Pietersen and Flintoff's ferocious strokeplay breathes life into series

ENGLAND 407
AUSTRALIA

Yesterday, after another quite remarkable day of Ashes cricket, England looked anything but inadequate. All the fear, all the self-doubt, along with the inability to cope with Australia's star-studded bowling attack, had disappeared, gone, dispatched to the boundary as quickly and effectively as one of the sumptuous extra cover drives Marcus Trescothick played during a belligerent innings of 90.

England's batsmen, led by Trescothick, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, took Australia's bowlers apart. They struck 54 boundaries and 10 sixes in a total of 407, the highest posted by an England side on the first day of a Test since the Second World War.

England were undoubtedly helped by the absence of Glenn McGrath, who tore ligaments in his right ankle in a freak accident before the start of play, and Ricky Ponting's decision to bowl first after winning the toss. But these events should not detract anything from the wonderful cricket England played.

Trescothick, as he often does, set the tone for the day. At times his batting drives you to distraction. His lack of foot movement can make him look like a walking wicket when pitted against the best in the world. But when he strikes the ball as sweetly as he did yesterday he is a joy to watch.

Andrew Strauss scored the first of England's boundaries when he edged Jason Gillespie to the rope at third man in the second over of the day. Trescothick's first scoring shot, a clubbed drive through extra cover, was far more convincing. And just to let Brett Lee know who was in charge, he thumped him through the same area twice more in the same over.

Shane Warne dropped Strauss at first slip off Jason Gillespie, but this piece of good fortune failed to alter England's positive approach. Trescothick also had a couple of slices of luck. He was caught by Matthew Hayden in the gully off a Michael Kasprowicz no-ball and, on two or three occasions, edged the ball through gaps in Australia's slip cordon at a catchable height.

With his fast bowlers failing to offer him any sort of control, Ponting, predictably, turned to Warne. Strauss left the first three deliveries the leg-spinner bowled but he came down the wicket to the fourth and smashed it back over his head for four. Trescothick opted for similar tactics, but his smite landed on the covers at the City End of the ground. That the ball ended up in the guttering, and was handed back to Warne soaking wet, summed up Australia's morning.

It would have been around this time that Ponting started questioning his decision at the toss. The overcast weather, an under-prepared pitch and the memory that Australia had been bowled out here for 118 in similar conditions in 1997 would have influenced his decision, but the conditions were providing his bowlers with no assistance at all.

On mornings like this the seamers should give their team control, yet Warne made the breakthrough when he spun one through Strauss's defence. His departure made little difference to Trescothick, who struck Lee for six over third man and three fours in the final over before lunch.

Vaughan had suggested that England's batsmen would adopt a different tactic here, but even he could not have imagined it would go this well. A power cut hit Edgbaston during the interval but England came out with their batteries charged. Thirty runs were added in the first four overs, and Trescothick and Vaughan brought up their 50 partnership in 35 balls.

They say that scoring runs against Australia is the true sign of greatness and Trescothick looked set to move into that bracket before he wafted weakly at a wide ball from Kasprowicz and offered Adam Gilchrist a simple catch.

Ian Bell, the local boy, arrived to a huge reception and seemed to get caught up in the occasion. He nudged his first ball for two, cut his second ball for four and edged his third through to the keeper.

Pietersen is the sort of character who does not like to miss out on a party and he clipped his first ball imperiously for four. But on seven he lost his captain when he top-edged a pull to fine-leg. When a batsman gets out in this manner on the first day of a Test he can look foolish and Vaughan's departure left England precariously on 187 for 4.

England supporters have been salivating at the prospect of Pietersen and Flintoff batting together and on this occasion they showed just why. Flintoff showed very little sign of making a significant contribution at the start of his innings but, after a couple of tentative prods, he seemed to say "sod it" to himself and launched Warne into the stands. It was a stroke he repeated twice more.

Pietersen seemed happy to play second fiddle, yet he did play one awesome stroke, a top-spin forehand drive through mid-on, which brought back memories of Viv Richards in his pomp.

At times it was difficult to believe that you were watching a Test match, such was the ferocity of the strokeplay.

England scored 157 runs for the loss of three wickets in an absorbing afternoon session, but the crowd's fun ended when Flintoff became Gillespie's 250th Test victim three balls after tea.

Geraint Jones quickly followed, but Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard gave Pietersen support while he set about the bowling. Lee was pulled for six by Pietersen, but he fell attempting to hit England's 10th maximum.

England lost a chance to cap an incredible day with a couple of Australian wickets when rain ended play as the tourists' openers were making their way to the crease.

Edgbaston scoreboard

First day; Australia won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings

M E Trescothick c Gilchrist b Kasprowicz 90

144 min, 102 balls, 15 fours, 2 sixes

A J Strauss b Warne 48

113 min, 76 balls, 10 fours

*M P Vaughan c Lee b Gillespie 24

55 min, 41 balls, 4 fours

I R Bell c Gilchrist b Kasprowicz 6

2 min, 3 balls, 1 four

K P Pietersen c Katich b Lee 71

152 min, 76 balls, 10 fours, 1 six

A Flintoff c Gilchrist b Gillespie 68

74 min, 62 balls, 6 fours, 5 sixes

ÝG O Jones c Gilchrist b Kasprowicz 1

13 min, 15 balls

A F Giles lbw b Warne 23

34 min, 30 balls, 4 fours

M J Hoggard lbw b Warne 16

63 min, 49 balls, 2 fours

S J Harmison b Warne 17

14 min, 11 balls, 2 fours, 1 six

S P Jones not out 19

40 min, 24 balls, 1 four, 1 six

Extras (b0 lb9 w1 nb14) 24

Total (357 min , 79.2 overs) 407

Fall: 1-112 (Strauss) 2-164 (Trescothick) 3-170 (Bell) 4-187 (Vaughan) 5-290 (Flintoff) 6-293 (G Jones) 7-342 (Giles) 8-348 (Pietersen) 9-375 (Harmison) 10-407 (Hoggard).

Bowling: Lee 17-1-111-1 (nb3,w1) (5-1-24-0, 2-0-19-0, 4-0-29-0, 6-0-39-1); Gillespie 22-3-91-2 (nb3) (6-1-24-0, 4-1-13-0, 5-0-27-1, 4-1-10-1, 3-0-17-0); Kasprowicz 15-3-80-3 (nb8) (7-3-25-0, 4-0-38-2, 4-0-17-1); Warne 25.2-4-116-4 (7-1-40-1, 10-0-49-0, 8.2-3-27-3).

Progress: First day: 50: 48 min, 10.4 overs. 100: 100 min, 22.4 overs. Lunch: 132-1 (Trescothick 77, Vaughan 1) 27 overs. 150: 131 min , 29.1 overs. 200: in 187 min, 40.4 overs. 250: 216 min, 48.3 overs. Tea: 289-4 (Pietersen 40, Flintoff 68) 54 overs. 300: 268 min, 59.5 overs. 350: 303 min, 66.5 overs. 400: 353 min, 78.4 overs. Innings closed 5.27pm. Rain prevented the Australian first innings from starting.

Trescothick's 50: 97 min, 74 balls, 9 fours, 1 six. Pietersen's 50: 132 min, 65 balls, 7 fours. Flintoff's 50: 60 min, 48 balls, 4 fours, 4 sixes.

Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and R E Koertzen (SA).

TV replay umpire: J W Lloyds.

Match referee: R S Madugalle.

Ball of the day

* Forced to bowl round the wicket after both England openers hit him back over his head, Shane Warne produced a vicious leg-break to Andrew Strauss which spun back two feet to strike his off-stump.

Shot of the day

* Andrew Flintoff hit five sixes in his 68 yesterday but none was quite as remarkable as the hook off Brett Lee. Flintoff wasn't looking at the ball but still swatted it into the Eric Hollies Stand.

Best moment

* Justin Langer produced a diving one-handed stop in front of the Eric Hollies Stand and received a standing ovation for his brilliant piece of fielding.

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