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July 8, 2009
Meltdown of the day
Kevin Pietersen had an eventful day with the bat. He began manically, pumped to the gunwales with Ashes adrenalin, before settling into a more measured approach, aided in a peculiar way by the Achilles-related calf injury that forced him to chill out and play each ball on its merit. Alas, that sanity couldn't hold sway forever, and on 69, he climbed into perhaps the most atrocious sweep-shot he has yet unfurled in his career. His feet did not move as Nathan Hauritz tossed the ball out wide, and Simon Katich back-pedalled gleefully from short leg to cling onto what might yet prove a match-turning dismissal.
Escape of the day
Pietersen is carrying an aching Achilles and calf in his right leg, and after the first day he must have a sore left shin and foot as well. He was the target of a couple of strong lbw decisions at the start of his innings, but both were shown to be heading over the stumps. After tea, with the batsman on 61, Ben Hilfenhaus swung one in instead of taking it away and Pietersen was struck right in front on the shoe. Hilfenhaus is new on the scene and his appeal did not carry the power of Brett Lee or Glenn McGrath. There was only quiet support from the slips and Billy Doctrove was not convinced. Five runs later Hilfenhaus was upset further when Michael Clarke dropped a sharp chance at cover.
Catch of the day
The morning was drifting along until Michael Hussey sparked the contest with a leaping take to his right at gully to remove Alastair Cook. It wasn't quite Andrew Strauss flying to grab Adam Gilchrist's nick at Trent Bridge in 2005, but Hussey was mid-air for a special catch that spurred the Australians to another two breakthroughs before lunch. Hussey has been standing in the gully since Matthew Hayden moved to first slip after Shane Warne's exit at the end of the previous Ashes contest. Michael Clarke now plants himself next to the keeper, and his collection of Andrew Strauss was much simpler.
Welcome of the day
With his bustle and aggression from an apparently innocuous set-up, Peter Siddle is Australia's modern-day answer to Merv Hughes, and the second-ball bouncer with which he introduced Ravi Bopara to Ashes cricket was merely a moustache short of an exact replica of Hughes' huff-and-puff at Old Trafford in 1993. The ball was short and angry, like a disenchanted midget, and carried on climbing and climbing until a flat-footed Bopara had no place to hide. With his defences breached, he dropped his gloves and took his licks, as the ball cannoned off his breastbone, and up into his Adam's apple.
Anthem of the day
It is common knowledge that the Welsh love a good sing-song, and on the opening morning of their long-anticipated Test debut, their collective lungs were bursting with pride. As the teams lined up in front of the Really Welsh Pavilion (topped off, incongruously, by a gently fluttering St. George's Cross), the mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins - more commonly spotted down the road at the Millennium Stadium - belted out Land of our Fathers, before some random reality TV winner led the charge through Advance Australia Fair and God Save the Queen. Still the musical montage wasn't finished, however. With minutes to go until the start, Jenkins returned to belt out Jerusalem. And then finally the Ashes could begin.
Miscue of the day
Paul Collingwood deceived everyone, including himself, when he climbed into a Mitchell Johnson bouncer in the final over of the morning session. The ball skidded onto him, as is Johnson's wont, and zipped, pelota-style, down the blade and away through midwicket for four. Collingwood's head and body motion gave the impression, however, that he had just slapped his shot uppishly to fine leg, where Ben Hilfenhaus was waiting, hands at the ready, for the catch that never came.
Medal of the day
Not content with introducing a new venue to the Ashes annals, the ECB decided to revamp the all-important coin toss as well. Instead of the traditional nugget of currency, a specially minted gold "medal" was rolled out, one of a limited edition of 150 apparently, with a defending batsmen on one side, and a swooshing npower logo on the other. In the circumstances, it was hard to know exactly what to call at the toss - although Ricky Ponting eventually settled, incorrectly as it turned out, for "heads". Mike Atherton, overseeing the event for Sky Sports, had to wait for the match referee to confirm which side was which before broadcasting the result to the nation.
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