Cricket: England exploit their morning glory

Australia 118 England 200-3
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It was either the most extraordinary start to an Ashes series in living memory, or the brilliant execution of a carefully hatched plan. Quite probably it was both, as England's pace bowlers blew Australia's much vaunted batting away for 118. Cricket, fantasy or otherwise, doesn't come much more highly charged than this and they'll be talking about that first morning at Edgbaston, well into the next millennium.

But if that was not satisfying enough, an unbroken stand of 150 by Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe has surely extinguished any hope of Australian recovery in this match.

Either way it was the kind of first day Michael Atherton has waited his whole international career for. He'd already warned that the first session was likely to be the most important of the series, and yet even he - his optimism galvanised following England's recent showing in the Texacos - could surely not have dreamt up the scoreboard, as Australia, having won the toss, crawled into lunch on 92-8.

If Mark Taylor had demurred over his decision to bat first, the doubts would have been increased as the first ball of the match from Darren Gough, roared passed his outside edge. Four overs later Gough confirmed them as, he knocked back Matthew Elliott's off-stump with a beauty that cut- into the left hander off the seam. The delivery split the stump, but it would have done far more damage to those in the Australian dressing room watching the slow motion replay.

With his critics queueing up to topple him, Taylor must have felt the pressure ease when he drove Devon Malcolm to the extra cover boundary. The well being it must have brought was short-lived however, and an attempted repeat of the stroke ended up in Mark Butcher's hands at second slip. Taylor has so far faced his knockers with dignity, but they will surely begin to circle in even greater numbers now. Of course, the latest accusation that will be added to their list of crimes is that he misread the pitch. In the last two Tests here the side batting first has lost comfortably.

They have a point, but not an overwhelming one on this occasion, and Australia's demise was as much down to poor batting against fine swing bowling, as it was to do with the Edgbaston pitch, which although two- paced was nowhere near as lethal as two years ago. That said, Gough in particular produced some remarkable deliveries, none more than the one that scattered Greg Blewett's stumps in the 13th over.

Having already removed Mark Waugh with a useful ball that seamed back through the gate to hit off-stump, Gough's jubilation over Blewett was cut short when umpire Peter Willey signalled no-ball. But if the South Australian thought it was to be his lucky day, Gough, without a hint of disappointment, marched back to his mark and promptly removed him next ball. In a way, it was the moment that defined the day, as Gough's renewed self-belief spread rapidly among his team-mates. He later described the ball as "an absolute jaffa", as Blewett's thick edge found Hussain's safe hands at third slip.

At that point, Andy Caddick began to make his presence felt from the Pavilion End. With the cross wind blowing gently into his right ear, Caddick's outswing delivered from wide of the crease proved even more difficult to counter than Gough's darting nip-backers from the other end.

In the past, Caddick has suffered from an inferiority complex completely out of proportion to his considerable talent. But although the transformation probable occurred at Wellington during the winter, his removal of Steve Waugh and Ian Healy, both caught behind off successive balls, supercharged his self belief. There was no hat-trick, but the sound of 19,000 people gasping as the ball whisked past Jason Gillespie's bat, was music to ears.

With Michael Bevan tamely lobbing Malcolm to Mark Ealham in the gully, and Gillespie playing all round a straight one from Caddick, Australia found themselves reeling at 54 for 8, and in danger of recording one of their lowest post-War Test scores.

That was until Shane Warne and Mike Kasprowicz decided to show the early order that runs could be scored by adding 56 in nine overs. Warne in particular looked every inch a batsman, flicking and clipping adeptly off his legs as he contributed a vital 47.

But just as it looked like the pair might give their team something to bowl at, Kasprowicz gave Butcher his second catch at slip. Eight runs later Warne followed, caught by Malcolm at third man.

When England batted, the sun had undoubtedly rid the pitch of its occasional sideways movement. Even so, the new ball still showed signs of variable bounce and Atherton was undone by one that lifted sharply to take the shoulder of his bat. Butcher, a satisfying debut in the slips, did not fair quite as well with the bat as Kasprowicz angled one across him that found the edge. At 16 for 2, the home side had allowed the Australian bowlers' hackles to rise and for the first time since play started a hush fell over Edgbaston.

England teetered further when Alec Stewart skied a pull shot off Gillespie. But if the Aussie elements in the crowd were tempted to break into a round of "ere, ere we go..." Hussain and Thorpe quickly dispelled them with a batting display as thrilling to watch as it was crucial to England's cause.

In a flurry of memorable pulls and sweetly timed drives 100 was added in 22 overs. Indeed the only blemish was when Thorpe was put down by Bevan at square leg off Gillespie, who later retired with a pulled hamstring which may prevent him bowling today.

It was a mistake soon forgotten though, as Hussain, cutting and driving Warne at will, added some filigree icing to a most momentous day's cricket. A day England will rightly come to cheerish, but only after the demolition has been completed.

11-1

Elliott b Gough 6

15-2

Taylor c Butcher b Malcom 7

26-3

M Waugh b Gough 5

28-4

Blewett c Hussain b Gough 7

48-5

S Waugh c Stewart b Caddick 12

48-6

Healy c Stewart b Caddick 0

48-7

Bevan c Ealham b Malcolm 8

54-8

Gillespie lbw Caddick 4

110-9

Kasprowicz c Butcher b Caddick 17

118

Warne c Malcolm b Caddick 47

Edgbaston scoreboard

Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First innings

*M A Taylor c Butcher b Malcolm 7

(24 min, 16 balls, 1 four)

M T G Elliott b Gough 6

(18 min, 13 balls, 1 four)

G S Blewett c Hussain b Gough 7

(35 min, 15 balls)

M E Waugh b Gough 5

(23 min, 25 balls, 1 four)

S R Waugh c Stewart b Caddick 12

(31 min, 20 balls, 3 fours)

M G Bevan c Ealham b Malcolm 8

(31 min, 21 balls, 1 four)

I A Healy c Stewart b Caddick 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

J N Gillespie lbw b Caddick 4

(13 min, 8 balls, 1 four)

S K Warne c Malcolm b Caddick 47

(62 min, 46 balls, 8 fours)

M S Kasprowicz c Butcher b Caddick 17

(43 min, 28 balls, 3 fours)

G D McGrath not out 1

(9 min, 3 balls)

Extras (w2 nb2) 4

Total (150 min, 31.5 overs) 118

Fall: 1-11 (Elliott) 2-15 (Taylor) 3-26 (M Waugh) 4-28 (Blewett) 5-48 (S Waugh) 6-48 (Healy) 7-48 (Bevan) 8-54 (Gillespie) 9-110 (Kasprowicz) 10-118 (Warne).

Bowling: Gough 10-1-43-3 (nb3 w2) (8-1-18-3, 2-0-25-0); Malcolm 10-2- 25-2 (4-1-9-1, 3-0-10-1, 3-1-6-0); Caddick 11.5-1-50-5 (nb2) (one spell).

Progress: 50: 91 min, 19 overs. Lunch: 92-8 (Warne 31, Kasprowicz 9) 26 overs. 100: 132 min, 28 overs. Innings closed: 2.07pm.

ENGLAND - First innings

M A Butcher c Healy b Kasprowicz 8

(16 min, 13 balls, 2 fours)

*M A Atherton c Healy b McGrath 2

(10 min, 4 balls)

A J Stewart c Elliott b Gillespie 18

(51 min, 33 balls, 3 fours)

N Hussain not out 80

(213 min, 152 balls, 13 fours)

G P Thorpe not out 83

(167 min, 141 balls, 11 fours)

Extras (lb3 w1 nb5) 9

Total (for 3, 230 min, 56 overs) 200

Fall: 1-8 (Atherton) 2-16 (Butcher) 3-50 (Stewart).

To bat: J P Crawley, M A Ealham, R D B Croft, D Gough, A R Caddick, D E Malcolm.

Bowling: McGrath 14-3-57-1 (nb4) (5-2-14-1, 9-1-43-0); Kasprowicz 15- 3-38-1 (nb2 w1) (7-0-24-1, 4-1-12-0, 4-2-2-0); Gillespie 10-1-48-1 (nb1) (5-1-22-1, 5-0-26-0); Warne 14-3-44-0 (3-1-12-0, 11-2-32-0); Bevan 2-0- 10-0, S Waugh 1-1-0-0 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 58 min, 13.1 overs. Tea: 74-3 (Hussain 23, Thorpe 18) 19 overs. 100: 114 min, 26.1 overs. 150: 157 min, 36 overs. 200: 220 min, 53 overs.

Hussain's 50: 135 min, 95 balls, 7 fours.

Thorpe's 50: 84 min, 67 balls, 8 fours.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and P Willey.

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