All of England's Ashes dreams turned to dust last night. It did not mean the session, the match or the series were lost but it was still the worst possible start for the tourists as their captain, Andrew Strauss, was out to the third ball in the first Test.
After all the weeks of preparation and talking about the prospects of success his dismissal handed the immediate advantages, both psychological and actual, to Australia. If the destiny of the Ashes is indeed shaped early in proceedings it was a seminal moment.
Before the opening session of this long awaited event was done, there was to be further trouble for England. They had recovered after a fashion despite clear signs of nerves, when Jonathan Trott pushed forward in Shane Watson's first over and was bowled between bat and pad as the ball swung in.
England had won the toss and Strauss wasted no time in opting to bat. The pitch looked to be in impeccable state, those seeing it at close quarters suggesting it would become quicker. The overhead conditions suggested there may be some encouragement for the fast bowlers with the new ball and so it proved.
Strauss had safely negotiated the first two balls of the over. There was to be no repeat of Stephen Harmison's first delivery of four years ago which infamously started wide, went wider and ended in the hands of second slip. Strauss merely shouldered arms and the ball from Ben Hilfenhaus passed safely through to the wicketkeeper.
The second ball was also dealt with conventionally, pushed defensively into the slip cordon. And then disaster. Hilfenhaus bowled just outside off stump with the ball shaping in to Strauss. He decided to cut it hard, clearly anxious to impose his will on Australia early, to show the manner in which England intended to defend the Ashes.
But it was much too close for the stroke and Strauss had no control over the ball's trajectory. It flew in the air directly to Mike Hussey in the gully. It went hard and at head height but Hussey pouched the catch comfortably. England's captain was patently distraught, and tapped the side of his helmet, the disbelief at his error on display to the world as he turned towards the pavilion from which he had emerged only three minutes earlier.
Immediately, it left England with a huge rebuilding job. The ball was swinging just enough to keep them honest and nerves, though understandable, were etched on the faces of Alastair Cook and Trott.
It did not prevent Trott from displaying some deliberate aggression and he was quick to pounce on anything which gave him the chance to pull. He survived the first referral of the series after being given not out leg before to Peter Siddle. Australia asked for the review but replays showed the ball was merely shaving leg stump, so the decision stood.
It proved only to be a brief stay of execution. Trott was replaced by Kevin Pietersen, who was greeted with a chorus of sustained booing from the full house.Reuse content