs. Anderson was nicely supported by Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, who equally shared the remaining four wickets. England captain Alastair Cook did not feel the need to employ any other bowler since Anderson, Broad and Finn did not need replacement. If you take out the score of 52 by Chris Rogers, who fell as the eighth wicket, Australia came close to being bundled out for a sub-100 first innings total. England ended first day at 133/3 and whether or not, the home team dominates Australia, the damage caused by Anderson was the biggest news of the day.
On an overcast day at Birmingham, conditions were ideal for swing and seam as the Edgbaston pitch had plenty of grass as well. Under such circumstances, Alistair Cook turned out to be the luckiest cricket captain in losing the toss. Michael Clarke called “Heads” and lost. If Cook had won, he would have opted to bat as well. That didn’t happen as Clarke decided to bat first. Chris Rogers and David Warner came out with the fielding England side and James Anderson opened with the ball. Of the second ball, Rogers flicked Anderson on the leg side and hesitatingly went for a single. The moment’s delay caused David Warner to dive at the keeper’s end even as Stuart Broad crashed the stumps with a direct throw. A number of TV replays were required to confirm that Warner had made his ground. Anderson troubled Warner in the remaining 4 deliveries, though he also conceded two more runs. It was distinctly discernible that the pitch helped swing bowling in the early morning.
Chris Rogers faced Stuart Broad next and scored a boundary but when Anderson came back next and nipped one back off the seam to hit Warner’s pads. There were reviews but Warner was given out. Australia 7/1. Steven Smith joined Rogers and the two carried the score to 18 by the 8th over, when Steven Finn bowled a low out-swinger to Smith, who couldn’t suppress the temptation of cutting that ball. But he only managed an edge to Cook in the first slip. Australia 18/2. Next two over produced just 1 run but in Anderson’s sixth over, Clarke survived a few close calls and plenty of extras meant 14 runs came off that over. In the next over, Finn bowled Clarke, who was late in bringing his bat down as the ball went through. Australia 34/3. Adam Voges and Rogers produced the innings biggest partnership of 43 runs for the fourth wicket before Anderson struck. Voges was caught behind. Australia 77/4. Mitchell Marsh departed in the over after next in the same fashion as Voges. Australia 82/5. Rogers was keeping his end but he didn’t like the sight at the other end. Playing only in his second test, Peter Neville was clean bowled by Anderson to give the Englishman his fourth wicket. Australia 86/6. In the 27th over, Mitchell Johnson also fell as Anderson’s fifth victim to make it 94/7 and after holding one end for almost 32 overs, Rogers fell as an LBW victim to Stuart Broad. Australia 110/8. In the 34th over, Broad took his second wicket in taking out Mitchell Starc and made it 119/9. In the 37th over, Anderson completed his 6-wicket haul by bowling Nathan Lyon and Australian innings folded at 136.
When England came back to reply, they lost opener Adam Lyth in the 8th over at the score of 19 but Cook and Ian Bell added 57 runs for the second wicket, before Cook pulled a short ball from Nathan Lyon and his shot went like a bullet to Adam Voges, who looked like taking an evasive action. But Voges somehow managed to cling on and Cook was on his way. Joe Root and Ian Bell produced another 56-run stand for the third wicket before Bell departed and England finished the day at 133/3, just 3 runs behind Australia on the first innings. While predictions at this stage are dangerous, one thing is certain; this Ashes series has more drama in store than any time in the past.