By Matthew Sherry at the Emirates Durham ICG and Chris Devine
An inability to regain the Ashes did not stop Australia prospering on day one of the fourth Investec Test at the Emirates Durham ICG.
There were cheers aplenty among an excited crowd eager to see Ashes cricket in the north-east for the first time this morning, especially when Alastair Cook won the toss and chose to bat.
However, his decision did not bear the fruit England hoped as the tourists once again showed their stomach for a fight.
Starved for long periods on a slow surface, almost sub-continental in its character, Cook’s men wilted in the face of some disciplined bowling before eventually closing an attritional day on 238 for nine.
Three of England’s top four – Cook with 51, Jonathan Trott 49 and Kevin Pietersen 26 – got themselves in and ultimately failed to go on.
In contrast to the Ashes holders’ at times disjointed display, Australia’s attack produced a well-oiled performance that owed much to excellent plans and execution; Nathan Lyon was the most successful bowler, ending with 4-42.
With a reverse series taking place Down Under from November, the final throngs of this rubber carry extra significance.
While the obvious aims of the home side targeting a series win and Australia a face-saving draw are significant, there is also the added incentive of building priceless momentum for the latter.
And regardless of what happens over the remainder of the series, they can take heart from the consistent threat offered by their bowlers.
Such ability was on display throughout an attritional morning session as Joe Root and Cook were starved of scoring opportunities.
That consistency did not yield the desired outcome in an opening hour that cost just 31 runs, but Shane Watson – who typifies Australia’s run-starving approach – broke through afterwards when Root feathered behind.
The scalp was to precede England’s most fruitful period as Trott took control either side of the interval, finding the boundary with regularity as he moved towards a half-century at nearly a run-a-ball.
But, with Australia’s attack beginning to wither, the number three departed in tame fashion, inside-edging the impressive Lyon to short-leg via his pad.
Pietersen briefly entertained and looked to dominate yet, having struck Lyon for two powerful boundaries down the ground, edged an arm ball behind.
Australia were suddenly in the ascendancy, their stranglehold strengthening when Cook, shouldering arms, got a beauty from Jackson Bird that nipped back and earned an lbw verdict.
The tea interval offered England a chance to regroup but, immediately afterwards, they were in further trouble as the in-form Ian Bell failed to clear mid-off and gifted Lyon a third.
Jonny Bairstow and Matt Prior initially prospered with a busy method, only to be dragged back expertly.
Indeed, while home chants of “stand up if you’re 2-0 up” were typical of a carnival atmosphere, events on the field were a far cry from the hinted English dominance.
Bairstow, in particular, struggled to find an antidote to a combination of good captaincy and excellent bowling; cautious not to hit across the line having been dismissed in that fashion a couple of times this summer, he saw a series of well-timed, booming drives stopped by a well-placed silly mid-on.
Australia’s patience would eventually bring reward, Bairstow – the delivery after registering his first runs for 65 minutes – following Prior in being ousted leg-before.
While the Decision Review System came down in Australia’s favour for those wickets – a good review off Siddle earned Prior’s scalp, while Bairstow failed to overturn his verdict off Lyon – it was not needed for the next breakthrough.
Stuart Broad has rediscovered the Midas touch down the order in this series, yet saw a tame aerial cut off Ryan Harris easily caught at cover.
Graeme Swann, Tim Bresnan and James Anderson did provide some late cheer when hitting a series of eye-catching boundaries, the former’s cameo ending when he picked out deep square-leg off Harris, but there was little doubt it had been Australia’s day.
6:30pm - STUMPS! - England 238/9; Bresnan 12, Anderson 16 - The fun continues as Bresnan pulls four through midwicket, sending many of those in attendance home with something to smile about. Plenty of hard work lies ahead for England, though.
6:22pm - They do not call him the Burnley Lara for nothing! James Anderson crunches Bird down the ground and through midwicket for successive fours.
6:16pm - WICKET! Swann c Lyon b Harris 13; Eng 214/9 - Swann's fun comes to a jarring end as he pulls straight to deep square-leg.
6:11pm - Swann is having fun in the evening sun! He twice capitalises on width from Bird with off-side fours. These are handy runs.
6:06pm - Graeme Swann clips a full ball from Harris through midwicket for a much-needed boundary that takes the score past 200. The number 10 almost picks out substitute fielder Phil Hughes in the deep next ball.
6:03pm - With six overs remaining in the day, Australia do take the new nut.
5:58pm - Still no sign of the new ball, but that's hardly surprising given England's slow progress. Only 44 runs have been scored in 29 overs since tea.
5:50pm - WICKET! Broad c Warner b Harris 3; Eng 197/8 - Broad takes on another short ball but succeeds only in offering up a simple catch to point.
5:48pm - Australia pass up the opportunity to take the second new ball immediately. Continuing with the old cherry, Harris gives Stuart Broad the hurry-up with a well-directed bouncer.
5:37pm - WICKET! Bairstow lbw Lyon 14; Eng 193/7 - Bairstow falls lbw on the sweep despite a review. HawkEye suggests the ball would only have clipped the top of the stumps, but that's enough to give Lyon a fourth scalp after umpire Tony Hill initially raised the finger.
5:32pm - Tim Bresnan joins fellow Yorkshireman Bairstow and breaks a run of 21 scoreless deliveries by punching Siddle through the off side for two.
5:24pm - WICKET! Prior lbw Siddle 17; Eng 189/6 - Siddle goes wide on the crease and finds sharp inward movement to trap Prior in front. Umpire Aleem Dar turns down the appeal but Australia call for a review and their decision proves wise.
5:14pm - Cheers greet a quick single from Prior off Lyon, who is back on with the new ball just seven overs away. Drinks come out and England are 189 for five.
5:11pm - Make that five runs in 10 overs...
5:02pm - This is slow going. England have managed just five runs in the last eight overs.
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 9, 2013
4:51pm - Michael Clarke makes a double bowling change in an attempt to find another breakthrough. Shane Watson and Peter Siddle enter the attack and the latter is right on the money when beating Prior’s edge with one that nipped away.
4:40pm - Prior is looking to be positive when he can against Lyon, who currently boasts figures of 3-33. The sixth-wicket stand is now worth 31.
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) August 9, 2013
The first innings scores in the 5 County Championship matches at Chester-le-Street so far this season have been 250, 237, 259, 267 & 253
— BBC TMS (@bbctms) August 9, 2013
4:30pm - Ryan Harris replaces Bird and initially proves expensive as Prior drives through the covers for four before getting a controlled edge down to the third man fence.
4:24pm - Now Prior offers a straight bat to Bird; England’s wicketkeeper collects two as a result but is then beaten outside off stump by two successive deliveries. Bird and Lyon are not giving much away at present.
Watch an exclusive ecb.co.uk interview with former England paceman Steve Harmison
4:13pm - Brad Haddin whips off the bails at the start of Lyon’s next over ... but unfortunately for Australia the ball had already flown past the wicketkeeper for four byes down the leg side. Bairstow registered his first four from the previous delivery by driving Jackson Bird down the ground.
4:08pm - Bairstow and Matt Prior have a job on their hands now. England will want to make at least 300 after choosing to bat.
4:02pm - WICKET! Bell c Harris b Lyon 6; Eng 155/5 - Oh dear! Nathan Lyon picks up a third wicket as Bell advances but fails to clear mid-off.
4pm - Ian Bell and Jonny Bairstow stride out after tea. Can England regain some momentum?
3:41pm - TEA! - England 155/4; Bell 6, Bairstow 0 - England make it to the interval without further damage, but that was certainly Australia's session.
3:30pm - WICKET! Cook lbw Bird 51; England 153/4 - Bird gets one to nip back off the seam to trap Cook, shouldering arms, lbw. Jonny Bairstow joins Ian Bell in the middle; England could really do with a partnership.
3:19pm - WICKET! Pietersen c Haddin b Lyon 26; England 149/3 - The hosts continue to lose wickets at inopportune moments, Pietersen edging Lyon, from around the wicket, behind.
3:14pm - FIFTY! Cook (153 5x4 0x6) - The crowd cheer and applaud England's skipper, who brings up his half-century with a controlled edge through the cordon for four.
3:06pm - There's plenty happening now. Cook is almost run out by David Warner following a lackadaisical single, after which Pietersen drives and flicks Ryan Harris to the fence.
3pm - Watson is suddenly in the midst of a good spell, luring Cook into an inside edge that goes narrowly past his stumps.
2:55pm - Ah, that's a lovely shot. Cook leans into a flowing cover drive that brings four off Shane Watson. The crowd are starting to enjoy themselves.
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 9, 2013
2:40pm - A gentleman next to me has just said: "At least it's not raining", which I think perfectly sums up the average north-easterner's attitude. It could be raining boundaries soon enough. Kevin Pietersen, having started his innings by seeing an attempted hit over the top off Lyon fall safe, has just hit the off-spinner for successive straight fours.
2:27pm - WICKET! Trott c Khawaja b Lyon 49; England 107/1 - Well, where did that come from? Having struck successive boundaries off Siddle in the previous over, Trott inside-edges Lyon on to his pad and Usman Khawaja claims a simple chance at short-leg.
— Investec Cricket (@InvestecCricket) August 9, 2013
2:23pm - Trott continues to prosper from a positive approach and has overtaken Cook. He fine-sweeps Nathan Lyon for four before picking up a two and three later in the over. The duo's partnership is beyond 50.
2:05pm - After 11 successive dots, Trott hits his fourth boundary of the innings from the final ball of Peter Siddle's sixth over. Cook then gets in on the act, crunching Jackson Bird through the covers for four.
1:52pm - Jonathan Trott also hits an early four after the interval, albeit via a fortuitous inside edge past his stumps.
1:42pm - Alastair Cook illuminates the beginning of the afternoon session with a rare boundary, pulling Jackson Bird powerfully through midwicket.
Watch highlights of the opening session from the Emirates Durham ICG
1pm - LUNCH! - England 57/1; Cook 21, Trott 13 - Well, that's a proper first morning in England. The hosts will be happy with their position but must know plenty of hard work awaits.
12:48pm - England are still struggling for runs, with a combination of tight bowling and a slow outfield undermining their efforts.
12:31pm - Watson and Siddle, who latterly enters the attack, continue to probe. New man Jonathan Trott edges just short of second slip where Clarke cannot gather and the ball goes to the rope. Next delivery he plays a trademark clip through midwicket for three.
12:17pm - WICKET! Root c Haddin b Watson 16: England 33/1 - Australia grab a much-needed breakthrough in a wicket-maiden as Root feathers Watson behind. Umpire Tony Hill originally gave it not out, but the tourists successfully reviewed the decision.
12:06pm - Watson is back for a second spell immediately after drinks and, remarkably, Peter Siddle - Australia's leading wicket-taker in the series - is yet to bowl.
11:54pm - Well, 'whaddya know'! We wait 51 minutes for a first four and two come from successive deliveries. After Root cover drives Bird to the fence, Cook punches Harris down the ground.
11:40am - It's been a relatively sedate start, not that England will be too fussed. Shane Watson is introduced and bowls two wides in his first over. While you're waiting for the action to ignite, why not watch national selector Geoff Miller's chat with ecb.co.uk?
11:33am - Australia continue to starve England of boundaries, albeit with Root and Cook having come close in recent times. The hosts are 14 without loss, with the former having just been beaten on the drive by Bird.
11:22am - This has been a good, probing start from Australia's opening bowlers. Root, who struck 182 on this ground to help Yorkshire chase an unlikely 339 in the LV= County Championship, and Cook are adopting a patient approach.
11:10am - McGrath Mark II, Jackson Bird, gets off to a good start in an over that costs two. Joe Root begins with a cut that is stopped just short of the boundary before edging narrowly in front of slip.
11:07am - The impressive Ryan Harris gets proceedings under way with a maiden to Alastair Cook.
10:57am - As a proud north-easterner myself, it is lovely to see the excitement as the Ashes hits the real home of cricket! Jerusalem is now reverberating around the stands and we're almost ready for the action.
10:38am - No pressure Jackson! Clarke compared the recalled paceman to the great Glenn McGrath at the toss; we'll find out in a moment if he can made as great an impact.
England has won the toss and will bat. Jackson Bird replaces Mitchell Starc. Warner will open, Watson in at six. #Ashes
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) August 9, 2013
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 9, 2013
10:30am - ENGLAND WIN TOSS & BAT - Ah well, that shows what listening to the word at the ground does for you! Anderson does play as England name an unchanged XI, which is a shame for fans hoping to see home hero Onions; Australia have, indeed, selected Bird, who replaces Mitchell Starc.
10:28am - The word from the sun-bathed ground is that Graham Onions will play for England in place of lynchpin James Anderson and that Jackson Bird will be given his first chance of the series for the tourists. We'll find out that and news from the toss momentarily.
10:25am - Indeed, coming out of the rubber with a 2-2 draw could well increase their confidence significantly ahead of the reverse series later this year.
10:13am - Australia, of course, put in an improved performance at Emirates Old Trafford and will be desperate to claw their way back into the series.
10am - Good morning and welcome to ecb.co.uk’s live blog coverage of the fourth Investec Ashes Test at the Emirates Durham ICG. England retained the little urn in the previous Test and are seeking to win the series in the north-east.