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Jonathan Agnew column

Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook celebrates his record-breaking double century at the Gabba

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

England's performance in saving the first Ashes Test was, quite simply, nothing short of astonishing.

From the position they found themselves in at the end of day three, most teams - not just England - would far more often than not have gone on to lose.

But England did not only rescue the Test, they saved it in such emphatic style that they emerged with a points victory as well. Remarkable.

The final two days were terrific to witness. Superb batting, records falling, the Aussie attack reduced to an utterly innocuous mess.

In the future, whenever there is an epic stand or a fabulous innings, this will be the match for correspondents to reference.

And the records that tumbled on day five in Brisbane were incredible.

This was the first time England's top three have all made a century since 1924; no Englishmen has ever spent longer at the crease in a Test innings in Australia than Alastair Cook now; Cook's score was the highest ever individual Test total at the Gabba, while his stand with Jonathan Trott was a record one; and this was the first time England have passed 500 for the loss of only one wicket.

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These are not irrelevant, throw-away records. These are serious, serious statistics.

The way Cook and Trott batted was absolutely beautiful. Neither's innings was completely flawless - both survived dropped catches - but when you bat for as long and as big as those two did, it is inevitable you will offer the odd chance.

So there is no doubt that England will come away from this match happier than Australia.

I would not say it is quite as big a blow to Australia as the first Ashes Test in Cardiff in 2009, when James Anderson and Monty Panesar batted so stoically to earn England a draw against all the odds.

But this performance certainly sends a significant message to Australia - that this England team is a completely different proposition to the ones seen down under in the past 20 or so years.

Andrew Strauss and co can fight, can dig deep, are disciplined and have reserves of resolve unlike anything seen from an England side on these shores in recent memory.

It is for those reasons that a number of Australian pundits are backing England to win the Ashes now.

For my part, I have seen nothing in this match to make me change my opinion that England will win this series.

I actually had England down to win this one on their way to an overall 3-1 series victory before the start of play.

But, even though it ended in a draw, the nature of their performance on the last two days should earn them big, big credit.

Mitchell Johnson
Johnson returned figures of 0-170 in an awful display at the Gabba

Going into the Adelaide Test, I expect England to remain unchanged, even though there are questions about their ability to take 20 wickets to win a match.

I would always want a five-man bowling attack in any cricket side but England are not going to do that so it is not even worth discussing.

Ironically, the worry for England right now is off-spinner Graeme Swann.

He just is not getting it right at the moment and everything, from his body language to his delivery stride, underlines his lack of form.

He has work to do ahead of the Adelaide Test but is a top-class operator and a key weapon for England.

Australia, on the other hand, have to make changes. They simply cannot afford not to.

I just cannot see, for example, how they can pick Mitchell Johnson in the next Test.

He was not only awful in this match, he has been off for quite a while now. Not only is he not taking wickets but he is haemorrhaging runs as well. He must be dropped.

Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger, it would appear, will battle it out to replace Johnson and both are decent bowlers. Either would be an improvement on the Johnson we saw in this Test.

Still, I do not think Ricky Ponting is a man under pressure just yet.

I thought England's afternoon declaration was absolutely the right thing to do because it sent a wonderful message to Australia, although such a move can backfire if the opposition land a little counter-punch before the end of play.

That is what happened here. Ponting got in and scored a fine half-century that should ease questions about his form.

However, I do not think he captained well at all in this match. I was absolutely astonished by his lack of attack in the first hour on day five - two slips, a gully, an extra cover. It was like a mid-afternoon field rather than one aimed at making the most of any chances that come up. It was poor.

It is all square going into the next Test in Adelaide - but England's will certainly be the happier camp

And Ponting will not have been happy with the chances Australia put down in the field either. I think I counted five chances of varying difficulty dropped - and that will hurt the skipper.

Opposite number Strauss, on the other hand, was absolutely thrilled when I interviewed him at the close of play.

As commentators, we are absolutely impartial, of course, but you cannot help getting to like some players and you cannot help but like Strauss. It was nice to see him so happy. The fact is that he is really rolling on this tour, rattling along.

So it is all square going into the next Test, starting at midnight on Thursday, but England's will certainly be the happier camp.

What they will want to do is take the discipline, skill and application shown in their second innings here and put it into their first innings.

That is the difference between batting big to draw a match and batting big to set up a victory.

Take that lesson away from this match and England need not fear this Australia side at all.

Jonathan Agnew was talking to BBC Sport's Sam Lyon

Listen to the day five Test Match Special podcast right here.



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see also
Records fall as England draw Test
29 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Strauss buoyant after Gabba draw
29 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Aussies consider bowling changes
29 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Justin Langer's key moments
29 Nov 10 |  Cricket
First Ashes Test in photos
29 Nov 10 |  England
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket


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