The winter passes and the summer arrives. Today at the Gabba, there was certainly a sweet summer breeze that swept through the Australian side. The newly determined touring English team were torn apart by a Victorian woodchopper. In the traditional Victorian fast bowler mould, Peter Siddle just kept coming and coming at the English batsman with exceptional work-rate. Since coming back from his stress-frature, Siddle has been bowling a fuller length. In front of a packed stadium, Siddle’s change of length was on full display. On his birthday, Siddle claimed a career best 6 wicket haul with a superb hatrick included. It is only the 5th time a bowler has taken a hatrick in an Ashes series. He now joins the great Shane Warne on that list, not bad company.
Earlier in the day, Andrew Strauss sent a clear message of intent towards the Australians when he elected to bat. Once a reluctant leader, Strauss has found a determined streak which is invitingly appealing, even to the most patriotic of Australian supporters. Unfortunately for the Captain, he went third ball trying to cut a rising new ball from Ben Hilfenhaus. Hilfenhaus and Siddle toiled well in their first spells but struggled to bowl a consistent line. England’s number three, Jonathan Trott, looked comfortable against Australia’s opening bowlers and the erratic Mitchell Johnson. He looked organised and waited for the odd ball to stray to his pads. On the other end, Alistair Cook seemed content on just occupying the crease while Trott scored somewhat freely. Shane Watson then produced a lovely cutter that sneaked past Trott’s bat and pad, hitting the stumps. Kevin Pietersen strutted out to the crease and received a cold reception from the Brisbane crowd. He and Cook reached lunch with little difficulty. However, Xavier Doherty bowled his first spell in Test cricket with resounding confidence and aggression. He managed to spin the ball with great affect, surprising not only the English batsman but most of Australian viewers. Although, at lunch, Pietersen was looking in ominous touch. His foot work and determined concentration resembled the 2005 KP.
The first half-hour after lunch, the Australian attack looked disorganised and ill-directed. Johnson continued to bowl with little penetration or aggression, while Hilfenhaus failed to make the batsman play for the most part. Just when Pietersen looked set for a massive score, Siddle struck with a ball that dragged Peterson forward. Siddle collected his first of many for the day, and Ponting got his man. Pietersen caught by Ricky for an impressive 43. As the old saying goes, one wicket can turn into two. Siddle swiftly dismissed the normally stubborn Paul Collingwood with a similar ball to that of his first wicket. The game suddenly swung Australia’s way. Ian Bell joined Cook in the middle, and the two negotiated their way to Tea with, again, little difficulty. Cook continued to be patient and wait for the short ball to flick away while Bell presented a confident and assured look, one in which Australian’s have rarely seen.
For much of the first day of the first Test, the game was in the balance. Australia would strike then the English would develop a comfortable partnership. Shortly after tea, Ponting tossed the red pill to the bustling Victorian. For once the Australian selectors seemed to have picked the right man. Siddle got the nod over Dougy Bollinger. One man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune. Siddle’s purely magical spell began with dismissing the plucky Cook. Cook was caught dabbing outside his off-stump, out for 67. Then the wicket-keeper Matt Prior arrived at the crease… and then departed a ball later with his stumps shattered. Broad raced out to bat after some delay, clearly not expecting to bat in such dramatic circumstances. Although, like Prior, he left a ball later after being struck on the pads from a full and straight thunderbolt. Siddle went bang, bang… and yes, bang again. Siddle didn’t bowl anything mind-bobbling or surprising, rather, he stuck to a simple plan throughout the day- keep the ball on a full length on a rather slow Gabba deck. In a space of 3 balls, Siddle erupted a full house and more importantly, placed his country in a commanding position at the end of day one.
Siddle managed another wicket, finishing with superb figures of 6 for 54. The debutant Doherty cleaned up the English with 2 wickets, including the impressive Bell. Bell compiled a composed 76 under intense pressure from the Australians, particularly when his partners seemed to change every time he looked up.
At the end of day one, it was Australia’s and Siddle’s day. The English all out for 260. While Shane Watson and Simon Katich negotiated 7 overs from the English attack finishing on 25. However, the English bowlers will take comfort from what they saw when the Australians managed to bowl the ball at a full length.
There is still plenty more cricket to be played before a result can be called. Can’t wait. The summer is certainly here. For Siddle, all the christmases and summers came at once.