Siddle double strike revives Australia

Peter Siddle was rewarded for his perseverance with two late wickets as he helped Ashes holders Australia regain momentum at the end of a see-saw opening day in the first Test against England.

England were 336-7 at stumps at Sophia Gardens on Wednesday after Siddle—like all the members of Australia’s attack making his Ashes debut—had removed Andrew Flintoff for 37 and Matt Prior for 56.

Flintoff played on after flat-footedly trying to cut. It was a poor stroke but the wicket was no more than fast bowler Siddle deserved and saw the end of a partnership of 86 that had taken just 95 balls to compile.

Prior, making his Ashes debut, was then bowled by a fine inswinging delivery from Siddle in the penultimate over of the day to leave the quick with figures of 2-93 from his 23 overs.

Kevin Pietersen, who made 69, gave his wicket away to leave England 241-5.

Pietersen had batted in largely responsible fashion until he rashly tried to sweep spinner Nathan Hauritz from well outside off-stump and top-edged a gentle catch to Simon Katich at short-leg.

“I think if you look at the first day of previous Ashes series, we would take 336-7—definitely,” said Pietersen. “Being greedy, you would maybe say ‘five down’.
But with a wicket that is turning off the straight, I will take that.”

Reflecting on his own dismissal, Pietersen said: “I swept the ball on to my helmet. If it hadn’t hit my helmet I might have got away with it.”

Australia coach Tim Nielsen added: “I thought it was a pretty even day until a couple of late wickets got us back into the game,” he said.

“Peter [Siddle] getting those two late wickets gives us some momentum going into tomorrow [Thursday].”

Off-spinner Hauritz’s first 14, unthreatening, overs had cost 41 runs. He’d been chosen ahead of experienced seamer Stuart Clark, despite failing to impress in Australia’s warm-up matches where his two wickets cost 260 runs.

Pietersen batted for more than three hours and faced 141 balls with four fours.

Flintoff, playing his first Test of the season after missing the home series win over the West Indies with a knee injury, struck a couple of booming drives to the delight of fans hoping he could repeat his Ashes heroics of 2005.

Meanwhile, Prior, whose fifty came in just 54 balls, square-drove Siddle for four with one of the shots of the day.

Earlier, Australia’s pacemen had bowled with great heart on a placid pitch to reduce England to 97-3 at lunch.

But a fourth-wicket stand of 138 between Pietersen and Paul Collingwood (64) brought the hosts back into the match.

Their partnership ended when Ben Hilfenhaus tempted Collingwood into pushing outside off-stump and wicket-keeper Brad Haddin held a diving catch.

South Africa-born Pietersen and Collingwood, who’d joined forces when England were 90-3, batted through the second session and went 21 overs between boundaries.

When fast bowler Brett Lee, a veteran of 76 Tests, was ruled out on Monday with a rib injury, it meant Australia, who thrashed England 5-0 in 2006/07, would go into this match with no Ashes experience in their attack.

The bowlers were, though, given a boost by Mike Hussey. Left-hander Alastair Cook (10), playing loosely away from his body against Hilfenhaus, saw Hussey hold a brilliant diving one-handed chance in the gully.

Ravi Bopara, hit second ball in the throat by the lively Siddle and on the head by a Mitchell Johnson bouncer, struggled.

By contrast, England captain Andrew Strauss looked secure in making 30. Yet it was the left-hander, not Bopara, who gloved a well-directed Johnson bouncer to Michael Clarke in the slips.

And Bopara’s innings of 35, which followed a run of three hundreds in as many Tests, ended when he spooned a catch off Johnson to Phillip Hughes at point.—AFP

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