A day that was meandering at The Gabba until Peter Siddle picked up his hammer and smashed it right up with an Ashes hat-trick on his birthday. Below is a bit of a story of the day, taken from my session-by-session blogs at thewisdencricketer.com.
Close: first Test, day one, Brisbane
Match score: Australia 25 for 0. (Watson 9*, Katich 15*) England 260 (Bell 76, Cook 67)
Session score: England 88 for 6. Australia 25 for 0.
Australia win session and day
Day in six words: Siddle’s birthday hat-trick shatters England
This final session was all about Peter Siddle. No Australian save Shane Warne has taken an Ashes hat-trick in living memory, and Siddle got his by bowling quick, full and straight to the new batsmen – adhering to the basics that underpin all the great quicks.
Matt Prior and Stuart Broad both appeared to play full balls cross-batted, an illusion created when a batsman is so beaten for pace that he over-reacts when the ball is well past him. The delivery that got Prior was reminiscent of that other great moment involving Andrew Flintoff and Brett Lee in 2005, when Lee cleaned up Flintoff as England wobbled at Trent Bridge with a ball that was so quick it was unfair.
With two potentially fragile batting line-ups, quick bowling was always going to be the key to this series. I thought Mitchell Johnson was the man who could run through England, but Siddle has exceeded all expectations on his return to the Australian side, adding to his honesty a cutting edge that he has not previously shown in international cricket.
England’s seamers had talked in the build up about wanting to bowl the full length that bought Siddle success, so it was disappointing to see them drop so short in the final overs. Siddle’s burst is misleading in that their 260 is not a bad total given the collapse, and the form of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell bodes well, but they will have been disappointed not to pass 300. Bell looked a class above the rest of his team, the only worry being that if he continues this form it could necessitate a rejigging of the batting order.
Tea: first Test, day one, Brisbane
Match score: England 172 for 4. (Cook 60*, Bell 26*)
Session score: England 86 for 2. Draw.
Session in six words: Pietersen flatters to deceive once more
A missed opportunity for KP, he got himself set and then got himself out, or was tempted out by a worthy piece of bowling by Peter Siddle if you’d prefer. The worry for KP and England is that the big score he is threatening needs to come before fate and expectation can undermine his confidence again.
Watching Siddle bowl in tandem with Xavier Doherty made me think of Ashley Giles in the 2003-05 period. That is not to denigrate Giles, but a modest spinner will always seem more efficient when the quicks are bowling tight and hostile at the other end. Much has been made of Australia’s struggle to find a spinner since Warne, but some of that uncertainty must be attributed to the constant changes in their seam attack over the same period.
I remember speaking to Siddle during the 2009 series, when he stressed constantly that Australia’s seamers were bowling too many four balls, particularly at Lord’s. Although Mitchell Johnson is having an off-day, Siddle seems to have learned his lesson and was excellent once he pushed his length slightly fuller after lunch.
Lunch: first Test, day one, Brisbane
Match score: England 86 for 2. (Cook 29*, Pietersen 23*)
Session score: England 86 for 2. Draw.
Session in six words: Strauss goes early, Doherty drops clanger
What a kerfuffle. After staying so calm through the pre-series hype, it seemed totally incongruous when Andrew Strauss cut one down Michael Hussey’s throat at gully from the third ball of this Ashes series.
Strauss is in great form, paradoxically the time when he is also at most risk given his tendency to get over-aggressive too early. It’s not the first time he’s thrown it away at The Gabba, remember the two hooks last time round. He needs to knuckle down, England can’t afford him to go the way of 2006-07.
Not much in it for the bowlers here, Australia bowled too short if anything. You have to feel for Xavier Doherty on debut, dropping an absolute sitter at point to reprieve Alastair Cook when he looked set. Kevin Pietersen has 23 off 37 balls, a frenetic innings that almost ended a couple of times due to over-aggression against Doherty before lunch. However many runs he scores KP seems determined not to go unnoticed this series.