England v Australia, 4th Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day August 27, 2005

First come, first served

England's bowlers have made a habit of taking a wicket in the first over of a spell, session or after a break in play

Simon Jones has the happy knack of picking up a quick wicket when he comes on to bowl © Getty Images

The first over of a spell used to go something like this: the bowler would loosen up, find his range while the batsman would size up the task in front of him. But the England attack are having none of that this summer and have become the masters of striking in the first over - and even with the first ball - of a spell.

Some of the credit must go to Michael Vaughan, who is developing the happy knack of bringing on the right bowler at the right time; whether it is Andrew Flintoff to Adam Gilchrist, Simon Jones to Ricky Ponting or Steve Harmison to Michael Clarke. But then the rest is down to the bowlers, who have constantly put the ball in the right place at the very start.

The England attack have also used natural breaks in play - drinks intervals, lunch and tea - to the grab the batsmen unawares when they resume. The perfect example of this was Flintoff's dismissal of Simon Katich at Old Trafford when, after a series of balls moving away from the batsman before a drinks break, he then brought one back into Katich who shouldered arms and had to watch his off stump cart-wheeling towards the wicketkeeper.

At the last count - and it continued to grow even as this piece was being written - England's bowlers had conjured a wicket in the first over of a spell, session or after a break on 14 occasions. The latest scalp was Matthew Hayden - the third time it has happened to him - when he was caught by Ashley Giles off Flintoff in the second innings at Trent Bridge.

Flintoff has managed the early wicket on three occasions but the king of quick strikes is Simon Jones, who has dismissed an Australian on five occasions in a first over - including three first ball. The trend was started at Lord's when Jones removed Damien Martyn with his opening delivery of the series. His victims then included Hayden in the second innings at Edgbaston, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne at Old Trafford, then Katich in the first innings at Trent Bridge (which turned into two in the over when Warne fell next ball).

Each of Australia's top eight have fallen at least once in the first over from an England bowler - Ricky Ponting was the second victim in that memorable opening salvo from Flintoff in the second innings at Edgbaston - but the most frequent victim has been Justin Langer who has departed four times in first overs of a bowler's spell.

Commentators often talk about the dangers to a batsman of starting their innings again after a break or getting used to a new bowler - this England team have made it down right lethal.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo