A late Peter Siddle brace gave Australia the upper hand at the end of day one of the first Ashes Test at Cardiff. Andrew Flintoff and Matt Prior had put on 86 in just 15.5 overs before Siddle removed them both on the stroke of stumps – England ended the day on 336-7.
England captain Andrew Strauss won the toss, and chose to bat – hoping that the selection of two spinners would come into their favour come days 4 and 5. Australia took the shock selection to drop Stuart Clark and to play both Ben Hilfenhaus and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz.
Alastair Cook fell in a lapse in concentration – and to a great catch too. Pushing at a ball off Hilfenhaus around a foot wide of his off stump, Michael Hussey was the great full recipient of a superb catch diving to his right.
The bowling of Mitchell Johnson and Siddle imparticular was very encouraging for Australia. Both got some early life out of the pitch, Strauss’ dismissal a short ball that climbed on him from Johnson that he could only fend to Michael Clarke.
Ravi Bopara’s dismissal showed his inexperience. After struggling during the morning session – being hit in the throat of Siddle and suriving chipping a slower ball just over the in field. It was another Johnson slower ball that did for the Essex batsman. You would hope that his scores against the West Indies are a sign of his quality – rather than the lack there of, of the opposition. But Bopara looked uncomfortable throughout on one of the more passive pitches that we will play on this series.
At lunch England were 97/3 – The Australians the happier of the two sides going into lunch – England with work to do in their first innings.
In the afternoon session Australia turned to spin, in the form of Nathan Hauritz and Michael Clarke. Despite the odd miss-sweep from Pietersen England looked comfortable, with scoreboard ticking along – albeit slowly – England were just glad to gain regroup after losing wickets regularly in the first session.
Hauritz struggled – but first day is always going to be difficult – even on a pitch that will ultimately offer spin for the bowlers. Ricky Pontings inability to keep a hold on the game was apparent, boy how he misses Shane Warne right now.
Pietersen survived a huge LBW shout of Ben Hilfenhaus. But it was Collingwood who was first to fall, snicking Hilfenhaus to wicket keeper Brad Haddin, who took a confidence boosting catch diving away to his right after two similar drops in the warm up game at new road. The partnership worth 138.
Pietersen fell soon after, pre-meditating a sweep of Hauritz to a ball that was far too wide to sweep, the result edge clipped his helmet before balooning up to Simon Katich at short leg.
Andrew Flintoff and Matt Prior began the rebuilding work, playing agressively against the spin before the new ball, and the seamers after it. Matt Prior raced along to 50 from 54 balls as the pair kept the run-rate ticking over rather nicely.
But Siddle’s late spell just before the end of the game accounted for both of them – Flintoff dragging on and a lovely in swinger to remove Prior. Australia ended the day the happier side after being asked to field, needing only three more England wickets in the morning.
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