Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 1st day November 23, 2006

Giles content with comeback

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Ashley Giles: 'At one stage I didn't think I'd play cricket again, so it's worked pretty well' © Getty Images
If England's cricketers need any counselling after a traumatic first day of the Ashes, then they should look no further than a certain member of their own camp. Ashley Giles's career seemed dead in the water last summer, as he struggled to recover from a long-term hip injury, and when he did finally make it back into the team, a year to the day since his last outing, his selection ahead of Monty Panesar was universally panned.

But it was ever thus with Gilo, and once again he took these indignities on the chin, wheeling away impassively to provide a rare semblance of control for his team. Eighteen overs for 51 plus the solitary wicket of Damien Martyn was hardly riches, but compared to some of the other returns on day one of the series, it was a comeback of Sinatra proportions.

"It was fairly satisfying," Giles demurred afterwards. "It's been a difficult year, and I was nervous this morning. It's almost a year to the day since I last played a Test match. But it was great to be out with the boys, and there's no better ground or atmosphere to play in."

Giles's selection, though widely speculated upon in the build-up to the match, still came as something of a surprise. He has not played any first-class cricket since the tour of Pakistan this time last year, and was even overlooked for England's final warm-up match at Adelaide last week. "I take it as a huge compliment," he said. "Monty played at Adelaide, I've been out of the team, and this is probably the most hyped Ashes series of all. But I was overjoyed last night to get picked for the side."

His selection was billed as negativity but, at the age of 33, Giles revealed he was still capable of learning new tricks, as he came in closer to the stumps with a remodelled action, and even ventured around the wicket on occasions. It was the second time in his career he had tinkered with his action, having deconstructed it on the tour of Bangladesh in 2003-04, with less immediate results. "I'm still in that match learning mode," he admitted. "I was surprised my first ball bounced!

"I've tried to get a bit closer around the wicket, be more consistent around the wicket and be more attacking but my pace is something I need to work on," he added. "Because I've changed the angle of delivery I need to get my pace from other areas. I am still learning a lot about my action in matches. I hope it will develop and the action will get better and better."

Giles admitted that Panesar's success had spurred him on in his rehabilitation. "It gives you a bit of a hurry-up," he said. "I've always wanted and tried to get better, and it's good competition. This last 12 months has given me the opportunity to work from a blank canvas. Having not bowled for such a long period I decided not so much to change things as improve things. At one stage I didn't think I'd play cricket again, so it's worked pretty well."

The two rival spinners hadn't had much to say to each other before the match, however. "We haven't spoken a lot," said Giles. "Last night, Monty said good luck, I said hard luck, that's all you can do. I'd back Monty all the way if he'd played ahead of me. But having been through what I've been through this year, I didn't want to give up my cricket yet. I've got to work bloody hard."

The same could be said of the England team as a whole, but Giles was adamant they weren't down and out just yet.

"Things didn't go as well as we'd have liked, but there's plenty of spirit in this England camp. We'll come out fighting and if we can get a couple of early wickets, we can get right in among them."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo