Lord’s, Day one of the 2005 Ashes series provided all of the action and entertainment expected and then some more. In a day that closely followed the trends of the summer so far, England played strongly until tea, thrilling themselves and all of England with their deeds, until Australia hit back hard and finished the day on top.
The day provided all of the thrills and spills that could be hoped. There were also few surprises, some of them nasty, especially the pitch. Also following the summer’s trend, the pitch favoured the bowlers. However, this pitch was not just sporty but it was spiteful, providing steepling bounce on many occasions and uneven, low bounce that would astonish late in the day. Really, the groundsman should be reading the classifieds this morning.
Not surprisingly, Brett Lee got the nod in front of Kasper. Also unsurprisingly, Ponting elected to bat after he won the toss. Most people expected Australia to pile on some runs on what looked to be a good deck, while losing some wickets to a strong English attack. Wrong.
Australia did pile on the runs throughout their brief innings. It was all over in a touch over 40 overs of madness. The Australians scored at a rate of 4.71 and as the wickets fell, the graph actually climbed! Langer (40), Gilchrist (26) and Warne (27) all scored at a run a ball or better, with Langer looking particularly good, punishing anything remotely loose. Harmison and Flintoff both looked fantastic, gaining steepling bounce and carry from the pitch. The English joy was complete as five Australians took blows to the helmet including Hayden, Ponting, Warne and McGrath.
In the end, it was Harmison who demolished the innings, finishing with 5-43 after finishing his first spell with less than deserved 1-32. Of course, all were in awe, proclaiming Harmison as the “real deal” but as the Australian innings lay in ruin, a column of smoke hanging above it, few contemplated just how much assistance the pitch provided. On a day where the Aussies had batted like startled hares, the English were about to imitate rabbits in the spot light. And that part-time pig shooter from Narromine was in the back of the ute with his finger on the trigger.
England rightly could not have been happier to have dismissed Australia for under two hundred, having been asked to bowl. Of course, they still had to match those runs. Nasser Hussain was of the few who raised concerns about the up and down nature of the pitch before the English innings started.
The Australians had six overs at England before tea and while the going was not easy for Strauss and Trescothick, as they struggled to ten without loss at the break, nobody saw what was coming after tea.
Of course, we all knew that the great Glenn McGrath was poised to join the 500 club with his very first wicket of the day. We also knew that he loves Lord’s and is in good form. I also believe that despite English bravado, they are still intimidated by him.
McGrath picked up Trescothick (4) with the very first ball after tea. In fact, I heard McGrath’s 500th Test wicket before I saw it. andrewg had left the radio on and the broadcast was about six seconds ahead of the satellite images! Strauss (2) also departed in that same over and the demolition had begun.
Most of you know that I am a big fan of Glen McGrath. Sure, he has had some blemishes with some very churlish on-field behaviour but he seems to have curbed that in recent years, his last notable outburst being in the Caribbean several years ago. But I cannot let the shoes go. Unlike Warnie, McGrath was not so pretentious as to where the special shoes FOR the big occasion, in anticipation. But I am left at a loss that he had his specially made, gold [brand name withheld] 500 shoes sent out so that he could don them at the fall of the landmark wicket. Oh pullease!!!
At any rate, they seemed to help as McGrath raced to 504 wickets, got his name on the honour board in the rooms for the third straight visit to Lord’s and single handedly destroyed England. All this seemed to happen in a mere twinkling of an eye. Geraint Jones (who I refer to as “Go” Jones, as he is indeed a goer) came to the crease with the score a 5-21. andrewg (who for some reason supports England in cricket (something about the Aussie’s being “arrogant pratts” I think he said)) was now crying into his Boddingtons. And I’m sure he was in good company with millions across pubs in England.
McGrath did bowl magnificently and his accuracy, control and movement off the pitch are unsurpassed. But the dismissals of Vaughan (3) and Flintoff (0) should be of great concern to the Lord’s ground staff. Both were bowled playing well back to balls that they should have been fending from their chests. Instead they saw the ball rocket into off stump, before they could even move the bat. I don’t know what the problem with the pitch was but there seemed to be a significant dead spot on it. And McGrath was able to hit it. My suspicion is that it was dampness, rather than a crack which means that it might improve. Or perhaps it is a ridge on the pitch…. or maybe the gods of gold shoes…
Whatever the case, it was not good. The day saw 17 wickets for 282 runs. Tellingly, damningly, 15 of the wickets came from the treacherous Pavilion End.
In a fitting climax to the day, Go Jones and Pietersen had steadied the ship (if you could call 5-79 steady) and Brett Lee was given his turn from the Pavilion End. Results were immediate as he got Jones with a real snorter, who could only fend a looping dolly to Gilchrist.
In a fitting tribute to what was a psychotic day, Brett Lee delivered a telling blow by dismissing Giles from the very last ball of the day. Not only had Lee dismissed Giles from a no ball in the previous over (also following a rather unfortunate trend for the summer), he dismissed Giles via two modes from the final ball. Giles glanced the ball down the leg slide, which Gilchrist caught well, but not before big Ash had trod on his stumps! Mayhem.
At the end of the day, it seems that the Australian approach was not so mad after all. Perhaps it was a good choice to make runs while one enjoys a brief stint at the crease. England faced just three overs less than Australia but is less than half of Australia’s score and is seven wickets down. Pietersen is the key for England, as is the pitch. If it does not improve, Australia’s 190 first innings runs may prove to be enough of a platform. In any case it may be time to start making alternative plans for days 4 and 5 of this Test match.