So the oldest and most broken sporting promise of all was kept for once yesterday.
England hit the ground running. To take two opposition wickets without conceding a run at the start of the toughest tour of all is the very embodiment of the expression. Running? They exploded from the blocks in a cloud of Perth dust.
Such a velocity could hardly be maintained throughout the first day of the 2010-11 tour of Australia and as their fast bowler Jimmy Anderson pointed out later, there was also the additional worry to consider of peaking too soon. Andrew Strauss's side – and it was the intended Test team that took the field against Western Australia in the first of three warm-up matches – began spectacularly and eventually had the better of the opening day of three.
Western Australia, who were never allowed to proceed at three runs an over, declared cheekily at 242 for 8 to give England six uncomfortable overs. Alastair Cook started his tour miserably by getting out to his fourth ball. It was a piece of horrible luck as his intended pull rolled from his stomach on to his stumps; opening batsmen have enough conventional difficulties to negotiate without that sort of occurrence. Cook will already feel he needs runs.
After losing the toss on what looked a true, fast, traditional Waca surface, England's primary target was to give all four of their bowlers a thorough workout in unfamiliar conditions. The type of ball was different as was the type of pitch, demanding a different approach to the hard business of taking wickets.
Stuart Broad seemed not to notice that these things were supposed to take a little time. With his fourth ball of the day in the match's second over he persuaded an edge from Liam Davis when the ball bounced slightly more than might have been expected. Graeme Swann pouched the catch low at second slip.
Next ball, Michael Swart was greeted with a shorter ball which he could only fend off with his gloves. Paul Collingwood, running forward from third slip, did the rest. All the talk of tough Aussie cricket and tough Aussie cricketers must have seemed so much bluster to first-time tourists at that moment. Tough? They were falling over and having their tummies tickled.
Before lunch, WA's captain, the Test batsman, Marcus North, the under pressure Test batsman, it should be said, found himself cramped trying to cut Broad and also edged to Swann. Broad was excellent, finding the right length to inflict maximum discomfort and making the batsman play more often than he did not.
Anderson might have had more than the wicket of Luke Pomersbach caught behind but could not complain. The rhythm was not quite as fluent as it might have been. But of England's three seamers, Steve Finn, the least experienced, was the most disappointing. He was too full in his first session and when he was not bowling full tosses, found himself being driven. In his second session he was probably too short.
Finn is learning as he goes and he should not have been disheartened. There is something in the Waca surface for a bowler of his type. It is a question of pitching it right, almost inviting the drive but not allowing batsmen to leave length balls they know will clear the stumps.
As Anderson said: "I'm not sure how much he's bowled in Australia before. He might take a couple of spells, a couple of good spells, to get used to the length he's got to bowl out here, which might be slightly different to the one he bowls in England. We're confident he'll be [fine]."
Wes Robinson, who scored a tenacious half century for WA after watching the early damage from the other end, was also complimentary about Finn whom he thought did not do much wrong except for losing his feet in the delivery stride. Easy to say when you have scored 62 including seven fours and a six.
But Robinson reserved his greatest praise for Graeme Swann who he said bowled with variation of pace and clever drift. No wonder, he said, that Swann was the second best bowler in the world. From a distance greater than Robinson was having to contend with, it looked as though Swann was having one of his less authoritative days.
But Robinson also pointed out that the Waca is never easy for spinners and Swann always went about his work with intelligence. If he starts to get it right he will be a real handful.
All in all then a solid start. None of the bowlers finished wicketless and the fielding too was alert and decisive. Adam Voges, WA's top scorer, used his knowledge of the English bowlers to compile an extremely well-fashioned 72. Middle-order batting looked a breeze when suddenly he set off for a needless single in the afternoon when he pushed one straight to cover.
Paul Collingwood, who had earlier taken a wicket in his first over to remove the troublesome Robinson, had time to take aim and his throw clipped the bails at the non-striker's end with Voges just short.
Swann will have been relieved to have Ryan Duffield caught behind, Finn more so to have Luke Ronchi held at point. England could in truth have asked for no more.
Tour match: Perth (First day of three): England trail Western Australia by 232 runs with nine first-innings wickets remaining
Western Australia won toss
Western Australia First Innings
W M Robinson c & b Collingwood: 62
L M Davis c Swann b Broad: 0
M R Swart c Collingwood b Broad: 0
*M J North c Swann b Broad: 19
A C Voges run out (Collingwood): 72
L A Pomersbach c Prior b Anderson: 21
†L Ronchi c Anderson b Finn: 32
S J Magoffin not out: 17
R Duffield c Prior b Swann: 3
M A Beer not out: 2
Extras (lb 12, nb 2): 14
Total (8 wkts dec, 82 overs): 242
Fall: 1-0, 2-0, 3-42, 4-129, 5-183, 6-187, 7-225, 8-230.
Did not bat: M G Hogan.
Bowling: J M Anderson 22-6-48-1, S C J Broad 18-5-47-3, S T Finn 19-3-65-1, G P Swann 20-4-60-1, P D Collingwood 3-0-10-1.
England First Innings
*A J Strauss not out: 5
A N Cook b Magoffin: 5
J M Anderson not out: 0
Total (1 wkt, 6 overs): 10
To bat: K P Pietersen, I R Bell, I J L Trott, P D Collingwood, M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn.
Bowling: R Duffield 3-1-6-0, S J Magoffin 3-2-4-1.
Umpires: I H Lock & J D Ward.
19 Days To The Ashes
19: England off-spinner Jim Laker took 19 wickets for 90 runs against Australia at Old Trafford in 1956, the highest amount taken by a bowler in a first-class match.Reuse content