The history books will show that Australia won the first Ashes Test at the Gabba by 10 wickets on the last day of the match, which suggests a one-sided contest.
In truth, however, it was an even match for much of the first three days, but brilliant batting from Australian captain Steve Smith, and a failure to capitalise on their chances by England, tilted the game in favour of the home side.
As expected, Australia handed a debut to opener Cameron Bancroft, whilst there were recalls for Shaun Marsh in the middle order, and Tim Paine as wicketkeeper. England elected to go with James Vince at number three, and Dawid Malan at five, with Jake Ball being preferred to Craig Overton in their attack.
Captain Joe Root won the toss for England and decided to bat, with the loss of Alastair Cook to Mitchell Starc an early blow when there was just 2 runs on the board. However, Mark Stoneman and Vince then put on 125 for the second wicket before Stoneman fell for 53 to Cummins, whilst Vince, a surprise inclusion on the tour, passed fifty for the first time at international level. He had reached 83 when he was brilliantly run out by Nathan Lyon, and with Root out shortly afterwards for 15, Australia looked to press home their advantage. However, Malan and Moeen Ali batted out the rest of the day, which ended early due to bad light, to leave England on 196/4 overnight, with honours even between the two teams.
Resuming their innings on the second morning, Malan and Ali continued to play well in a stand of 83, before Malan carelessly hooked Starc to deep square leg. That prompted a collapse with Johnny Bairstow and Ball falling to the short ball, and Lyon getting the reward his bowling had deserved, having Ali lbw for 38, and Chris Woakes bowled for a duck. In the end it was left to Stuart Broad with 20 to guide England to 302 all out, which was lower than they would have hoped at the start of play.
However, Australia began to struggle themselves, with debutant Bancroft falling to Broad for just 5, and then Usman Khawaja (11) and David Warner (26) going relatively cheaply. When James Anderson bowled Peter Handscomb for 14, Australia found themselves in trouble at 76/4.
They were rescued by a determined partnership of 89 between captain Steve Smith and Marsh who batted out the rest of the day, to leave Australia on 165/4, with Smith unbeaten of 64 and Marsh undefeated on 44. Yet again the match was evenly balanced with no one team on top.
The morning of the third day belonged to England as Broad removed Marsh for 51, and Anderson accounted for Paine for 13. When Broad then had Starc caught and bowled, Australia were 213/7 at lunch and the tourists were eyeing a first-innings lead.
However, Smith was still at the other end and, finding a willing accomplice in Pat Cummins, the pair began an afternoon fightback, with a 66-run 8-wicket partnership, before Cummins fell to Woakes for 42. Smith, meanwhile, had completed his 21st test century, his sixth in Ashes cricket, and eventually guided his side to 328 all out, remaining undefeated on 141. That left Australia 26 runs ahead on first innings.
The England second innings began in disastrous fashion, as Cook as was out on the hook shot to Josh Hazlewood – tourists’ supporters may rightly question why such an experienced player was playing such a shot so early in his innings – and the hero of the first day, Vince, edged the same bowler to slip for 2. Stoneman and Root saw out the rest of the day to leave the visitors 33/2, with a slender lead of just 7 runs. If the first two days were even, the third day belonged to Australia, principally due to the efforts of Smith.
England knew they would have to have well on the 4th day if they were going to get anything from the match but lost Stoneman for 27 and Malan for just 4, reducing them to 74/4. Captain Root passed 50, but none of his colleagues could emulate him, with only Ali (40) and Bairstow (42) making contributions of note.
One note of controversy was the dismissal of Ali, given out stumped by Paine off the bowling of Lyon, with arguments not only about the decision but also as to whether the crease was correctly painted on the pitch. However, his fall signalled a late order collapse as England were bowled out for 195, with three wickets apiece for Starc, Hazelwood and Lyon.
That left Australia needing 170 for victory, and their opening pair of Warner and Bancroft were able to cruise through the rest of the day, with the England attack toothless. There were mitigating factors. Anderson was struggling for fitness, and Ali was nursing a shoulder injury. However, the hosts were able to close on 114 not out, needing just 55 runs to secure victory in this first test, with Warner not out on 60, and Bancroft having reached his maiden test half-century on 51.
The Australian opening pair resumed their partnership on the 5th morning, and were largely untroubled, with Bancroft offering the only semblance of a chance when he edged Ball past slip when on 60. They reached their target in just over an hour, with Warner unbeaten on 87, and Bancroft 82 not out.
The teams now head to Adelaide for the second test starting on Saturday which will be a day-night match.
Although Australia will be buoyed by their victory, they will know their performances were inconsistent, whilst England have questions over their batting line-up and the make-up of their bowling attack. There is also another off-the-field incident to investigate as well, after reports that Bairstow head-butted Bancroft after a recent night out in Perth.