November 7, 2002

Matthew Hayden rules supreme on opening day of Ashes series

Australia made the most of being sent in to bat by English skipper, Nasser Hussain on day one of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba. Australia finished the day on 364 for two with Matthew Hayden (186*) and Damien Martyn (9*) the not out batsmen.

It was partially cloudy this morning when Hussain won the toss. He may well live to regret his decision after the display by the English bowlers and fielders, and the fine efforts of the Australian batsmen.

Brilliant sunshine broke through within the first session and with the sun came runs for the Australians. Justin Langer (32) and Hayden made a terrific start, passing the fifty mark for the twelfth time from the past 20 occasions the two have paired up.

Andrew Caddick and Matthew Hoggard had the Australian openers jumping around in the first couple of overs, especially Hoggard who made Langer uncomfortable when swinging the ball away from the right hander.

But it was fast bowler Simon Jones who claimed the Langer wicket. Jones managed to move the ball off the seam, found Langer's edge and wicket-keeper Alec Stewart, did the rest.

Triumph was then followed by disaster for England and for Jones, who was later stretchered from the field with knee damage after sliding in an attempt to save four. A CT scan in hospital revealed he had ruptured his anterior knee ligament and will be out of action for at least six months. It was a desperate blow to England after they had already lost Darren Gough and Stephen Harmison to injury before the first Test. Jones had looked to be the best of their bowlers before the misfortune struck.

Ricky Ponting (123) joined Hayden at the crease and together they played positive and confident cricket albeit at times flirting with danger; especially Hayden with his pull and hook shots. Hayden and Ponting have both clocked up four centuries for the year 2002, with Hayden confirming his rating as the world's number one batsman on current form.

Hayden, though, at times was lucky. The 31-year-old was dropped on three occasions - a direct result of England's position in the match. Jones almost held him when he was on 40, but the fielder's momentum carried him over the rope. Hoggard dropped a skyer from Hayden at mid-off. The quick bowler was slow to react and turned himself inside out, missing the ball completely.

Michael Vaughan was the next to suffer the jeers of a vocal Gabba crowd for his missed chance. Vaughan dropped a straightforward chance, much to the delight of the crowd and the consternation of Craig White, his captain and himself. Hayden punished the misfields and errant bowling.

Hayden surpassed Ian Healy's knock of 161, making his stumps score the highest by a Queenslander on the Gabba pitch.

England's only piece of good fortune in the final session came when Ashley Giles found a ball that clipped Ponting's thigh pad, went to ground and rolled onto the stumps.

The Australians will be entirely happy with their position at the end of the first day in the knowledge that they have, in all probability, batted England out of this match. England will be reflecting on what might have been and formulating a strategy to save the game from a difficult position.

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