They were soon 29 for four, with only helpful contributions from Haseeb Hameed, Pope and Jos Buttler taking them to 147 – but none could go on against Australia’s relentless attack. Even on a green pitch under cloudy skies, that feels plenty under par.
Rain prevented England bowling in the final session after being dismissed in 50.1 overs on the stroke of tea.
Junior batter Pope was asked to front up to the media after a tough opening day during which Root – who made one of three England ducks – was facing questions over his decision at the toss and team selection, with both James Anderson and Stuart Broad left out of the XI.
In stark contrast, Australia’s new captain Pat Cummins took five wickets in an outstanding display from his bowlers.
“It obviously wasn’t the end result we wanted but we’re not going to get too down about it now, both teams have got to bat on this wicket,” said Pope.
“It was a disappointing start especially, so there was frustration that we haven’t been able to put on the big score we wanted. The pitch did offer a fair bit early, especially off the seam so we are frustrated as a unit.
“It’s a long tour, a long series and we’re going to keep the spirits high and come out fighting tomorrow.”
Pope felt England’s troubles were a combination of rust – England’s practice cricket was wrecked by rain – and good bowling, but believes batting could become more difficult as the game progresses.
“Looking at the wicket, it did offer today and wasn’t the easiest to score on,” he said. “You don’t know with wickets until both teams have batted on them. I think this pitch gets quicker and keeps carrying.
“It was quite tacky so it made some dents in the middle of the wicket. It’ll be interesting if that opens up. We’ve definitely got the skill set in our bowlers to drag it back and go big second dig.”
Pope is confident that Burns, his Surrey captain, will not be laid low by his sixth duck of 2021. A nervy shot saw Burns fall over to the offside and be bowled behind his legs in a dramatic opening.
“Obviously it wasn’t the ideal start, but I know what Burnsy is like and he’s a competitor,” said Pope. “He’ll come back fighting.”
Starc was left confused by England’s decision to leave out Anderson and Broad. Anderson is 39, has had a calf niggle, and England want him fit for the Second Test at Adelaide (where he has a strong record), while Broad has not played since August due to a torn calf.
Still, it was a big call to leave both out for an attack of Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood and Jack Leach, given they have 1,156 Test wickets in 315 matches between them. Anderson and Broad mucked in for England, running the drinks, and will have a role to play coaching the seamers tomorrow.
“I’m not sure if you told anyone a couple of days ago that was going to happen that they would have believed you,” Starc said. “To take 300 Test matches and 1,000 wickets out of their side is pretty interesting. I’m glad I don’t have to pick any sides, let alone that one, or tap those two on the shoulder and let them know they’re not playing.’