Test cricket at its best
Posted in England in Australia 2010-11
The first day of the opening Ashes Test in Brisbane contained many memorable moments.
Peter Siddle’s sensational hat-trick, the unexpected early departure of England captain Andrew Strauss and the glorious batting of Ian Bell were among the highlights as the much-anticipated series finally got under way.
But for this observer the most fascinating period of the match thus far arrived on Friday afternoon as the two teams engaged in a titanic battle for supremacy.
Australia had been in the box seat from the moment Siddle tore through England’s middle order yesterday evening and there had been little to encourage England on a frustrating second morning.
Shane Watson and Simon Katich were certainly tested as they took their opening partnership past 50 and both men benefited from moments of good fortune.
Yet as the overs continued to tick by without an England breakthrough, it was easy to imagine a scenario in which Australia would ease into a position of total dominance by the end of the day.
Such fears were quickly dispelled in an intense afternoon session that showcased Test cricket at its absolute finest.
England received the early fillip they so desperately needed as Australia skipper Ricky Ponting was caught down the leg side by Matt Prior off a seemingly innocuous delivery from James Anderson.
And when Simon Katich followed his captain back to the pavilion just 17 balls later, the tourists suddenly had a significant foothold in the game.
With the match delicately poised once again, the remainder of the session provided compelling viewing.
Veteran left-hander Mike Hussey quickly got into his stride after an early let-off which saw him edge his first ball towards Graeme Swann at second slip, only for the ball to land agonisingly short.
Hussey was particularly severe on Swann thereafter and lofted the off-spinner over his head for six before finding the midwicket fence on several occasions.
But with Michael Clarke enduring a torturous time of things at the other end, a fourth breakthrough appeared imminent for England and it duly arrived when Steven Finn had Australia’s vice-captain caught behind for nine.
The next over saw Swann pick up his first wicket of the series, that of under-pressure batsman Marcus North, and by now it was the tourists who appeared set to take control with Australia reeling on 143 for five, still 117 adrift.
In little more than an hour, the match had been turned on its head and there was to be a further swing in momentum as Hussey then combined with wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin in an unbroken partnership of 77 that moved the hosts back into the ascendancy before bad light and rain brought proceedings to a premature end.
With so many twists and turns in evidence over the first two days, it is almost impossible to predict what will happen when play resumes at the Gabba tomorrow morning.
I, for one, cannot wait to find out.