Super Siddle rocks England
Peter Siddle marked his 26th birthday with a sensational hat-trick as Australia gained the upper hand on day one of the first Ashes Test against England at the Gabba.
Siddle - making his first Test appearance since January following a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to a stress fracture of the back - claimed six wickets in all as England were dismissed for 260 shortly before stumps.
The tourists could scarcely have made a worse start when skipper Andrew Strauss departed to the third ball of the match, but they appeared on course to post a substantial total as they recovered to 197 for four midway through the evening session.
Siddle took centre stage thereafter, removing Alastair Cook for a patient 67 and dismissing both Matt Prior and Stuart Broad first ball en route to outstanding figures of 6-54.
Ian Bell did his best to lift his side with a classy 76, but England’s innings soon came to an end, with debutant Xavier Doherty taking the final two wickets.
Australia reached to 25 without loss in reply and will hope to gain a significant first-innings lead when play resumes tomorrow.
England faced an immediate test of their character on a warm morning in Brisbane as Strauss, after winning the toss and electing to bat first, carved Ben Hilfenhaus straight to Mike Hussey at gully.
Jonathan Trott survived a number of hairy moments, including a strong lbw appeal by Siddle that was unsuccessfully reviewed by the hosts, as he dominated a stand of 41 with Cook.
But Trott’s luck ran out in the first over after drinks as he drove with minimal foot movement and was comprehensively bowled through the gate by a delivery from Shane Watson that nipped back.
Pietersen and Cook ensured England made it through to lunch without any further setbacks, although the latter received a let-off shortly before the interval when he was dropped on 26 by a leaping Doherty at point off Watson.
That aside, there was little to trouble the England duo and they appeared increasingly comfortable in the early stages of the afternoon as Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson struggled to find their radar.
Pietersen, in particular, was finding runs easy to come by, but a lapse in concentration saw his innings come to an end on 43 as he drove loosely at Siddle and edged to second slip, where Australia skipper Ricky Ponting held a sharp chance moving to his right.
Collingwood followed in similar fashion in Siddle’s next over, Marcus North taking a low catch at third slip, to leave England in peril on 125 for four.
But the tourists regrouped once again as the unflappable Cook was joined by Bell - who came into the game on the back of a magnificent 192 in the final warm-up match against Australia A last week.
Bell played positively in the early stages of his innings, taking a buoyant Siddle for two fours through the off side.
Cook then brought up his fifty, and England’s 150, soon after with a punch into the covers off Doherty - the personal landmark arriving from 127 balls with four fours.
There was one moment of alarm prior to tea when a delivery from Johnson whistled past Bell’s outside edge. Short-leg Simon Katich appealed vigorously for caught behind and Australia opted to use their second review, but once again there was not enough evidence to overturn the decision of umpire Aleem Dar.
A light shower threatened to force an early interval, but play continued with Cook and Bell appearing relatively untroubled.
But their hard work was undone in dramatic fashion as Siddle became the 11th Australian to claim a hat-trick - and only the fourth in an Ashes series, after Fred Spofforth, Hugh Trumble (twice) and Shane Warne.
Cook’s gritty innings was brought to an end as he nibbled at one angled across him and edged to Watson at first slip.
England were in even deeper trouble when Prior was bowled via his pads by Siddle’s next delivery and Broad was unable to see off the hat-trick ball, falling lbw to an excellent full-length inswinger which struck him on the boot.
Broad opted to review the decision - perhaps in hope as much as anything else - but to no avail.
With little batting to come, an in-form Bell decided to attack and swiftly moved past fifty with a succession of boundaries.
Siddle was not done, however, and another full delivery accounted for Graeme Swann, who also failed in an attempt to review the lbw decision against him.
James Anderson was dropped by a diving Brad Haddin behind the stumps as Siddle came close to picking up a seventh wicket, but it was Doherty who eventually finished off the England innings.
Bell lofted the left-arm spinner to deep cover following a marvellous exhibition of strokeplay and Anderson was bowled four balls later.
Australia duly negotiated the remaining seven overs with the minimum of fuss.
Watson did have to contend with an lbw appeal from Broad, although the ball appeared to hit the opener’s bat prior to striking the pad.