Steven Finn brought England back into the first Ashes Test as bowlers held sway on an overcast opening day at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
At stumps, Australia were 75 for four in reply to England’s seemingly meagre 215, a deficit of 140 runs, after 14 wickets had fallen in the day’s play.
Not since 2005, when 17 wickets fell at Lord’s, had the first day of an Ashes series seen bowlers enjoy so much success.
Fast bowler Finn took two wickets in two balls before England spearhead James Anderson produced a superb ball to clean bowl Australia captain Michael Clarke for nought.
Steven Smith, not even in the original Ashes squad, was 38 not out and Phil Hughes, no longer an opener but batting at number six, seven not out as floodlights pierced the gloom.
Siddle to the fore
Earlier, Australia fast medium-bowler Peter Siddle took five wickets for 50 runs after England captain Alastair Cook won the toss, with Jonathan Trott’s 48 the hosts’ top score.
Siddle’s haul was his latest impressive start to an Ashes series after he took six for 54, including a hat-trick, on the opening day of the 2010/11 series at Brisbane. “It’s been an extraordinary day,” said Siddle.
Australia’s bowling always looked significantly stronger than their batting, with the key to the tourists’ hopes of regaining the Ashes appearing to rest on their top order.
New Australia coach Darren Lehmann decided to restore Shane Watson to his preferred spot at the top of the order. But Watson, who in 41 previous Tests had managed just two hundreds, was out in familiar fashion when he pushed forward firmly against Finn without adjusting for away movement and was caught for 13.
Next ball Australia were 19 for two when Ed Cowan, who spent the early part of the season at Trent Bridge, with Nottinghamshire, carelessly chased a wide delivery and was caught at second slip by county colleague Graeme Swann.
Clarke narrowly survived the hat-trick bid but lasted just five more balls, with Anderson producing a near unplayable delivery that angled in and seamed away late to hit off stump.
Australia were now 22 for three and this with regular England new ball bowler Stuart Broad off the field with a shoulder injury suffered while batting.
Opener Chris Rogers, recalled for his second Test five years after his debut, hung on for over an hour. But he was eventually lbw for 16 to Anderson, bowling from around the wicket and not even a review of umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s decision could reprieve the 35-year-old.