Ashes: Siddle hat-trick stuns England on Day 1

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On an opening day of high drama and wonderful theatre, the Ashes lived up to all expectations. Except, that is, for England. For Andrew Strauss’s team, after preparations which were all but perfect, it was a chastening experience as Australia seized the initiative with all their familiar swagger. Things started as badly as they could have done for the tourists and were to grow emphatically worse.

The shock at losing their captain, Andrew Strauss, to the third ball of the series was multiplied by a hat-trick from the Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle which swept them away in the final session. Siddle, on his 26th birthday, had already made incisions earlier in the day and reduced England’s positive preparations for the series to futility.

Having mounted a gritty, if never entirely convincing recovery from 0 for 1, England then went from the relative calm of 197 for four to 197 for seven. Siddle, on his 26th birthday and playing his first Test match for 10 months after a stress fracture of his back, removed Alastair Cook, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad in three balls during a spell of excellent full swing bowling.

Cook had played with characteristic diligence and determination, if not much, élan after the loss of Strauss, who cut the third ball of Ben Hilfenhaus’s opening over to gully. By lunch, England had also lost Jonathan Trott and in mid-afternoon, Kevin Pietersen, who flattered only to deceive, and Paul Collingwood went in successive overs from Siddle.

There followed England’s best period of the day when Cook and Ian Bell shared a partnership for the fifth wicket of 72 from 155 balls. Bell was in sparkling form, easily England’s most superior batsman.

Siddle had Cook edging one to slip that went across him, bowled Prior on the drive and then to the disbelief of the Gabba crowd had Broad lbw with a full straight ball. Broad asked for the verdict to be reviewed but there could be only one outcome. It was the ninth Ashes hat-trick and the first since Darren Gough’s for England in Sydney 11 years earlier.

Bell was ninth out for 75, England were dismissed for 260 in the 77th over, Australia saw out the day without alarm and the Ashes had truly begun.