| CARDIFF, July 8
CARDIFF, July 8 Fortunes ebbed and flowed in the
best tradition of Ashes cricket on Wednesday after the heady but
less substantial delights of the Twenty20 World Cup last month.
Wales welcomed the first Ashes test staged on neutral
territory with anthems, a warm sunny day and a pitch which could
decide the destiny of the first test between England and
At the end of the opening day, honours were pretty much even
with England 336 for seven after selecting two spinners and
electing to bat first.
The consensus before the match, based on county games this
season, was that the pitch would be slow, low and take spin.
Both captains clearly agreed after examining the wicket
carefully over the past two days. England included Graeme Swann
and Monty Panesar, two men who turn the ball in different
directions, while Australia picked off-spinner Nathan Hauritz
even though his two wickets on tour had cost 260 runs.
Ricky Ponting did not call on Hauritz until the afternoon
session after his pace bowlers had knocked over the England top
three. Kevin Pietersen (69) and Paul Collingwood (64) responded
by adding 138 for the fourth wicket and batting throughout the
Their dismissals after tea gave Australia the edge before
England seized the initiative again with a lively partnership of
86 between Matt Prior (56) and Andrew Flintoff (37).
Late wickets to Peter Siddle restored the balance, leaving
16,000 spectators thoroughly satisfied with a fine day's test
"It's not too difficult to bat on, it's slow. You really had
to bide your time, it was quite nice once you got in. But the
ball kept swinging today," said Pietersen, who revealed the ball
had brushed his helmet when an attempted sweep off Hauritz ended
up in Simon Katich's hands at short-leg.
"The promising thing today is that Nathan Hauritz is
spinning it off the straight and we've got two spinners.
"Not many test wickets spin off the straight on day one.
There's a lot of dust and a lot of footholes to work with, I
think tomorrow morning is a huge, huge session."
Australia coach Tim Nielsen agreed with Pietersen's
"It's definitely going to get dustier and drier and break up
a little. It's been very difficult for the batting and the
bowling because it's been so slow. It's a critical time tomorrow
morning, probably for the first hour or so," he said.
"There's no doubt the wicket will deteriorate over the next
couple of days. It's not as simple as it looks out there."
Both men paid tribute to the crowd and the organisation at
the world's 100th test arena after Welsh soprano Katherine
Jenkins had begun the day by singing "Land of My Fathers".
"The weather was good, the crowd was great, the facilities
are fantastic and we're playing cricket. It was nice to get
underway today," said Nielsen.
For an interactive factbox on the Ashes series please click here
(Editing by Ed Osmond; to query or comment on this story