Tait makes breakthrough but day still belongs to England

England 229-4 v Australia
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The Independent Online

England made the most of ill-disciplined Australian cricket to reach 229 for 4 on the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test here yesterday. The Australians grassed a couple of simple chances and bowled an unacceptable number of no-balls after the debutant, Shaun Tait, had claimed two crucial wickets during the evening session of a rain-affected day.

But England, and in particular Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan, failed to capitalise fully on Australia's shoddy workmanship. Both were dismissed shortly after completing half centuries. Yet despite losing Vaughan before the close, England will believe they have an excellent chance of posting a score which will put the Australians under pressure.

Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff are still at the crease and the pitch is offering the bowlers assistance. Should the pitch continue to behave in this way, and England's bowlers keep bowling as they have, a score of 350 will be competitive.

Vaughan will be the most disappointed of England's batsmen after being dismissed by the part-time bowling of his opposite number, Ricky Ponting. The England captain was dropped by Matthew Hayden in the gully off the bowling of Michael Kasprowicz when he was on 30, but then nibbled at an innocuous delivery from Ponting to give Adam Gilchrist a simple catch.

Trescothick was bowled by one of the 22 no-balls the tourists bowlers sent down and Kevin Pietersen was dropped by Kasprowicz when he chipped a caught and bowled chance back to the bowler on 14.

Had these chances been taken England would have been reeling on 174 for 5, but this has been a series when Australia have played a brand of cricket you would normally associate with their opponents. England's outfielding has been far from exemplary but the number of catches that were dropped by both teams is inexcusable.

John Buchanan and Duncan Fletcher, the respective coaches of Australia and England, spend hours practising these skills and the sight of players dropping so many simple catches will have done little for their health. Pressure, rather than technique, is the principal reason for the errors and the team that can get this side of their game together could well be the one that walks away with the Ashes.

Tait was brought into the Australian team to add spite to the tourists' bowling attack and the fast bowler did just that when he took two vital wickets in his second spell of the day. The 22-year-old looked nervous to begin with but it did not take long before he began to show why he took 65 wickets in last winter's Pura Cup.

England were moving along quite nicely before Ponting reintroduced Tait into the attack. A 105-run opening partnership between Trescothick and Andrew Strauss had given England the perfect platform on which to build a large score, but this objective was shattered when the fast bowler took two wickets in the space of 12 balls.

Trescothick was the first to perish when he missed a full inswinging delivery from Tait. It was the first ball he had faced from the paceman after a 90-minute rain break and he seemed late on his shot. It knocked back his off stump and the Australians celebrated his first Test wicket by mobbing him while the batsman forlornly made his way back to the pavilion.

This was a typical Trescothick innings against Australia. He played a couple of glorious shots, struck the ball in the air through gaps in the field and generally appeared to ride his luck. Trescothick was bowled by a Brett Lee no-ball on 55, but then, just when everyone expected him to go on and score his first century against Australia, he got out.

Ian Bell quickly followed when he edged a pacy delivery through to Adam Gilchrist. Tait is a powerfully built young man who takes his wickets through pitching the ball up to the bat rather than banging it in the middle of the pitch. This approach means that will concede runs but it also allows him to swing the ball, and this was the reason why he picked up his wickets.

Bell, like Trescothick, was late on the shot and his tentative push raced through to the wicketkeeper who took a sharp chance to his right. It would be easy to criticise Bell for playing at a delivery he could have left alone but this is what happens against bowlers who bowl the ball at more than 90mph.

While Trescothick, Pietersen and Vaughan thanked their lucky stars, Strauss would have been sitting in the dressing-room wondering what he had done wrong after being dismissed in one of the most unfortunate of ways imaginable.

Australia's inability to strike with the new ball caused Ponting to throw Shane Warne the ball after 17 overs of the match. Warne, somewhat controversially, had been made to wait until the 34th over before he was invited to bowl at Old Trafford but the Australian captain brought him on to replace Kasprowicz, who had bowled an ineffective eight-over spell at the Pavilion End.

Warne has the ability to turn a ball on any surface but the spin he managed to extract was similar to the nature of the pitch - slow and low. Batting against Warne in conditions like this is relatively simple and Trescothick struck the leg-spinner for a straight six in his second over.

Strauss was attempting nothing spectacular in Warne's third over when he shaped to sweep him to deep square leg for a single. But the left-hander hit the ball via a bottom edge on to the top of his foot and a simple catch lobbed up to Matthew Hayden at slip. Warne, unsurprisingly, went up for the catch but the umpire, Steve Bucknor, was unsure.

The on-field umpires have only recently been allowed to refer bump-ball decisions to the third umpire, who sits in front of a television screen, and Mark Benson had no option but to give Strauss out after Bucknor had asked for his judgement.

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