Bairstow’s catch sums up shock of the old with Bazball England
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Mark Wood produced a thrilling spectacle across three spells, with all members of England’s Unforgiven contributing

Jonny Bairstow’s celebration was probably the most memorable part of the match, the ball clamped in the outer webbing of his right glove, legs splayed, arms wide. England’s wicketkeeper roared triumphantly for a few moments like a life-sized gingerbread man.

The liver-spotted hand gripping at Australia’s elbow every time they appeared to be easing clear was perhaps the highlight of England’s oldest ever five-man bowling attack – combined age: 180 years.

The liver-spotted hand gripping at Australia’s elbow every time they appeared to be easing clear was perhaps the highlight of England’s oldest ever five-man bowling attack – combined age: 180 years.

With the shadows beginning to lengthen, Bairstow dropped through a previously invisible trapdoor in the Old Trafford turf to scoop Mitchell Marsh’s low outside edge from Chris Woakes. The bowler took four wickets and was once again a model of craft and determination.

Bairstow had spent the day clanging his cymbals behind the stumps. In those long afternoons in the high summer sun, the great Les Ames used to keep wicket with a piece of rump steak in each glove to soften the impact of ball on palm. I see Bairstow has a packet of frozen chicken escalopes in his hand.

It was also a reminder of the unwavering, surprisingly tenacious quality of England’s old and very old hands in the current paradigm-shifting period.

Bazball is a new game. There’s nothing punkish about Bazball. Your ossified certainties will be debunked by Bazball. As well as being a great cathartic time, Bazball also features a lot of grizzled mid-30s guys shaking off their scars and tossing everything onto the fire while the show is still on. It’s time for the shock of the old.

Ben Stokes speaks a lot about feelings, energy, and the dream of creating the perfect stand-alone sporting drama from the Ashes. It has also felt like the start of a late summer blaze, a buildup to a bravura finale.

Jimmy Anderson

Stokes is 32 and basically held together by nails, string, and pieces of old deckchairs. There are 33 years left in Bairstow’s life. Woakes is 34 years old. This summer, Stuart Broad turned 37 and took his 600th Test wicket here, still bowling with fire, still delivering the same oddly compelling fast-medium beanpole from the boundary of his earliest days. Every member of England’s oldest attack contributed to restricting Australia to 299 for eight on another pivotal day in this ever-evolving summer.

Jimmy Anderson’s story has an end, but it’s not quite over yet. In 17 tight wicketless overs, he didn’t seem to lose any energy, but there was a sense that he wasn’t quite Jimmy Anderson.

Same lines, same angles, same coiled twang, same easy action. However, the final result lacks that familiar malevolent snaking intelligence on the ball in flight, the sense of Anderson’s fingers still in place as it veers towards his latest victim, giving it a flick, some zip, a late swerve. Anderson still has one more innings to bowl. However, he seems to be running through evening sunlight these days.

Wood was a thrilling spectacle over three spells and an integral part of this attack from a tactical standpoint. There is no doubt that he is a marvel of will, conditioning, and technique. In his mid-30s, this bowler has gotten quicker, and he is likely the fastest bowler England has ever had at 33. The second ball he threw here was 91 mph. In this instant, pre-mixed pace, a sense of menace is instilled in the run-up before launching into the catapult moment, his front leg planted, knee splayed back, angle twang, he spins over that anchor point with a snap of the back and whip of his right arm, accelerating his bowling hand from hip height down to his toes.

It is a combination of serious athletic talent and long-suffering technical refinement. A ripple effect occurs when Wood swings the ball too, all aspects of the game are heightened, batters at both ends are on edge.

Moeen Ali, the final member of England’s Unforgiven, has gone one step further. Despite having already retired and looking forward to doing so again three weeks from now, this Test cricketer still appears to be at the heart of England’s burnitalldown plans (aged 36).

During the mid-afternoon session, Moeen bowled with serious revs, dipping and turning the ball, testing your length and line. The rest of the time, he bowled absolute filth, mixing half-volleys with full bungers to keep the batters on their toes. Could this be a new Bazball strand? Declaratory bowling on the first day? Nevertheless, Moeen ripped enough deliveries, beating Marnus Labuschagne’s forward prod at the end.

With some late swing and nip from Woakes, England’s dad-squad attack had carried the opening day thanks to that moment of defiant athleticism behind the stumps. It is likely they will be here for a good time rather than a long time, like late-stage Test cricket itself. Despite this, we are already on the verge of another decisive finish in this game.