The SportingJournal

England Edge Ahead on Frantic First Day

Ill judgement and fever pitch Ashes nerves are what could best describe the opening day of the first Test match between England and Australia, as both teams failed to capitalise on the pristine batting conditions that the unblemished Trent Bridge pitch had to offer. With 14 wickets falling for the day, it was clear neither team lacked the patience or guile to see off the early swing and settle in for what would have been a run-filled paradise. At the end of the day however, England did themselves justice for their poor batting effort in the first innings, prising out four Australian wickets for a mere 75 runs, as the visitors were left reeling, their captain and talisman batsman Michael Clarke back in the pavilion for nought, his stumps rattled in clinical fashion by an unplayable beauty from James Anderson. It would signal the start for worst to come.

After dismissing home side tamely for 215, it appeared as though Australia’s plans were running smoothly, as none of the England batsmen were allowed to capitalise on whatever starts they had hoped to make. Like in Brisbane during the first Test in the last Ashes series, Siddle proved to be the chief destroyer again for the Aussies, taking five wickets for 50 runs, in the process picking up the key scalps of Trott, Pieterson and Bell. However all of Australia’s hard work in the field went to waste as they came in to bat, with Anderson and Finn providing the carnage. Watson pushed hard at a fuller delivery from Finn in an attempt to bat aggressively, but could only manage a thick outside edge which flew to Joe Root at third slip. Cowan left as quickly as he came, foolishly chasing a wide half volley from that man Finn and edged behind to Prior for a golden duck. It was a mirror image of Alastair Cook’s dismissal in England’s first innings, but this time the repercussions of it would prove to be more severe.

Finn was on a hat-trick, but couldn’t complete it as James Anderson produced an absolute corker to dismiss the Aussie skipper for a duck. It was just unplayable. Pitched full on the middle-to-off stump line then swinging out to clip the top of off, Clarke could only hang his head in utter disbelief as the ball gently disturbed his stumps. Too good. It was just one of those days. As Rogers departed to a confident LBW appeal from Anderson going around the wicket, with replays showing it would’ve clipped the leg stump upon referral, Australia’s entire top order had been demolished and it was now up to Steve Smith and Phil Hughes to resurrect the damage. Smith in particular batted with much flamboyance, lofting Graeme Swann over mid-on for the only six of the day, and was unbeaten on 38. It was perhaps the only consolation Australia could draw from an otherwise wretched day with the bat, as England walked away with their noses now firmly in front.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for England’s batsmen either, as they were made to work hard for their runs too by the Australian pace attack, after winning the toss and electing to bat. However, the bowling was not as potent as the home side’s, and most of England’s batsmen became the architects of their own downfall, either playing at balls that shouldn’t be played, or playing the wrong shot to the wrong delivery. Cook departed in the ninth over, chasing a wide one off Pattinson and edged behind to Haddin. Joe Root seemed jittery early on but soon formed a solid 52 run partnership with Jonathon Trott to prevent any more damage. However, he too departed in the 22nd over, clean bowled by a magnificent yorker from Siddle. The ball swung out at the last second and made a mess of the stumps, leaving them in complete disarray.

Pieterson arrived and decided to make his intentions clear, but poked at one that should have been left alone from Siddle, edging tamely to Clarke at slip. Trott looked the most assured of the England batsmen, completely unruffled by aggressive tactics of the Australian quicks. His arrival to the crease heralded much calm and tranquillity to a jittery England batting line up, and he opened his account with a glorious cover drive off Pattinson. Regularly milking the other fast bowlers through his favoured mid-on region, Trott was quick to latch onto any wayward bowling, and regularly punished the fine leg and mid-wicket boundaries, inducing a multitude of problems for Clarke and friends.

Trott was beginning to look more and more ominous with each sweetly timed stroke but like those before him, decided to force the issue and chopped on to his stumps, playing an expansive drive off a wide Siddle half volley which ricocheted violently onto his wicket. Furious at his lack of judgement, Trott went to bash the disarrayed stumps with his bat, before restraining himself and walked off. He of all the England batsmen had the best opportunity to make the most of the sweet batting conditions at Trent Bridge, but had fallen now for 48, and had greatly minimised England’s chances of posting an imposing score.

Bairstow and Bell helped England limp along to 200, but the regular fall of wickets was not helping the home team’s cause. The former closed the face of his bat on a full length Starc delivery, and was castled comprehensively by sheer pace. Bell edged to Watson off a beautiful outswinger from Siddle, and Prior departed quickly for just one run, slapping a short and wide delivery from the Victorian straight to Hughes at cover. Young debutant Ashton Agar bowled some tidy left arm spin without being too threatening, but there would be no wickets for him in the bank, as Siddle collected another five-for and and Starc and Pattinson chimed in with two and three wickets respectively. Australia left the field with their heads held high as England were dismissed for just 215 in their first innings, but their success would be short lived. The counter-attack from the home side would prove to be just as aggressive and violent, and with cracks already opening up on this Nottingham surface, and with the threat of Graeme Swann looming for day two, Smith and Hughes will have their work cut out as they valiantly attempt to drag the game back Australia’s way.

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