What a day. Exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure - and that just for those watching - England and Australia slugged it out on a day that had been expected to produce runs and instead saw the home side's batting succumb to the sheer endeavour of Peter Siddle, who took five for 50, and then the Australians stumble against the new ball.
By the close of the first day, Australia had reached 75 for four in reply to England's 215 all out as Steven Finn and Jimmy Anderson went some way to making amends for their team's sloppy batting. Australia do bat deep, however, much more so than England, with the surprise selection of the teenage left-arm spinner Ashton Agar instead of the offspinner Nathan Lyon adding to that and Siddle, a Test match centurion, the probable tail-end Charlie.
They might need it too, and will be hoping that when they draw the curtains to greet the second morning it will show clear skies once more. As it was, Steve Smith offered some late counter-punching, hitting Graeme Swann straight for six in the final half hour and ending unbeaten on 38 - the day's second highest score after Jonathan Trott's 48 - with Phil Hughes on seven.
The crowd got behind England in the last hour and deprived of Stuart Broad - who took a nasty blow on the right shoulder when batting against the pace and aggression of James Pattinson, and was left in the dressing room to ice it - Finn and Anderson responded.
Finn, rampaging in from the Pavilion end, was thrice clattered to the boundary in his first seven deliveries by Shane Watson, but came back strongly to have him well caught by Joe Root at third slip as he drove vigorously. He then removed Ed Cowan, who had been off the field for part of the day through illness, caught first ball by Swann at second slip, thus continuing what has been a miserable tour for him.
Michael Clarke narrowly avoided the hat-trick but then received what, when he sits in his armchair and reflects long after his retirement, he may come to regard as the best delivery he ever faced.
Anderson can produce some stunning bowling but this was just sublime, angling in, pitching and darting away to beat the outside edge and clip the
offstump. Anderson aeroplaned his delight as the coach stood on the team balcony and applauded his admiration. It was stunning.
The England man then removed the new opener Chris Rogers, a 35-year-old who played his only previous Test more than five years ago, although this appeared to involve an element of guesswork rather than conviction from Kumar Dharmasena. Anderson was round the wicket to the left-hander and attempting to straighten the ball down the line of the stumps. Rogers did fall across them a little but the geometry of these things has to be so spot-on: Rogers reviewed and HawkEye, by a whisker, vindicated the umpire.
All the pre-match prognostications were that the pitch, dry as a ship's biscuit, would not only produce the best batting conditions of the match over the first few days but would then deteriorate gradually: batting first was non-negotiable and Alastair Cook had little hesitation. That might still prove to be the correct decision, and can only be put into context when the outcome of the match is known.
But if the toss was seen as being very important, it was rendered less so with the cloud that had rolled in during the early hours to blanket the ground. So when Cook made his choice he did so knowing that he might be speculating then to accumulate later. To an extent the value of the toss was being negated.
Trent Bridge as much as any ground in the world when there is cloud and warmth will see the ball swing, hugely at times, and it did yesterday, all day. Being provided with the tools and utilising them properly are separate things, however, and in the fullness of time, Australia may come to regret that neither Pattinson nor Mitchell Starc were able to control the new ball as ought international bowlers: they could have had England on toast.
No batsman in these circumstances would ever be able to feel entirely secure, but England contributed to their own downfall with some profligate strokes.
Until Siddle changed to the Radcliffe Road end and began a wicket-taking spree, England had progressed with some rapidity, losing Cook, driving uncharacteristically at Pattinson to be caught behind, but then galloping along as Joe Root and Trott added 51, the ball flying to the boundary across an outfield that would give the greens at Augusta a run for their
Three years ago in Brisbane, Siddle began the last series with six for 54 and a hat-trick on the opening day, and now he was to make a similar impact. His first delivery, an away-swinging yorker that castled Root for 30, set in train a procession of wickets that saw 13 fall for 212 runs in 58 overs.
Siddle brought control, forcing the batsmen to play and making them chase scoring opportunities, using the crease to vary his angle of attack, swinging the ball nicely and butting his way into the fray like a battleship into the waves.
Kevin Pietersen looked strangely jittery and was taken at second slip, Trott dragged a wide one on to his stumps while driving in ugly fashion and following the highest stand of the day, 54 with Jonny Bairstow, for the fifth wicket, Ian Bell went to first slip whereupon Matt Prior slapped a short, wide delivery to cover to give Siddle a deserved fifth wicket.
Pattinson and Starc cleaned up the tail with ominous efficiency.
– (Guardian Service)