BRISBANE, Australia, November 24 – England suffered one of their heaviest-ever Ashes Test defeats Sunday when Australia trounced them by 381 runs at the Gabba and went one-up in the series with a day to spare.
The tourists collapsed under the searing pace of Mitchell Johnson and were all out for 179 late on the fourth day after they were skittled out for 136 off 52.4 overs in the first innings.
It was England’s second-biggest loss at the Gabba, after the tourists crashed by 384 runs there in 2002.
Johnson, the match of the man, finished with five for 42 in the second innings and nine wickets for 103 for the match, along with his spirited knock of 64 in Australia’s first innings.
It was Australia’s first Test victory after nine win-less matches. They lost the last Ashes series 3-0 in England in July-August.
“It was obviously a long time between drinks, but the boys are very excited,” said skipper Michael Clarke.
“A good victory. A lot of hard work has gone into preparation … we’ve been preparing since losing the series in England. But we know England will come back harder.”
Alastair Cook’s dismissal for 65, six balls after play resumed following a heavy afternoon hailstorm, signalled the end for England.
The England skipper tried to cut spinner Nathan Lyon, only to edge to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, exposing his team’s tail-end to the fired-up Australian bowlers.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior followed two overs later, caught close in by David Warner off Lyon for four. Stuart Broad (4) and Graeme Swann (0) went in the next over from firebrand Johnson.
Another burst of rain kept the players off the field for 45 minutes and then Chris Tremlett fell to a short ball from Ryan Harris for seven.
James Anderson was the last man to fall, top-edging high into the air for Johnson to take the catch off his own bowling. Joe Root remained unbeaten on 26 off 86 balls.
“It’s just one loss, it’s a five-match Test series so there’s plenty of time to fight back,” Cook said.
“We all need to be honest with each other as a group, it’s not just three players who have had a bad game. We really need to improve if we want to win this series.
“We’ll go away, regroup, be honest with ourselves and come back. We’ve done it before. There won’t be any hiding.”
England looked at one stage as if they might be saved by the weather, when a fierce hailstorm drove the players from the field and an early tea was called with the tourists on 142 for four.
But it was only a brief respite and the relentless Australians pushed on to a well-deserved victory ahead of the second Test starting in Adelaide on December 5.
Kevin Pietersen and Cook had safely negotiated the opening hour of the day. But Johnson struck two balls after the first drinks break, when Pietersen on 26 injudiciously hooked a bouncer straight to backward square leg.
Substitute fielder Chris Sabburg, on for Harris, claimed the catch to a huge roar from the home crowd.
England’s situation worsened when Ian Bell was beaten by Peter Siddle’s extra bounce in the 54th over and edged to Haddin for 32.
Three years ago in Brisbane, Cook frustrated Australia with his unconquered 235 as England saved the match with their second-innings 517 for one after trailing the hosts by 221 on first innings.
England drew that match and went on to win the series 3-1.
But the odds were against them this time. Australia have not lost a Test at the Gabba since 1988 and the tourists would have had to make Ashes history to win. Their previous highest winning fourth-innings Ashes score was 332 for seven in Melbourne in 1928.
The highest winning chase at the Gabba remains Australia’s 236 for seven against the West Indies in 1951.