BRISBANE, (Reuters) – Rejuvenated Australia paceman Mitchell Johnson blitzed England with a haul of five for 42 to lead his country to an emphatic 381-run victory in the first Ashes test yesterday.
It was a first win in 10 tests for Australia after losing a series 4-0 in India and another in England 3-0 this year, and a first triumph in eight Ashes contests since the Perth test in 2010.
The weather, which delayed play twice for more than two hours, at one stage looked like extending the sometimes fractious contest into a fifth day before Johnson stepped up to polish off the final English batsmen in the Gabba twilight.
England’s hopes of any kind of result at Brisbane had been slim at best when they were set a record 561 to win and lost two second innings wickets for only 24 runs on Saturday evening.
They were shattered when the dismissal of Captain Alastair Cook for 65 triggered a collapse from 142 for four to 160 for eight in the 45 minutes between the two weather disruptions.
The victory was a confirmation of a renewed sense of confidence in the Australia team after a miserable year and will strengthen their belief that they can stop England winning a fourth successive Ashes series.
“As a team, we’ve copped a fair bit of criticism of late, and our performances have probably deserved that,” said Australia captain Michael Clarke.
“The win is very important, very special to us, it’s a great way to start the series.
“We’ll enjoy it, no doubt about that, but we’re seven or eight days away from the second test match and we know England will come back harder.”
Left-arm quick Johnson, who took 4-61 as the tourists were skittled for 136 in their first innings and contributed 103 runs with the bat, was named Man of the Match after claiming his eighth test five-wicket haul.
Cook said England would regroup and come out fighting in the second test in Adelaide but needed to take a long, hard look at how they dealt with Johnson.
“We’re going to have to be really honest with ourselves about how we go about trying to play him,” he said.
“We can’t brush the issue, he’s hurt us in this game and we’re going to come back and show our ability in the next game.”
“It’s just one loss, it’s a five-match test series so there’s plenty of time to fight back. We’ve done it before.”
England made a reasonable start to the day but Kevin Pietersen (26) and Ian Bell (32) lost their wickets with shots they need not have played.
As in the first innings when England lost six wickets for nine runs in one spell, though, it was spinner Nathan Lyon (2-46) who really got the ball rolling for the hosts.
Hailstorm before collapse
Cook, who scored 235 not out in his second innings in the last Ashes test at the Gabba, had played a composed and defiant innings with just three boundaries before a dramatic hailstorm forced the players off the field.
Six balls after the resumption, Lyon got a little bit of extra bounce out of the surface and Cook caught a top edge with an attempted cut with Brad Haddin taking the catch behind the wicket.
England were only able to add only six runs for the next three wickets with Matt Prior (4), Stuart Broad (4) and Graeme Swann (0) quickly following their captain back to the pavilion.
Lyon, who later got his first chance to lead Australia in the victory song despite being given the task last January, had Prior caught at leg slip by David Warner after just eight minutes in the middle.
A bullish Broad lasted just three deliveries and five minutes before he got the faintest of touches to a Johnson delivery which again Haddin snaffled up.
Swann lasted just two balls before a meek fend at a Johnson snorter saw the ball fly into the hands of a diving Steve Smith in the slips.
England regrouped sufficiently to survive until the rain started falling again but the storm passed reasonably quickly and the players were back out with an hour of play remaining.
Chris Tremlett blocked for seven runs until a rising Ryan Harris ball came off the splint of his bat into the hands of George Bailey at short leg.
That left Joe Root (26 not out) and James Anderson as England’s last two batsmen and fittingly it was Johnson who dealt the coup de grace by dismissing his fellow quick caught and bowled to trigger the celebrations.
“To get a five-for in a test match in an Ashes series is unbelievable feeling,” said Johnson, who has been lampooned in song for the last four years by England’s Barmy Army of fans.
“All the boys just racing in and getting in a huddle was a great celebration for us. It was just a great moment, something I’ll never forget.
“We need to celebrate tonight because it has been a while.”
Australia 295 & 401-7 declared
England first innings 136
England second innings (overnight 24-2)
A. Cook c Haddin b Lyon 65
M. Carberry b Harris 0
J. Trott c Lyon b Johnson 9
K. Pietersen c sub b Johnson 26
I. Bell c Haddin b Siddle 32
J. Root not out 26
M. Prior c Warner b Lyon 4
S. Broad c Haddin b Johnson 4
G. Swann c Smith b Johnson 0
C. Tremlett c Bailey b Harris 7
J. Anderson c & b Johnson 2
Extras (lb-2, w-1, nb-1) 4
Total (all out, 81.1 overs) 179
Fall of wickets: 1-1 2-10 3-72 4-130 5-142 6-146 7-151 8-151 9-172
Bowling: Harris 19-4-49-2, Johnson 21.1-7-42-5 (w-1), Siddle 15-3-25-1 (nb-1), Lyon 20-6-46-2, Smith 4-1-15-0, Watson 2-2-0-0
Australia lead five-match series 1-0.