The lead up to the first Ashes test included a lot of media hype from the Australians, trying to throw the English off guard. Dramatic backfiring ensued on a very sunny first day.
Winning the toss and electing to bat first, signs were looking good. Then the inevitable happened, and the first two sessions belonged to the England bowlers.
If there is one thing that the Australian batsmen have not mastered, it is the short pitched ball. Stuart Broad (5/65), James Anderson and Chris Tremlett all found a line and length that troubled the Australians, and Chris Rogers fell first.
On a Gabba pitch that traditionally lends itself to some big first-innings scores, the England bowlers took charge. Shane Watson and David Warner set about looking for runs after the early wicket; but the partnership ended on 59. Trying to guide a ball that rose up similar to the Rogers dismissal, a soft catch to Graeme Swann was all England needed heading into lunch, Australia at 2/71.
Things turned ugly after lunch. Captain Michael Clarke, who has missed out on the runs in recent times, got undone by yet another Broad short ball.
Footwork went missing for the skipper, who fell for a very disappointing one, looking like a little schoolkid thrown into the deep end. With Warner going soon after for 49, the short ball trend had established itself for the day. Australia were 4/83 and looking shaky.
England was finding fuel from somewhere (almost unknown) and Australia began to hurt. Debutant George Bailey came and went, and the Barmy Army started to make themselves heard.
Simply continuing where they finished at home, England had Australia on the ropes at 6/132. In trouble, and seeking a big partnership, vice captain Brad Haddin (78*) built one with Mitchell Johnson (64). Taking a liking to the spinners, Johnson put two maximums well over the rope, while at the same time contributing to a crucial 114 run partnership.
Composure as a lower-order batsman is important, and Haddin, who averaged just 22.88 in the series prior, looked world-class facing the tall pacemen.
The day, however, belonged to England, and the short ball exposed a worrying weakness in Australia’s top six. Broad with ball in hand ripped through the order, and exploited the hard Gabba pitch. He was well supported by Anderson (2/61) and Tremlett (1/51), who were key to pestering the batsmen with a consistent line and length.
Graeme Swann toiled all day, but went wicketless. While the Australian side regained some dignity after a paltry start, day one belonged to England on a pitch made for batting.
The key to starting start day two is pushing the score as high as possible; in order to not give England any leeway. Plenty of rain is forecast over the next four days, and Australia cannot afford to let this game get out of hand if they want a good start to the series.