Thursday morning, with England 2-1 up and two tests to play, was a cloudy but warm morning. The pitch had grass on it and ordinarily you’d say, win the toss bat first. Sure, there was plenty to suggest wickets could fall early, but the forecast was such it would brighten up by the afternoon and then the weather was set fair for the next few days. I often think it is easy to get caught up in the weather and conditions for the first couple of hours of the game, rather than how things might be for the first couple of days. England won the toss and Alistair Cook made no hesitation in putting Australia in. England would have to bowl at the Aussies straight away without their record-breaking bowler, Jimmy Anderson, who’d picked up a side injury from the last test, and Mark Wood came back, his injury having cleared up since Edgbaston. Australia made one change too, although this was less obvious. Mitchell Marsh made way for his brother Shaun. A strange decision on the face of it, with Mitchell considered an all-rounder whereas his brother just bats. Shaun Marsh was to bat at four with the captain dropping down to five where he has a fantastic record. This in a bid to reignite his form which had deserted him so alarmingly.
Just before the start there was a minute’s applause as a tribute to Clive Rice, who died recently. What followed in the next ninety minutes was reminiscent of his time at Nottingham on green, seaming pitches.
Stuart Broad opened up around the wicket to Chris Rogers. Second ball was angled into leg stump and flicked off Rogers’ pads for four leg-byes. Australia was off the mark, but next ball so were England. Broad got the next one to nip back in off the seam from a full length outside off-stump and it caught the edge of Rogers’ bat and flew to first slip where Cook caught it low down to his left. What a start for England and Broad. It was his 300th Test wicket, becoming the fifth member of that exclusive club for England. It was Rogers first duck in his test career, his 46th innings, and in came Steve Smith. Ranked best in the world, Smith had played a wonderful innings at Lord’s but had struggled to get to grips with the English bowlers and conditions other from that. Smith’s second ball was a classic cover drive for four and symptomatic of the attack and counter-attack of this series. Broad’s fourth ball of the over was back of a length, outside off and squared Smith up to find the edge where Joe Root took the catch at slip. What a start, 10-2 off the first over!
Mark Wood, having recovered from his ankle injury which kept him in the dressing room at Edgbaston, was given the new ball from the other end. His first ball was to David Warner and swung down leg-side. But he directed his next one on middle-and-off and it nipped back into Warner, got the inside edge and Buttler gladly took the catch behind. 10-3 off eight balls.
At the toss it seemed Clarke would’ve preferred to bowl had he won the toss and he appeared quite wound-up. Whether this was as a result of selectorial decisions, for which we’re told he plays little part, it is uncertain but the word coming out afterwards was that the final eleven wasn’t decided until the players were told in a huddle during the warm-up a little before Clarke was walking out now. Whether this affected the team’s mental state is unclear, but they certainly seemed side-tracked by something. Clarke inside-edged his second ball narrowly passed his off-stump for four.
Shaun Marsh then faced his first ball with Broad still coming round the wicket. Still on 0, his fourth ball drew him forward to one which seamed away from him and the edge flew to Bell at third slip. 15-4.
Adam Voges was next in, on a ground he knew well. Four more leg-byes came off his first ball and at the end of Broad’s second over he had amazing figures of 2-1-6-3. Australia, 19-4 off just 3 overs and no one could take their eyes off this for a minute.
Clarke survived Wood’s next over, although he unconvincingly tried to pull a short one and it fell just short of Finn at long leg. The next moment is one of those which should be stored in the memory banks for years to come. Broad’s first ball of his third over was full at off-stump and Voges pushed hard at it getting a thick edge. The ball flew passed gully where Ben Stokes dived full length to grab the ball, one-handed, when it appeared to have gone past him. It was a stunning catch and one he had no right to take, and Broad’s reaction as he put his hands to his face in utter shock believing the chance had gone, has been shared around the world. 21-5.
To slightly digress, I was working from home with the television on mute. I missed the first few balls as I was upstairs printing and came downstairs just as the coverage went to an advert. I had just caught a glimpse of someone walking to the camera and guessed it could be a batsman. “Maybe we’ve taken a wicket?”, I thought. So I rewound the recording to find the score was 10-2! What??? So I rewound to watch the first over, then fast-forwarded through to see Wood’s first two balls and there’s a third wicket! Then as I returned to live coverage I walked from the lounge to the kitchen just as Broad took the fourth. I was yet to actually watch a wicket live!
I then went back upstairs to collect some more paper off the printer and as I’d now turned the sound up on the tv I heard “…and that’s five down now!” come from downstairs. Cue another rewind and another wicket I hadn’t seen live. I did consider working on the stairs just to make sure more wickets fell, but I needn’t have worried. If I’m ever asked “do you remember where you were when England bowled Australia out at Trent Bridge?” I’ll be able to regale this little anecdote.
Australia’s wicket-keeper, Peter Nevill was next in after just 25 balls of the innings. The first ball of Broad’s fourth over then saw an unbelievable shot from the Australian captain. The ball pitched outside off-stump and Clarke had a horrible hack at it and his opposite number caught above his head at slip. It seemed to sum up the difference in fortunes between the two captains. Australia were 29-6. Clarke would later claim he believed the ball was there to be hit and so he was attempting to get on top of the bowler, but at 29-5 and with a bowler on 4-6? Perhaps it illustrated his state of mind that morning. Broad now had the unreal figures of 4-3-6-5. You have to go back to 1913 for the last time an England bowler took five wickets before lunch on the first day of a Test, when SF Barnes took South Africa apart in Johannesburg.
Finn replaced Wood and in his second over he bowled the perfect delivery which hit the top of off stump. Nevill had appeared unsure whether to go forward or back and in the end did neither, just left a nice little gap for the ball to travel through. 33-7.
Finn had now got in on the act and there was no respite for the tourists. Drinks arrived after an hours play and Australia were 38-7 off 11 overs. Johnson edged a couple of boundaries off Finn before Broad struck again. Still from around the wicket to the left-handers, Broad bowled another full delivery and Starc poked it to Root at slip. 46-8.
Hazlewood entered the fray and managed to get off strike first ball, but then Broad produced a similar delivery to Johnson as he had to Starc a couple of balls earlier and Johnson managed to waft it to Root at third slip too. 47-9 and Broad was 7-3-11-7.
Hazlewood managed to squirt three runs off his leg to bring up the 50 for Australia and as you can imagine there were ironic cheers in the crowd. Lyon and Hazlewood managed to get the score to 60 with Lyon getting a couple of boundaries, but the ball following his second four closed the Aussie innings. A quicker one from Broad and Lyon pushed firmly at a good length delivery and he edged it to sixth slip where Stokes took his second catch of the morning.
Broad ended with the third best figures for an England bowler in Ashes cricket, 9.3-5-15-8. Only the great Jim Laker with his 10-53 and 9-37 at Old Trafford in 1956 has better figures. Australia were all out for 60 in 18.3 overs, the shortest completed innings in test history. Few could explain it, especially coming so soon after their dominance at Lord’s, but England weren’t complaining.