After what has felt like decades, Ben Hilfenhaus finally got the Ashes underway on the stroke of midnight last night, and two balls later the skipper was back in the hutch.
Not the best of starts then, but after his departure Trott and Cook, though a little nervy at times, didn't look in too much trouble, Hilfenhaus and Johnson gave them little to worry about and I was in bed before Doherty got a bowl. Obviously I therefore missed the first big moment of the series, the Siddle hat-trick. He was by all accounts the only one of the seam bowlers to hit the right length and he's got six wickets in his pocket as reward. So what is the lie of the land?
England's total is below par, probably by 100-120 runs, but all is not lost. A wicket before the close of play would've been terrifically helpful, but twas not to be and Katich and Watson will reappear tonight. England are capable of bowling out Australia for under 300, they're as liable to lose wickets in bunches as we are these days (though we should probably not expect another three-in-three), all it takes is a little bit of magic.
Broad and Anderson have to come out willing to attack, all guns blazing, because we need to wrest that momentum back and show them what we're about. Their batting is full of good players and a great one, but we've got four cracking bowlers in our ranks.
What we don't need is blazing sunshine and sky high temperatures; another day like today would be nice please, a bit of cloud, a bit of a breeze, and a comfortable 25 degrees or so.
Two things are absolutely critical for tonight: firstly, an early wicket to get the tails up, if the partnership sails towards the hundred mark heads will begin to drop. Secondly, Ponting has to have his wings clipped early on, preferably by a short ball to feed the speculation that his ability in that area is firmly on the wane.
If both of those things happen, and they're 60-2 or so, its game on and England need to move in for the kill.