Thursday 14 December 2017 / 01:55 AM

ASHES TO ASHES: FIRST TEST TALKING POINTS

BRETT SINCLAIR goes over some of the biggest issues from the first Test, including Steve Smith’s incredible century, Alastair Cook’s struggles, the Shaun Marsh puzzle, and the Jonny Bairstow surprise.

Super Smith leads the way

Australian captain Steve Smith has already played some fine knocks as captain. However, his ability to carry the bat in Australia’s first innings was one of his greatest, helping his side out of big trouble and finding the spark needed to escape from England’s grip in the first Test.

Smith was superb in his grinding innings of 141 not out from 326 balls faced. Whatever England threw at him – from off side-strong fields tempting him to drive, to bouncers trying to unsettle him, Smith would not give in.

England captain Joe Root needs to figure out if his defensive tactics to Smith will deliver what he wants this series in waiting for Smith to slip up, or whether he needs to be more aggressive and create a new plan if Smith waits it out again in Adelaide.

Brisbane return not the best for Cook

Going into the first Test, Alastair Cook would have felt at ease with what he has achieved in Brisbane before – making at least one score over 40 in every Test he has played there, including a double-century in 2010. That run ended last week, dismissed for just 2 and 7.

Worrying for Cook is the mode of dismissals in being caught behind driving and hooking the ball. The last time he was in Australia, he was caught out driving and hooking twice. The Australian fast bowlers have found a couple of areas to target Cook.

Cook needs to be aware of where his front foot is moving when playing a straight drive and not get stuck on the crease, along with being aware of Australia’s short-ball barrage tactics. Having scored over 11,500 runs in nearly 150 Test matches, Cook knows more is needed from him.

Shaun Marsh continues to divide opinion

While Shaun Marsh made a solid 51 in Australia’s first innings when they were in trouble at 4-76, his place in the side is still not 100 percent assured heading into the second Test.

Despite making a half-century, he failed to go on with the job and left it up to his skipper to bring Australia closer to England, his dismissal leaving Australia on 5/175 – still 127 runs in arrears.

Glenn Maxwell responded to his dropping from the team by making a career-high first-class score of 278 over the weekend. If the Australian selectors want to instlll more fear into England, then they can look no further in unleashing ‘Maxi’ in Adelaide.

What’s Bairstow’s rush?

In a surprise in England’s innings, wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow came in below all-rounder Moeen Ali at number seven. Bairstow was out in the first innings skying one for an easy catch, before hitting the ball straight down third man’s throat in the second.

In England’s previous seven Tests, Ali has come in below Bairstow. Bairstow needs time to get settled in, and Ali is a naturally aggressive batsman suited to coming in later, playing this role perfectly in Test and ODI cricket – switching positions in the order seems the logical step for England. Bairstow seemed to not trust his tail, with his dismissals coming with Stuart Broad at the crease and England seven wickets down.

If Bairstow comes in at six in Adelaide, it will give England more stability in their middle order, and it will give him the keeper-batsman time to build an innings – instead of panicking at the crease when he sees Broad joining him.

Either way, the middle-order troubles accentuated the still unfilled hole all-rounder Ben Stokes has left in the line-up.

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About the author

Brett Sinclair

Sport has always been a big passion in Brett's life and he aims to share his vision with Commentary Box Sports' readers. Based in Melbourne, Brett covers AFL, NRL, cricket and football for CBS.

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