Seamers explode Ashes into life

Glenn McGrath and Steve Harmison took five wickets apiece as seventeen wickets crumbled during the first day’s play in the first Ashes Test at Lord’s.

On a Lord’s wicket that seemed to favour batting, Australia, including Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee over Michael Kasprowicz, had no hesitation to take first use of the track – but Harmison and Matthew Hoggard both extracted initial movement both in the air and off the pitch to worry both Australian opening batsmen, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, Harmison striking both batsmen on the helmet.

Hoggard, however, tended to stray onto the left handers’ pads – and with the swing taking the ball further down leg side, the Yorkshireman was easily picked off into the legside early on. Even so, Hayden never seemed at ease and was beaten when Hoggard at last found his range, bringing the ball back into the Queenslander and shattering the stumps.

Ricky Ponting was dropped second ball by Kevin Pietersen in the gully before Harmison completed his one-two-three of helmet rattling, as play was halted to allow the Australian captain to receive treatment to a bleeding cut on his cheek. Harmison struck in a more traditional way soon after, enticing an unconvincing edge to Andrew Strauss at third slip before a double England bowling change brought a double impact.

Andrew Flintoff tempted Justin Langer into an injudicious hook shot, skying the ball to Harmison at square leg, before Damien Martyn slashed Simon Jones behind to the bowler’s namesake, Geraint – and when Michael Clarke was adjudged LBW, perhaps a little unluckily, Australia were in dire straits at 97-5 when the morning session drew to a close.

Adam Gilchrist’s counter-attacking vibrancy down the order has underpinned the success of Team Australia over the last five years, and another rollicking counterstrike seemed in order as the wicketkeeper raced to 26, with six boundaries, before aiming another expansive drive at Andrew Flintoff and edging behind. Shane Warne joined Simon Katich as Australia attempted to rebuild, mixing caution and bravado before Warne walked across the stumps once too often and saw Harmison knock back his unguarded wicket.

With the tail exposed and a fired-up Harmison charging in, Australia’s last three wickets subsided inside 25 balls for the addition of 15 further runs, Simon Katich falling first as he skied a mishook to Geraint Jones before Brett Lee edged behind – one ball after being spilled in the slips by Pietersen. Jason Gillespie was the last man to fall, trapped flush in front of the wicket by a full and straight ball.

A glorious afternoon was ended calmly as England’s openers saw off the first four overs from McGrath and Lee without loss in the lead up to tea – but as the players resumed after the interval, England’s wheels not so much fell off as disappeared into thin air. Both Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss were squared up and managed no more than edges into the packed slip cordon, before the Lord’s wickets and its vagaries of bounce played its part in England’s downfall – three batsmen falling in successive McGrath overs, all bowled.

Michael Vaughan was undone by a short-of-a-length delivery keeping low and jarring into off stump, Ian Bell pushed forward unconvincingly and chopped on through the gate and Flintoff was castled courtesy of a near-grubber. Kevin Pietersen – whose selection had been questioned often, many questions asking whether he would be suited to coming in at 20-3, was joined by Geraint Jones at 21-5. Determined not to repeat the top order’s hesitancy to come forward, his footwork alongside Jones’ belligerence allowed England to make large strides – physically and metaphorically – into halting the runaway Australian momentum.

It took the return of Brett Lee as the day drew to a close to break the 58-run sixth wicket liaison as a short ball cramped Jones – seemingly in two minds, whether to hook or defend – and the wicketkeeper did no more than flick the ball aerially to his counterpart, Gilchrist. Ashley Giles looked even less comfortable against Lee’s pace, and was caught by Simon Katich under the helmet off a vicious short no-ball, before being forced back – and onto his own stumps – by the final delivery of the day, gloving a catch behind in the process.

At 92-7, England find themselves 98 in arrears of their rivals but with Kevin Pietersen still available. Should Hoggard, Harmison and Jones in the English tail defy the inevitable barrage of McGrath accuracy and Lee velocity, first innings parity is not impossible by the lunch interval – but fourth day ticket holders should worry.

The Ashes has started – and how!

Australia 190
Justin Langer 40, Shane Warne 28
Steve Harmison 5-43, Simon Jones 2-48

England 92-7
Geraint Jones 30, Kevin Pietersen 29*
Glenn McGrath 5-21, Brett Lee 2-35

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