First Day Fifth Ashes Test: England Toil as Australia Capitalise on Poor Batting

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First Day Fifth Ashes Test: England Toil as Australia Capitalise on Poor Batting
(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

England finished the first day of the final Ashes test on 307-8 after a day that failed to live up to some early promise as their batsmen again showed technical deficiencies outside the off stump. 

After winning the toss and choosing to bat, England opener Alistair Cook was dismissed after just 5 overs, edging to Ponting at second slip. At this point, England fans could have been forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu after the debacle at Headingley.

However, Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell proceeded to allay fears of a Headingley-esque collapse and batted through the rest of the morning session, guiding England to 108-1 at lunch and leaving England arguably slightly on top after the early exchanges. 

Strauss and Bell put on 101 for the first wicket, before Strauss was caught behind off Hilfenhaus, a frustrating wicket for the England captain who had looked in very good touch, scoring 55, including 11 fours.

Australia's bowlers began to control the afternoon session, restricting the previously free-scoring Bell and slowing down the England run rate significantly. Collingwood played nervously for 24 off 65 balls before playing one outside his off stump and thick edging to Mike Hussey at gully off the bowling of Siddle.

Bell, meanwhile, had moved onto 50 and finished the afternoon session on 72 with debutante Jonathan Trott at the other end on three. The afternoon had certainly belonged to the Australian bowlers who had taken two wickets for 72 runs, with one each going to Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus.

Bell was unable to add to his score after the tea interval and played on to his first delivery after the break, Siddle being the man to benefit. Australia's bowlers continued with their frugal efforts after tea, restricting both Trott and Prior, who added 48 for 5th wicket before the latter was caught at point of Johnson, continuing the English disease of flashing outside of off-stump.

Prior's dismissal precipitated the arrival of Andrew Flintoff to the crease for what was likely to be his penultimate innings in Test cricket. Flintoff played uneasily for 7 before becoming yet another England player to succumb to waving his bat around outside off-stump, being caught by Haddin off the bowling of Johnson.

Trott was out just 20 minutes later in an unlucky end to a promising looking innings, losing his balance and being run out by Simon Katich at short leg, as Australia began to take a real stranglehold on the game. 

Broad and Swann slightly improved England's position, putting on 39 before Swann was caught behind off Siddle for 18. Broad finished on 26 not out and England will hope that he can get some help from the tail as they try to improve their position tomorrow morning. 

England can take a tiny amount of solace from the fact that part-time spinner Marcus North was able to extract turn and bounce from the pitch, although may feel slightly foolish in having left out spinner Monty Panesar on a turning wicket.

Australia's bowlers, in particular Peter Siddle, deserve praise for the persistence, however, many of the England batsmen will look back on their dismissals as foolish, five of them playing at balls outside the off stump that they should have left well alone.

Nonetheless, Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss may have every right to feel slightly aggrieved, as television replays suggested that both were given out off no balls, Bell in particular falling to a Siddle delivery that replays suggests was bowled at least 8 inches in front of the crease.

Play resumes again tomorrow at 11 a.m. BST.

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