Ashes: England suffer crushing opening defeat

England slipped to a dismal 381-run defeat to Australia in Brisbane as the hosts struck a powerful psychological blow early in the Ashes series.

Captain Andrew Strauss (3rd L) of England reacts a

Captain Alastair Cook's defiance extended to almost four and a half hours but it was nowhere near enough to redress a dramatic imbalance in this match which opened up when the tourists lost six first-innings wickets for nine runs as they failed to cope with the pace of Mitchell Johnson.

Cook (65) did his best to narrow the margin. But in pursuit of a notional world-record 561 to win, England could not stop their hosts converting their obvious supremacy into a landslide victory with more than a day to spare as another rush of four wickets for nine runs took hold on the fourth evening.

Johnson (five for 42) was again part of the rampage in England's 179 all out, and he took nine wickets in a match which he finished himself - with a simple caught-and-bowled - to end some late aggravation between the close fielders and last man James Anderson.

England lost just one wicket in each of the first two sessions as Cook dug in to try to engineer another great escape at this venue where Australia are unbeaten in the last 25 years.

He was famously centre stage for more than 10 hours with an unbeaten 235 as England closed out an improbable yet eventually comfortable stalemate here three years ago, on the way to a famous series victory.

But even greater resolve was required this time - and once Cook was gone, caught-behind trying to cut Nathan Lyon from only the second ball he faced after a hail and thunderstorm interrupted play for 90 minutes, it seemed the game was up in this first Test.

So it proved, as an out-of-form Matt Prior again fell cheaply - edging Lyon to leg-slip - and then the tail folded alarmingly again before another downpour merely delayed the inevitable.

Only Kevin Pietersen had buckled before lunch, in his 100th Test, after England resumed on a vulnerable 24 for two.

Michael Clarke surprisingly held back Johnson initially on an overcast morning, in favour of Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris.

Even off-spinner Lyon was given a chance before Australia turned again to the man who so undermined Jonathan Trott in particular here, in both innings.

Pietersen drove Harris for an early four past mid off, and greeted the introduction of Lyon with attacking intent - and nine runs off his first over.

There appeared to be no imminent danger on a viable pitch, as the third-wicket stand went past 50. But Pietersen would be the architect of his own downfall, taking the hook shot on against Johnson and compliantly mistiming it into the hands of substitute fielder Chris Sabburg at long leg.

Cook had seen Trott depart in similar circumstances the previous evening, but if a second self-inflicted loss from a senior batsman frustrated him he did not show it as he channelled all his energies into another attempted rearguard.

He needed ear muffs as well to ignore plenty of pointed advice from Johnson especially as he continued to leave, defend and very occasionally attack with characteristic expertise.

There were just two boundaries in his 50, the second a cut at Johnson from round the wicket to reach the milestone.

Cook had one moment of fortune, shortly after Siddle had found a little extra bounce at the start of a spell to have Ian Bell caught-behind.

The England captain laid back to cut Lyon, on 59, but instead edged head-high past his opposite number at slip - before Clarke could react effectively.

Ultimately, though, it turned out to be the long rain break either side of tea which fatally disturbed his equilibrium and ended his admirable 195-ball stay.

Joe Root could only watch from the non-striker's end as first Cook, Prior and then the wickets of Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to Johnson - caught-behind dashing off side to a bouncer and steering an edge to third slip - swiftly followed.

It is a chastening defeat for tourists who arrived here bidding for a fourth successive Ashes series success, but will now have to do it the hard way.

If there is any consolation, it is perhaps that England do at least have the respite of a low-key tour match in Alice Springs to recover their composure before reporting to Adelaide for the second Test next month.



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