2001/02: Nasser Hussain wins the toss and makes the wrong choice, putting the Aussies in to bat where they go on to bat and bat.
2006/07: Harmison runs in and bowls the first delivery straight into the hands of second slip, Andrew Flintoff, who really ought to have looked more surprised.
2010/11: Strauss wins the toss, takes the pressure and chooses to go out and bat before falling for a 3rd ball duck.
They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts. The problem, though, is that when it comes to Ashes series the start is always a sign of what is to come. There was big talk and big expectation: the first session was going to be crucial for deciding the momentum. Did they need a session for that to be decided? Did they even need an over?
With Strauss being hyped by all, notably the Australian team themselves, a lot of the pressure to perform was with him as this match started. A soft dismissal to a delivery which ought to have been punished is not really what was called for. In previous series, it has been all important to see how things started. This series is supposed to be different, but even so we then saw England crash to a below par score of 260 all out. Is it an omen or just a blip?
The early wicket certainly seemed to get the Aussies fired up for the contest at the time and with the wicket of Trott falling not too much later it would seem the early fall of Strauss had put the whole contest in a different light. I think this is the Ashes that is different, though, and I believe we aren’t going to see this series defined by what happened in its first over. Unlike previous tourists, this England team has a lot more mental strength and determination, without the same memories of losing and fear that other teams have had to deal with. Even though there were no big scores made, England’s batsmen certainly didn’t look demoralised and bereft after Strauss went. Whilst early occurances have blown a whole through the psyche of these other teams, I think this England could be the one to move on from it stronger.
It would be fair to say the evidence isn’t there based on day 1, with the innings ending on a pretty low score, but there was some hope in there for England. Only one Australian bowler made a real impression on the game and there are no prizes for guessing it was Siddle. With a hattrick and a 6-for coming on his birthday, it was a very nice present for him. The big issue for the hosts, though, is that Siddle isn’t going to turn in this kind of performance every test and if you take Siddle out of the equation today then the rest of the attack looked rather lacklustre. Unless a new hero steps up, the England batsmen may well be more at ease in future innings.
There is also a positive to take from the bowler’s perspective. Players like Anderson are constantly being told they are only at their best when the ball is swinging and they can pitch it up to the batsmen. Well, call it their lucky day then. Siddle’s most effective bowling came when it was pitched right up and just moving enough through the air to decieve. Not only that, but there appeared to be some movement off the pitch there too for the bowlers, as evidenced in Trott’s dismissal. If England are going to stay in the game, they have to take wickets quickly tomorrow. They ought to be rubbing their hands in glee, though, at the way conditions have been looking today.
England could go on and crumble and we will once again have the big defining moment to be replayed in future years, but it looks like we might have a chance at the trend being bucked. Everyone said day 1 would be the most important day of the Ashes, but it will be day 2 which lets us know best where these teams stand.