THE BLOG
25/11/2013 12:05 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 05:59 GMT

The Ashes First Test Review: Time to Push the Panic Button?

Just like the rock hard Gabba wicket, England were well and truly rolled in the first ill-tempered test of the 2013/2014 Ashes series.

England's main antagonist in the 381 run loss was Mitchell Johnson. Once a laughing stock who bowled to the left and to the right, this time he mostly bowled at the ribs, fingers and face.

Johnson brought back memories of the 'good' old days when Lillee and his partner in pain Jeff Thompson bowled quick and short; beating touring batsman into submission in front of baying crowds on hard and fast wickets. In fact, Johnson's slingy action has more than a touch of Thommo in it. And just like touring England sides of the early and mid seventies, England had little answer to the onslaught (save give their wickets away cheaply to Nathan Lyon).

This kind of drubbing shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone though. England start tours abysmally - India, New Zealand, The UAE and Sri-Lanka, all resulted in collapses and losses or narrow escapes. Even the 2010 opening sortie of the Australian leg of the Ashes started badly. Unlike 2010 or even India last winter, the most media trained of cricketers couldn't 'find the positives' in the batting. No rear guard. Little fight back, the only exception Cook's half century.

As with many of England's batting led brain fades over the years, the bowlers performed well, particularly in the first innings. Broad's 6 wicket haul was impressive. Stuart Broad is a man powered by unpopularity.

Anderson too was good, with little assistance for his brand of bowling. While Chris Tremlett got wickets and extracted tidy bounce, though was bowling at the pace of Paul Collingwood. A 7ft, hulking Paul Collingwood at that. Swann was as before at the Gabba, expensive.

Despite the margin and nature of the loss, the management are unlikely to push the big red panic button quite yet. This test match could yet be an anomaly.

Johnson is mentally weak and was greatly helped by the pitch. His career has been one of inconsistency, bowling his team to victory one test and losing it for them in the next. It remains to be seen if he can maintain his current form, particularly at the less pacey ground of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

The only pitch likely to play like this is The WACA at Perth. Mitchell Johnson bowled Australia to victory there in 2010 and Australia still lost the Ashes comfortably. He will need to do it at least twice on this tour.

Australia's top order batsman failed in the first innings too. It was only the Haddin and Johnson partnership that saved them. Their batting line up doesn't perform well under scoreboard pressure and don't forget second innings runs and slogging spinners is a lot easier with lots of runs on the board.

It seems to have been forgotten in the Aussie crowing that prior to this test match Zimbabwe and the West Indies had won more tests in 2013 than Australia. The team reaction said a lot about this - a lap of honour for a single test victory. It can't be seen as the resurgence unless they do it a few times more at least.

What next then?

Even if it were panic stations, no other batsmen in the touring party could provide a decent option - Balance and Stokes are highly inexperienced and Root is a far better option than Bairstow down the order at 6.

If any changes are to be made it will likely be the bowlers that pay after the batsman fail. Tremlett could be dropped. He didn't look like the bowler of 2010/2011 and on a flatter pitch he could be mincemeat.

Bresnan will come into contention if fit later in the tour and the extra pace of Rankin or Finn may be risked on quicker pitches.

Panesar should play, particularly in Adelaide, which is now more like Ahmedabad if reports of the new drop in wickets are to be believed.

One thing is for sure, England's batsman cannot afford to have another bad match en-masse. Two-down is pretty insurmountable. They will have to raise their game considerably from the summer in England, let alone from this test against an Australian line up growing in experience and confidence.