The Ashes series has always been a battleground for cricketing giants, and the 1st Test of the Ashes 2023 proved to be no different. The match witnessed a thrilling chase by Australia, as they successfully achieved their highest target chase in 75 years. Pat Cummins, with nerves of steel, landed the finishing blow that sealed the victory for his team. This remarkable feat has now etched its name in the annals of cricket history. Let’s delve into the statistics and highlights of this enthralling encounter.
Australia’s Historic Chase
The 1st Test in Birmingham witnessed a target of 281 set by England for Australia. It was their fourth-highest successful target chase in the history of Ashes and their highest since the memorable chase of 404 at Headingley in 1948. Interestingly, Australia had not won any of the 31 Ashes Tests between 1949 and 2022, where the fourth-innings target was 250 or more. This victory was a long-awaited triumph after a series of 18 defeats in such situations.
Breaking the Drought
Australia’s last successful chase of 250-plus runs before the Edgbaston Test was against South Africa back in 2011. Pat Cummins, making his debut, scored the winning runs with a boundary off Imran Tahir in Johannesburg. The victory at Edgbaston ended Australia’s streak of 19 defeats out of 21 Tests when the target was 250 or more runs between 2012 and 2022. It was a moment of redemption for the Australian team and a testament to their resilience.
England’s Bowling Streak Broken
England had built an impressive streak of bowling out the opposition in consecutive innings in Tests, stretching over 26 innings. However, their streak came to an end in the fourth innings of the Birmingham Test when Australia successfully chased down the target. This streak of 26 consecutive innings is the joint-third longest in Test cricket history, behind England’s 59 innings between 1885 and 1896 and Australia’s 33 innings between 1999 and 2001.
Australia’s victory in the 1st Test was not the first time they won with just two or fewer wickets to spare. In fact, it was their eighth Test match won in such a thrilling manner. The last instance of a similar victory was in Johannesburg in 2011 when they chased down 310 after losing eight wickets. On the other hand, England suffered only their fifth defeat in a Test match after picking up eight or more wickets in the fourth innings.
In the history of the Ashes, there have been only two instances where a team declared their first innings and ended up losing the match. The first occurrence was in 1981 when Australia declared at 401 for 8 in Leeds but lost by 18 runs. The second instance was in 2006 when England declared at 551 for 6 in Adelaide but succumbed to a six-wicket defeat. The recent match in Birmingham added to this rare statistic.
The partnership between Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon for the ninth wicket played a crucial role in Australia’s successful chase. Their partnership of 55 runs became the seventh-highest stand in Test cricket for the ninth or tenth wicket in a successful fourth-innings chase. It was also the second-highest partnership for Australia in such a scenario, only behind the unbeaten 56-run stand between Tibby Cotter and Gerry Hazlitt in 1907.
Marathon Batting Efforts
Usman Khawaja’s resilience and determination were on full display during the 1st Test. He batted for a staggering 796 minutes across the match, making it the second-longest any Australian has batted in a Test match. This feat surpassed the 767 minutes by Bob Simpson in Manchester in 1964. It also ranks as the fourth longest individual batting effort in an Ashes Test, showcasing Khawaja’s exceptional endurance.
A Rare Feat
Only a select few have achieved the remarkable accomplishment of batting on each of the five days in a Test match. Usman Khawaja became the 13th player to achieve this feat, joining the ranks of cricketing legends. He is only the second Australian to accomplish this, following in the footsteps of Kim Hughes, who achieved this milestone against England at Lord’s in 1980.
Facing the Challenge
Usman Khawaja’s sheer determination was evident not only in the time spent at the crease but also in the number of balls faced. He impressively faced 518 balls throughout the match, becoming the first Australian batter to reach the 500-plus ball mark in a Test match since Ricky Ponting against India in 2012. This feat also marked the first time a batter faced 500-plus balls in an Ashes Test since Alastair Cook’s 596 balls at the Gabba in 2010.
Contributions from the Middle Order
While the focus often falls on the top order, the contribution of the middle order is equally important. In the Birmingham Test, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith had a relatively quiet partnership, scoring just 35 runs together. These are the third-fewest runs scored by an Australian duo batting at No. 3 and No. 4 in both innings of a Test match they won. This statistical anomaly adds an interesting twist to the narrative of Australia’s victory.
The 1st Test of the Ashes 2023 will be remembered for Australia’s historic chase and the exceptional performances of individuals. From Pat Cummins’ match-winning boundary to Usman Khawaja’s marathon innings, the match was filled with moments that will be etched in the memories of cricket fans around the world. As the series progresses, it will be fascinating to see how both teams rise to the challenges and create more memorable moments in this historic rivalry.