It was presented as ‘the ultimate Test’ – a battle between the sport’s two recent powers to prove who reigns supreme, at a more fair, neutral venue.
But not only did Australia push into a World Test Championship-winning position on day one, they sent a message to their English hosts about the upcoming Ashes series.
The Poms were left concerned after Travis Head’s dashing 146 not out and Steve Smith’s strong second-in-command performance left the Aussies 3-327 at stumps.
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The question then is whether Australia is the true master of the English summer conditions – even though this unique Test is being played earlier than most on the Isles.
Smith notches up 95 not out on Day One! | 02:50
“Forget Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head is the batsman England should fear,” The Telegraph’s Tim Wigmore wrote.
“For all the alacrity with which he scored, there was nothing reckless in Head’s approach. It was simply a continuation of the method that has turned him into one of the most feared counter-attackers in the world game.
“Head has now scored six Test hundreds; five have come with a strike rate of at least 78. This was his first outside Australia — adding to the sense that, aged 29, he is a cricketer primed for his moment.”
Head, the player of the series in the 2021-22 Ashes, prompted English skipper Ben Stokes to say recently: “He was so hard to bowl to in Australia when we were there last time.
“He just threw counterpunches, and those innings he played against us were really hard to bowl to, really hard to set fields to.”
The Guardian’s Andy Bull suggested the match added “further intrigue” to the Ashes.
He believed many of the English in attendance would’ve gone in fascinated by the neutral venue blockbuster; and left concerned about the Aussies.
Head and Smith combine to dominate WTC | 01:57
“There is a steeliness to this Australian team, Travis Head seized the day with a flurry of runs, 146 at almost a run-a-ball, while Steve Smith dug in at the other end to end the day five short of a century,” Bull wrote.
“Soon enough, it was all feeling a little ominous, for India, yes, and – one eye on the Ashes – for England too.
“So the tenor of the crowd was a little different on the way out, still contented, despite the day’s frustrations, and the chatter full of intrigue and speculation about what will happen next, in the days ahead and on to the summer beyond.”