View Count: 115 |  Publish Date: July 10, 2013
For two nervous, skittish teams, the tone is set
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A total of 14 wickets fall on day one of the first Ashes test at Trent Bridge, with England bowled out for 215 after winning the toss and electing to bat, but the Aussies suffered a top order collapse to sit 4-75 at stumps. Autoplay OnOff Video feedback Video settings Scoreboard / As it happenedFive-star Peter Siddle deliversOld heads take lead at Ashes debutants ballInjury concern for Watson
If the first day of an Ashes series sets the tone, this one was dissolute, signalling one direction, then changing its mind. If you were to infer a moral, it would be one commonly proposed before the series anyway, that however few England makes this summer, Australia is liable always to make fewer. It might make for a lot of lay days.
In a county game, 15 wickets in a day would trigger a report to the ECB about the pitch. This day, it should have prompted reporting of the batsmen.
Actually, tone-setting mostly is a fraudulent discipline, in which the facts mostly are made to fit the thesis. In 2005, on similarly dramatic opening day at Lords, Australia was bowled out for 190, then reduced England to 7/92. It foreshadowed one of the best Ashes series of all, won by England. Eight years previously, the Ashes began hectically and ominously for Australia at Edgbaston when on day one it was bowled out for 118 and England sped to 3/200 before nightfall. But Australia would win that series comfortably.
Bowled: James Anderson celebrates after taking the wicket of Michael Clarke.
The first day of the last series in Brisbane misled completely. England captain Andrew Strauss fell to the third ball, Peter Siddles six wickets lowered England for 260 and Australia was 0/25 at stumps. But it would scarcely win another day for the series. Siddle provided echoes on Wednesday, quickly drowned out by Anderson and Finn, which made for a cacophony at Trent Bridge. Advertisement
In 1993-94, Michael Slater cut Phil DeFreitas for four first ball of the series in Brisbane, and Australia ruled unchallenged. In Brisbane in 2002/03, Englands vaunted Simon Jones wrecked his knee on the first morning, Australia was 2/364 by stumps and England spent the rest of the summer under the cosh. In 2006/07, also in Brisbane, Steve Harmison bowled the first ball of the series directly to second slip, and all heads nodded knowingly about the drubbing to come. First ball portents are a particular favourite of omen-seekers.
As overtures, some of these were wonderfully convenient, hindsight rebadged as foresight. But the first day of the cherished 1989 series, at Leeds, Australia toiled to 3/207. It was a pleasant surprise in its time, but hardly a forerunner of the iron-fisted rule to come. Click for more photos Ashes - Day 1
Englands Jonny Bairstow leaves the pavilion after the tea break. Photo: Reuters View all 22 photos
At Trent Bridge on Wednesday, this series also was launched with a wide, James Pattinson rearing the new ball far over Alistair Cooks head. But, far from becoming one for the annals, it would barely form a footnote on the day, and by stumps was already forgotten.
This first day was given its shape not by premonition, but by freak. The sky was forbiddingly gray and low all day, as it was not on Tuesday and is not forecast to be on Thursday. The lights were switched on in the first session and burned brightly all day; it felt more like Headingley than Trent Bridge. In this atmosphere, the pitch became part of the conspiracy; it was immediately a frisky plaything, and would remain so all day. On two nervous, skittish teams, it had an unnerving effect.
Without bowling especially well, Australia dismissed England for 215. Pattinson and Mitchell Starc were erratic with the new ball, and Siddle began poorly, straying into the black hole that is Jonathon Trotts pads. In four overs, he conceded 26. Astutely, Michael Clarke fitted Ashton Agar into the roster early, so that he would feel the part, but he could only ever be a stopgap this day. The scoreboard rattled along. England would make nearly three-quarters of it runs in boundaries, reflecting that on English grounds, everything is four or one, but also that Australia gave England regular wide balls to hit.
Key wicket: Peter Siddle celebrates after taking the wicket of Englands Kevin Pietersen.
Siddle changed ends, began to use the width of the popping crease, hit Joe Roots off stump with a fishtailing yorker, and took five wickets in a row, from 51 balls. Starc and Pattinson sheared off the tail, stopping the innings dead at 215. It was the storm before the storm. Quickly, Australia as 3/22 and 4/53, and Australias only relief was that Stuart Broad was hors de combat. Shane Watson hit Steve Finns first two balls for four, cutting one, driving the other, without smelling a rat. Finn pitched up again, Watson went assertively at him again and the catch duly was taken at slip.
Ed Cowan went next ball, then Clarke, both for ducks. Andersons outswinger to bowl Clarke was like Steyns in Perth last December, the best bowlers summoning their best against the best. Chris Rogers, in contrast to Watson, waited on the back foot for ball to finish all its movement, an English technique for England. He was unlucky to be ruled lbw to a ball that might have shaved leg stump.
Fourteen wickets fell for the day, some captured, just as many surrendered. In a county game, 15 wickets in a day would trigger a report to the ECB about the pitch. This day, it was the batsmen who should have been on report.
Steven Finn: bowled Shane Watson.
Conditioned by short forms more like T-ball, contemporary batsmen are not technically or temperamentally suited to toughing it out on days like this. The pitch was challenging, but not the ogre they made it look. It is not a new theory, but it every year more apparent. It makes for more entertaining cricket than graft and grind, and that is what attracts the premium now, and so few complain any more about the fecklessness.
In that context, it could be argued that on day one of the 2013 Ashes, the tone set the day.

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