If there was any doubt that Australia were the one to beat in the upcoming Ashes series, all hope was extinguished in the third Ashes test at the Gabba when England’s top order collapsed under the weight of danger. James Anderson took two wickets for four runs, then Stuart Broad cashed in by taking two for 13 as England chased, only to end up in the bottom half of the pack. Anderson made it clear he was never in any position to provide the kind of support that Ben Stokes, like Chris Woakes, did for England in the first two tests. Prior to Anderson’s two wickets, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali were hopelessly out of sorts, let alone substitute for the dangerous Stokes. In his next over, Anderson had Joe Root back in the pavilion, before dismissing Alastair Cook on the final ball of the day. England never really recovered.
For the Gabba, the Test represented a fascinating debut for acting coach Alan Butcher. Butcher, the former Test opening batsman, captained England in the infamous Headingley Test of 1981. Butcher was sent packing for his brash defiance, on the advice of Yorkshire chairman and former Yorkshire captain Michael Collins. Butcher later said Collins was convinced that Butcher was “playing for keeps” and therefore setting the team up for failure. Butcher said he was dismissed by an email from Collins, which said, in part, “he had to drop Tubby Butcher.”
Shelly-Ann Daly, Roy Maynard and Dennis Lillee were not so quick to promote Buttler, who went on to make 83 not out in England’s first innings, and ended the day on 28. Neither was Sydney Cowan, who fell for 17. England’s total after two sessions of play was 239. Australia got closer but still seem to have the upper hand.
In Canberra, Michael Dokes, the teenage number six at the Gabba, threw his hat into the ring for Australia’s selection for the Ashes series. After making just three runs in his last four first-class matches at grade level, Dokes gave the Australian selectors something to think about. He led Australia to a commanding victory over a Group 1 New South Wales XI in a three-day match. In his first hit out, Dokes made 27, then pounded around the ground and raised his bat to the crowd as he fell. In the 11 overs he spent at the crease on Saturday, Dokes struck six fours and a six, and looked ready to shine with the big boys.
“Our batting coach Heath Mills, he was the first guy to ring me and tell me about the contract I had to be a number six, and what it would involve,” Dokes told Fox Sports before the match. “Everyone’s tough — there’s a lot of pressure on. Being number six is no different to anything else — it’s tough.”
Australia currently have four vacant spots in their opening XI in Ashes contention. Cutting Jones and Harris could be available, as could England-born Callum Ferguson, the world number 99-ranked bowler. Phillips, also a true long shot at 100th in the world, said before he played against New South Wales, he was a former batting coach who would like to sample action that “feels and sounds like a bat.”