Why the series could be over by lunchtime
A bowler, either Matthew Hoggard or Glenn McGrath, will be handed the new ball by his captain, and with it comes the responsibility of setting the tone for the rest of the day. It is a prospect that causes sleepless nights, but the ability to cope separates the great from the good.
"The first hour of a Test match is massively important," said Ricky Ponting the Australia captain, yesterday. "It is what you work hard for in the build-up to a Test. You want to make a statement at the start of a series and that is what we will be attempting to do."
In three of the last five Ashes series it is the Australians who have made the statement, and, inevitably, they have gone on to win the match.
At Brisbane in 1994-95, Michael Slater cut the first ball of the match from Philip DeFreitas for four, and the deflating effect it had on Michael Atherton's side was clear to see. Twenty-six runs were scored of the first four overs and by the close Australia had reached 329 for 4. England lost the Test by 184 runs.
In 2001 England had reached 106 for 1 when Steve Waugh brought Shane Warne into the attack in the last over before lunch. The leg-spinner immediately dismissed Mark Butcher before claiming four more victims in the afternoon. England were dismissed for 294, Slater struck Darren Gough's first over for 18 and Nasser Hussain's side lost by an innings and 118 runs.
Hussain won the toss in the first Test at Brisbane in 2002-03, and had a nightmare. The England captain invited Australia to bat and by the close they had reached 364 for 2. England lost the game and the series in record time.
Once, in 1997, England did grab the initiative. Andrew Caddick, Darren Gough and Devon Malcolm ripped the Aussies out for 118. Hussain scored a double century, Graham Thorpe a hundred and England won by nine wickets. Unfortunately, they still lost the Ashes.
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