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Thursday, July 11, 2013

England have slight edge after 14 wickets fall on hard fought day of uneven quality: Ashes 2013 T1 D1

Australia 4/75 (21ov, Smith 38*) trail England 215 (59 ov, Trott 48/80b,9x4, Bairstow 37, Root 30, Siddle 5/50, Pattinson 3/69) by 140 runs on 1st inns; T1/5 D1/5 at Trent Bridge Nottingham. England won toss and chose to bat.

Yesterday Sir Ian Botham predicted that this Test would be over in three and a half days, with England winning. I scoffed at what I took to be pre-series bluster, but after a hurly-burly first day's play in which 14 wickets fell it looks as if Sir Ian was, unusually for him, erring on the side of caution.

Australia surprised me (and many others) by preferring the 19 year old Ashton Agar to Nathan Lyon (who took 9 wickets in his last Test).  I couldn't see a good reason for this and the decision may well come back to bite them. He only bowled a few nothing-to-write-home-about overs but will almost certainly need to do more when England bat again, which will probably be on day two.

The first session gave little hint of what was to come. The Australian bowlers, Peter Siddle included because of his first few overs, were all over the place in what should have been helpful overcast conditions. The England batters took advantage of this and the fast outfield and at lunch were handily placed at 2/98 from 26 overs with Jonathan Trott looking good.

But early in the afternoon session  Kevin Pietersen swatted Siddle to cover and it was 3/102. At 124 Trott, who'd looked so on top of the situation, played on to Siddle for 48, which turned out to be the highest score of the day. Even so England's position didn't look to be beyond redemption, but none of the remaining upper order could keep Siddle 14-4-50-5 at bay, while James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc refocused and sliced through the tail.

215 looked decidedly below par. Yet when Australia collapsed to 3/22, including Michael Clarke bowled for a duck by a beautiful Jimmy Anderson nip backer (watch the replay if you can), it suddenly looked ample. Steve Smith, like Agar a late addition to the original squad, batted positively - his straight drive for 6 off Graeme Swann was the shot of the day - restore a measure of hope to the visitors.

 Talk about Australia batting down to no11 is all very well, but in the circumstances it sounds like Bothamesque bluster. The weather and the pitch, which is already starting to crumble, will play a big part in shaping the course of the match but on paper now England have an edge.

All this makes for mandatory viewing (the Sky Sports feed is available here on both free to air - Gem - and Foxtel)  for the next couple of days. I  shall try to keep awake as long as possible (unlike last night where I nodded off early in the afternoon session and had to catch the highlights this morning).

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