Wednesday 10 July 2013 

First Test Evenly Poised After Bowlers' Day

Peter Siddle continued his trend of starting Ashes series well by taking five wickets at Trent Bridge.
© REUTERS/Action Images
 

England 215 (Siddle 5-50) v
Australia 75-4 (Anderson 2-25)
First Test, Trent Bridge, day one

England’s pace-bowlers made up for the failings of their batsmen to leave the first Test evenly poised after day one at Trent Bridge. They reduced the visitors to 75 for four after they themselves had struggled to 215.

Nervousness was the overriding theme of the day from the batsmen on both sides. This was allied with some good, although by no means unplayable, seam bowling to mean that 14 wickets fell on the first day of this eagerly-awaited Ashes series.

England won the toss and elected to bat at the start of the day, handing the final place in their bowling attack to Steven Finn at the expense of Tim Bresnan, while Australia surprised many by giving a debut to left-arm spinner Ashton Agar and omitting off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

Australia actually began quite poorly with the ball; James Pattinson starting the series with wide and Peter Siddle bowling a costly opening spell when called on as first change. This gave England a reasonable position at lunch of 98 for the loss of both openers in conditions that favoured bowling first up and should have eased in the second session.

They didn’t and England’s middle-order folded. Peter Siddle was the man who did the damage during an inspired return spell. He had bowled Joe Root with a full ball in the first session and almost immediately had Kevin Pietersen edging through to Michael Clarke upon the resumption.

Jonathan Trott looked in good touch but perhaps got a little too carried away and played at a wide ball that he would normally have left alone and dragged onto his stumps. Nonetheless, his 48 would be the day’s highest score.

Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow then attempted the rebuild and re-established a position of respectability. However, Bell poked nervously at Siddle and Matt Prior slapped him to cover to give the Victorian a five-wicket haul.

Stuart Broad then led a brief counter-attack, but the defining moment of his innings was the blow he took to his troublesome right shoulder from James Pattinson that prevented him from taking to the field in the evening.

Pattinson had him caught off another short ball soon afterwards, with Bairstow and Steven Finn then following suit without a run being added. The innings ended two runs later with the score on 215 when Graeme Swann lobbed a catch to Phil Hughes on the off-side.

Many of England’s batsmen had been at least partly responsible for their own demise, with Australia’s bowlers not always at their best, as shown by the innings scoring rate of 3.64 per over. Trott was possibly the most culpable, with Bell and Prior also reflecting that they could perhaps have done better.

Australia’s batsmen also betrayed signs of nervousness; it was as if the players on both sides had taken on board the hype that has surrounded them in the days and weeks leading up to today. Shane Watson began with a waft before launching into three decisive drives, but Steven Finn kept his length full and was rewarded with a wicket when a fourth resulted in an edge to Root at third slip.

It was a trend of Australia’s early batsmen to push hard at the ball, with Ed Cowan’s first ball dismissal, driving expansively at a wide delivery epitomising this. Michael Clarke also went hard early and paid the price, although the ball that moved away late from James Anderson and clipped his off-stump wouldn’t have been kept out had he been playing a defensive shot with a barn door.

Chris Rogers displayed the best technique of any of the batsmen on show and has clearly benefited from his time playing Championship cricket for Middlesex. He played the ball a lot later than his top-order counterparts and was only undone by some smart thinking from Anderson.

Having foiled his over-the-wicket line of attack, Anderson switched to round, moving the ball away to the slip cordon. Rogers gradually came across his stumps to counter the swing before a straighter one had him hit on the pads and was adjudged, upon review, to be clipping the leg-stump.

That made it 53 for four and England would have fancied their chances against Steve Smith and Phil Hughes, both of whom they have enjoyed success against in the past. However, Smith took the attack to a tiring pair of seam-bowlers and then lofted Swann back over his head to end up on 38 not out off only 51 balls.

The absence of Broad is a worry for England heading into tomorrow and they will hope their seamers strike early when the skies are still overcast and before the sun shines as it is forecast to do.

© Cricket World 2013

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