Siddle hat-trick gives Australia control
Australia 0 for 25 (Katich 15*, Watson 9*) trail England 260 (Bell 76, Cook 67, Siddle 6-54) by 235 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ashes history is littered with some extraordinary opening days and Brisbane produced another as Peter Siddle, a controversial selection for this match, gave himself a birthday to remember by claiming a hat-trick and a career-best 6 for 54, which removed England for 260. Alastair Cook played calmly for his 67 and Ian Bell produced one of his finest international innings, but the visitors will feel they've let a golden chance slip and Australia closed on 0 for 25.
Siddle's moment of glory came in the final session after England had reached 4 for 197 and Australia had gone into a holding pattern. He was recalled to the attack and in his second over back persuaded Cook, after 168 balls of concentration, to push outside off and edge to first slip. That was followed by a full, fast delivery that Matt Prior barely had time register and the hat-trick ball was again homing in on the stumps but instead struck Stuart Broad's boot. The atmosphere at the 'Gabbatoir' was electric and just to add to the drama Broad, who clearly wasn't prepared for the clatter of wickets and was rushed to get ready, reviewed his decision, but there was no escape.
It was some way to mark a Test recall - Siddle hadn't played since January after suffering a stress fracture of his back - and was an emphatic tick for the selectors, who'd preferred him over Doug Bollinger. He showed how to bowl on a slow surface, pitching the ball a touch fuller than is normal in Australia. Even before his hat-trick, Siddle had justified the call with the key scalps of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood, which set England back during the afternoon. His sixth wicket came when Graeme Swann played round a straight ball and he was only denied a seventh when Brad Haddin spilled James Anderson.
Around the mayhem caused by Siddle, Bell played a wonderful innings that highlighted his development as a Test player. Left with the tail, he opened up in a manner rarely seen at the highest level, producing a string of a purring drives through the off side until lofting Xavier Doherty to deep cover to hand him his first Test wicket.
The drama of the final session will grab the headlines, but the series had also been given a lively beginning as England managed to write another entry into the list of Ashes horror starts. After events on this ground four years ago all eyes were on the first ball of the day and the opening delivery from Ben Hilfenhaus sailed harmlessly past off stump. However, it didn't take long for the series to burst into life - two balls later Strauss tried to cut one that was a little too close to his body and picked out Mike Hussey at gully.
The England captain stood there, head in hand for a moment, before turning for the dressing room as the Gabba erupted to the cheers of the home support. Strauss had made two hundreds during England's near-perfect warm-up period and Australia knew how vital the scalp was. It took the visitors until the third over to open their account and that was an edge to third man by Jonathan Trott, who then had to survive a heart-stopping referral when Siddle's lbw shout was sent to the third umpire.
However, he and Cook steadily evened the scales. Trott provided some impetus but was also rather skittish at stages as he edged short of second slip and got a leading edge towards point trying to work through midwicket, before giving his innings away with a loose drive at Shane Watson. England believe they can target Watson as a weak link in the Australian attack, so providing him an early wicket will have been a disappointment, but Watson's full length was a lesson to heed on this pitch.
Cook was one of England's batsmen to enter this series with an unflattering record against Australia and shouldn't have survived the first session when he was dropped at point on 26 by Doherty. That, though, was his only mistake until his dismissal, as he refused to chase anything wide and waited for the bowlers to drift towards the pads. He pulled Mitchell Johnson through midwicket for his first boundary then started after lunch with a sweet clip and picked off Doherty with ease.
The game settled as Cook and Pietersen added 76 to take England into the period where batsmen traditionally dominate in Australia once the ball has gone soft. However, Siddle had been picked because of his ability to unsettle batsmen on good pitches and proved his worth. He made one move a fraction to find the edge of Pietersen's drive and produced a very similar delivery to have Collingwood taken low at third slip.
Collingwood is known to be a dodgy starter but Pietersen had looked in fine fettle, as good as he has at Test level since before his Achilles injury. Pietersen's first boundary was a sweet straight drive and he wore the expression of a man on a mission as he picked off a further five fours. He also seemed intent on attacking Doherty during an intriguing mini-battle and Australia were relieved to end it when they did. Slightly surprisingly, Siddle was rested after a four-over burst, but his impact on the day was far from over.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo