England's hopes of ending 15 years of Ashes disappointment were shattered today by another serious injury in the opening day of the First Test in Brisbane.
The blow came as Australia took advantage of captain Nasser Hussain's bemusing decision to field first. He decided to put his trust in an inexperienced attack after winning the toss - despite the fact that the side batting first has lost only twice in the last eight years of Test cricket at The Gabba.
It was a decision which backfired badly with both Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting scoring unbeaten centuries, with Hayden finishing the day on an unbeaten 186.
Their innings were aided by the loss of fast bowler Simon Jones, who claimed England's first wicket before being stretchered off. He ruptured cruciate ligaments while fielding and is facing six months on the sidelines.
As far as bad days in recent Ashes series go, it was probably England's worst since Geoff Marsh and Mark Taylor finished the opening day of the first Test at Trent Bridge on 301 without loss in 1989 and set the tone for Australia regaining the Ashes later that summer.
From a very early stage it seemed clear that Hussain, who claimed he had wanted to give his bowlers every chance to win the game, had erred in his judgement with prolific openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden sharing a 67-run partnership in only 71 minutes.
Their stand was broken once Hussain introduced Jones into the attack and he made the breakthrough with his ninth delivery in Ashes cricket, surprising Langer with the bounce and inducing him into edging behind to wicketkeeper Alec Stewart.
Hayden's innings was particularly galling for England after they thought they had dismissed him for 40 only for Jones to make a crucial misjudgement while fielding down at fine leg.
Jones had walked in further than his captain would have liked and when Hayden mis-timed an attempted hook off Hoggard he back-pedalled frantically in an attempt to take the catch, but after taking the catch his momentum carried him over the rope.
Hussain and England both claimed the catch but umpires Steve Bucknor and Rudi Koertzen successfully over-ruled the appeals and allowed Hayden to spearhead Australia as they raced along at five an over before lunch.
Jones' missed opportunity was soon overlooked, however, after he suffered his distressing accident in the outfield only four overs after the interval when he twisted his right knee attempting to stop a Ponting on-drive race to the boundary.
He was stretchered off after consulting with physio Kirk Russell and accompanied to a nearby hospital by England operations manager Phil Neale before the bad news was revealed that he would face reconstructive surgery as soon as he returns to the UK in a fortnight.
Hayden was dropped again on 102 when Hoggard mis-judged a skyer off Caddick and again on 132 when Michael Vaughan missed a simple chance off Craig White at short extra cover, prompting the religious Australian opener to signal the sign of the cross to illustrate his relief.
England had to rely on good fortune when Australia's productive second-wicket partnership was finally ended with Ponting, who hit two sixes and 12 other boundaries in his 123, being bowled by Giles.
Ponting pushed forward defensively and the ball bounced up onto the edge of his thigh pad before dropping down and bouncing onto the stumps, causing Stewart and slip Hussain to celebrate after a stand of 272 spanning 61 overs.
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