CARDIFF: England beat the odds and Australia by 169 runs to surprisingly win the first Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens on Saturday, inside four days.
The Australians began the day needing an Ashes-record and improbable 412 to win with plenty of time, but were all out for 242 in 71 overs, an hour after tea.
The visitors were favored as the Ashes holders, and riding high from a Cricket World Cup triumph, sweep of the West Indies in the Caribbean, and comfortable warm-up wins.
But they were out-played on a slow pitch, out-led, and made to pay for errors by an England side which rebounded from a heavy defeat to New Zealand at Leeds in its last test.
The result was emphatic and key: The winner of the first Test has won 15 of the last 17 Ashes series, including the last five.
Australia’s chase turned on the stroke of lunch, when David Warner was out leg-before to off spinner Moeen Ali for 52.
Instead of reaching the break at 97-1 with a partnership purring between Warner and Smith at 4.6 runs per over, Australia was dealt a double blow, on the scoreboard and psychologically.
A bolstered England extended lunch for another seven overs by devouring world No. 1-ranked Test batsman Steve Smith, Captain Michael Clarke, and Adam Voges.
Smith met a lifter from fast bowler Stuart Broad and steered it to Ian Bell in the slips. After averaging 97 for more than a year, Smith scored a pair of 33s in Cardiff.
If that felt like the match was as good as over for Australia, it felt certain four overs later.
Clarke took until his 12th ball to get off the mark with a boundary off Broad to fine leg, then was out next ball hitting Broad straight to Ben Stokes at backward point.
Voges went in the next over, going after fast bowler Mark Wood outside off stump and nicking behind for 1.
At that point, Australia lost 4-9 in 36 balls.
Ali came back for a third spell, and immediately snaffled up Brad Haddin, whose big cover drive was juggled at short midwicket by England captain Alastair Cook, who caught it falling backward. Haddin was out for 7 at 122-6.
All-rounder Shane Watson didn’t have enough support to chase down the target, but he needed a big score to justify his place in the team after keeping out the in-form Mitch Marsh. The odds did not favor Watson.
His highest second-innings score away from home was 65 against New Zealand in Hamilton five years ago, and he didn’t come close.
He endured for 58 balls before Wood got him for 19, lbw for the second time in the test.
It was the 29th time in 59 tests Watson was out lbw, and the fifth time he’s done it twice in a Test.
Bowler Mitchell Johnson resisted for his fifth Ashes half-century, and managed to force Cook to spread the field.
But on 77, he and partner Mitchell Starc, on 17, fell after tea to innocuous deliveries by part-time spinner Joe Root, with catches close to the wicket by the quick-reacting Adam Lyth.
Root caught out the last man, Josh Hazlewood, giving Ali 3-59 and five wickets in the match. Broad earned 3-39, and Wood took the other two wickets.
The second Test starts on Thursday at Lord’s.