NASSER HUSSAIN: The conditions were in their favour and they made the perfect start but England failed to make it count AGAIN with Ben Stokes, Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson injuries leaving their bowling attack toothless and Joe Root frustrated
- Australia recovers from the depths of 12 for three on the first day in Hobart
- England initially took full advantage of conditions that were well-suited
- But their bowlers let it slip thanks to bad fortune and ill-judged decisions
- James Anderson was unable to play because of a hamstring injury
- Ben Stokes couldn’t bowl because of his side strain, leaving England short
- Chris Woakes struggled and Mark Wood proved unsuitable in the conditions
- When Ollie Robinson suffered a back spasm, Joe Root had to bowl himself
Joe Root looked a frustrated captain by the end of the first day of the last Test and understandably so.
Hobart produced English conditions, with a green pitch and the temperature so cool that players were rushing for their long-sleeved jumpers, and the ball did so much Australia were quickly reduced to 12 for three. But again England let it slip.
Root’s first problem came when the value of Ben Stokes was once more underlined because the whole balance of the England side was affected by his inability to bowl.
Ben Stokes was left unable to bowl and grimacing in the field because of his side strain
Ollie Robinson took two wickets – David Warner and Steve Smith – then had a back spasm
Then the England captain had to leave out his bowler best suited to the conditions in Jimmy Anderson, apparently with a hamstring problem.
The issue was compounded because another ideal man for those conditions in Chris Woakes was struggling for form and rhythm and looked low in confidence.
And the conditions just didn’t suit Mark Wood because they demanded tall hit the deck bowlers and he is short and skiddy.
Finally another bowler perfectly suited to what was in front of England in Ollie Robinson was forced to leave the attack when he suffered a back spasm.
So we were left with the sight of Root again bowling with the pink ball under lights, as he did at Adelaide, as early as the 33rd over because he was running out of options.
It turned into a frustrating day for Joe Root after England had made the ideal start
Root looks dejected after Zak Crawley dropped Marnus Labuschagne on the opening day
Every international side really does need a fifth bowler and England are always weaker when Stokes is not there or, in this case, can only bat.
It is another reason why they really should have looked after him on this tour and not bowled him into the ground.
This first day was actually the story of the Ashes because, for all the understandable attention on England’s under-performing batting, conditions for much of the series have been unique for Australia.
England have been handed three pitches that were perfect for their bowlers in Brisbane, Melbourne and now at Hobart even though the pink ball does go soft and it did not do as much on Friday after the first interval. But they haven’t made them count.
James Anderson wasn’t able to play in the fifth and final Test because of a hamstring injury but he did present Sam Billings with his Test cap
Stuart Broad was in amongst the wickets as he dismissed Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne, the second comically bowled around the legs
It was noticeable last summer that Robinson’s pace was down when he came back for his second and third spells and England clearly want him to get fitter if he is to have a prolonged international career.
He only has to look at the longevity of Anderson and Stuart Broad for an example of what he needs to do because on top of all their skills and success they have also maintained extremely high levels of fitness.
They have put so much work into it and Jimmy, in particular, always maintains his pace whether it’s his first spell of a day or fifth.
We do have to cut Robinson some slack in what is still his first year in Test cricket. He has spent all his career in the county game where if your speed does drops off you are no less hostile. You can bowl at 70 miles per hour in the last session of the day and still get loads of wickets.
A superb century from Travis Head changed the complexion of the first day of the final Test
Australia’s recovery came after England started well, with Stuart Broad bowling Marnus Labuschagne round his legs to leave the batsman flat on his face
Robinson’s record at Sussex has been phenomenal over the last three years but it is different in international cricket and not just on the field. Off it there will be all the flights, different hotel beds and extra fitness work between games.
But clearly now he not only needs to work with the strength and conditioning coaches but he also needs to be looked after by England and manage his workloads.
There is no doubt he is a very talented bowler and, make no mistake, Robinson will get a shedload of Test wickets again in England next summer.
He can make the ball talk, he bowls the right length for Test cricket and he is quick enough at the start of an innings.
It is just a question of maintaining those speeds and his fitness, particularly away from home. I am sure it’s a lesson he will learn.