The 2019 Ashes series is off and running with the visitors recording a thumping victory over the hosts and favourites England. It's a good start to the most hyped series in international Test cricket as the five days witnessed a gripping contest between bat and ball where the brilliance of Steve Smith proved too much for the Joe Root-led side.
With this loss, England find themselves in the unenviable position of having to fight back from a trailing position to regain the Ashes. On the other hand, it has reassured the Australians, going through a tough phase in Test cricket, that they are back to being a highly-competitive side.
As dust settles at Edgbaston ground where England suffered their first Test loss since 2001, it's time to look at what made Tim Paine's side victors. Here is a brief summary of the five biggest factors in shaping the outcome of the first Ashes Test.
Smith, Smith, Smith
At 122/8 in their first innings, the thought of even winning the match would have been distant in the minds of Australian fans. Winning by 251 runs, the eventual result, would have been beyond the imagination of the most optimistic Aussie. The reason for this turnaround is simply one man – Steve Smith. Returning from a year-long ban for ball-tampering, Smith showed that his hunger for runs and appetite for batting long has only been intensified by his exile. It wasn't just the first innings where he rescued his side. In the second also, they were three down while still trailing by 15 runs. To take his team from that position to one of invincibility was incredible. Bowlers around the world, beware!
Losing any of your frontline bowlers after he has bowled just four overs in the first innings is very troubling. To lose your best bowler is an outright kick to the guts. That's what England suffered on the very first day as James Anderson went off the field with an injury that eventually prevented him from bowling anymore. While Broad and Woakes combined well in the first innings, it is reasonable to assume that Anderson might have been way more effective in troubling the Aussie batsmen. Without him, England were severely handicapped.
England had asked for the batch of balls which were used last summer against Indian and Pakistan to be used this year as well. They expected the red cherries to swing as much in 2019 as they did in 2018. But the conditions weren't the same, especially, the pitch was much less green than last year's tracks. As a result, the batsmen didn't have much to worry them after the new ball had the shine off. This negated England's home advantage and proved very suitable to Australia.
Moeen Ali's bowling has been superb since he came back into the English Test side last year during the fourth Test against India. But in this match, when the conditions were perfectly in his favour and he was given the job of being the leading wicket-taker, the off-spinner floundered badly. He bowled poorly and allowed the Australians to pile on the agony. How deadly he could have been was revealed by the delivery that clean bowled Paine. It was a classical off-spinner's ball that pitched outside the off stump and spun sharply to hit the sticks. If only Ali had bowled that line consistently, things could have been very different. Nathan Lyon proved the effectiveness of spin on this wicket on the final day. Moeen proved innocuous just a day before.
Australia batting first after winning the toss was also a very big factor in their win. The pressure of chasing a score and getting a lead beyond it has proven to be too tough for England in recent years. The same thing happened here. Despite the hundred from Rory Burns, the team failed to bat Australia out of the game in the first innings. Last year, their only defeat to India also came in a match where they batted second. They are just not used to fighting hard when taking on a decent first-innings total.