Australia Peter Siddle

Peter Siddle (foreground) took a five-for to help restrict England to a paltry 215 in the first innings © Getty Images

By Jaideep Vaidya

Jul 10, 2013
 
On an overcast Day One of the first Test of The Ashes 2013 at Trent Bridge, Australia‘s fast bowlers used the conditions to the tee to bowl England out for 215, before their opponents did exactly the same to reduce the visitors to 75 for four at stumps.

It was a gripping day of Test cricket where the crowd were treated to the fall of as many as 14 wickets. The match was poised at an even 98 for two at lunch after England won the toss and opted to bat first on a pitch that would be difficult to manoeuvre batting last. Australian skipper Michael Clarke remarked that he wouldn’t mind bowling first as it was a bit overcast. However, even he wouldn’t have envisaged what would happen over the three sessions of the first day.
 
The sell-out crowd oohed and aahed as England slumped to 185 for six at tea before being bowled out for a miserable 215, putting the tourists firmly in the driver’s seat. Peter Siddle, Australia’s most experienced bowler with 42 caps in a team of youngsters, was the wrecker-in-chief as he provided England a déjà vu of Brisbane 2010-11, where he took six for 54 on the first day of the first Test, including a hat-trick. Today, he got just five wickets, but they were enough to help bowl England out for 45 runs fewer than what they managed in Brisbane 18 months ago.
 
Siddle (five for 50) perhaps didn’t deserve all of his wickets. At least a couple were gifted to him off loose deliveries to even looser shots from the Englishmen. However, for the deliveries he bowled to dismiss Joe Root — a wonderful, almost rare, out-swinging yorker that got the better of the 22-year-old — and Jonny Bairstow — a gem that angled in and then shaped away, taking the edge on the way — Siddle deserved to take home the match ball.
 
James Pattinson (three for 69) and Mitchell Starc (two for 54) shared the other five English wickets and bowled out their supposedly superior opposition, if pre-match analyses were to be believed, for a total their batsmen and captain would have gladly taken after losing the toss. None of the England batsmen managed a half-century, with Jonathan Trott scoring the highest of 48 before even his unyielding tenaciousness was to be breached by a short and wide Siddle delivery that was deposited in the hands of cover.
 
If England were bad with the bat, Australia were no better. A lot depended on the experience of Shane Watson and Chris Rogers up the order, with Clarke to follow later. However, Steven Finn dismissed Watson and Ed Cowan on successive deliveries, having them caught in the slips, before Clarke just about managed to survive the hat-trick ball. But the Australian captain, who has scored close to 2,000 runs since January 2012, was to succumb soon after to a delivery that is sure to be discussed months after the series ends.

James Anderson loves Trent Bridge. He loves it enough to have taken 39 wickets in six Tests played here prior to this match — two short of Sir Alec Bedser’s record at the venue. He was also one short of passing Fred Trueman’s record of 307 Test victims. However, the absolute monster of a delivery that Anderson produced to get rid of Clarke is one that would have so delighted the two England greats.

The 17,000-odd spectators around the ground did not know what happened; the commentators on the telly had no clue; ten Englishmen, two Australians and two umpires on the pitch were bewildered; probably Anderson himself didn’t realise what he had done amidst all the euphoria. After several replays, it seemed that the ball had zipped in, before swinging out just enough to clip the off-stump.

Whether the cloudy conditions will persist through the five days, we do not know. The track, which is as dry as it can ever be in England, is bound to bake and crumble if exposed to some sunlight. The batsmen from both sides would be consoling themselves saying it cannot get worse than this. That being said, among all the heroics from the bowlers, young Steven Smith’s gritty and extremely confident knock of 38 not out, studded with five fours and a six, that took Australia through to stumps deserves praise. If Australia are to get anywhere close to wiping off their deficit, let alone taking a lead, a lot depends how Smith shapes his innings on Day Two.

England 215 (Jonathan Trott 48; Peter Siddle 5 for 50, James Pattinson 3 for 69) lead Australia 75 for 4 (Steven Smith 38*; James Anderson 2 for 25, Steven Finn 2 for 37) by 140 runs.
 
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(Jaideep Vaidya is a correspondent at CricketCountry. A diehard Manchester United fan and sports buff, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook)