'It's an amazing feeling' - Siddle
Australia spent the morning waiting for a hero and by late afternoon they had one as Peter Siddle celebrated his 26th birthday with a hat-trick and career-best figures. On his return from almost a year out with back stress fractures, Siddle broke through an England order that was benefiting from a generous local attack until his two thoughtful and devastating spells.
Siddle spent part of the day stretching Merv Hughes-style with the masses and the crowd adored him even more when he became the first Australian to capture a hat-trick since Glenn McGrath in 2000-01. In three balls the hosts went from drifting to dominant, with Siddle delivering a full length and being rewarded with swing and seam.
Having taken two wickets in the second session during an important four-over spell, Siddle had the Gabba throbbing with the third, fourth and fifth balls of his 12th over. The stubborn Alastair Cook finally edged one angling across him and was taken by Shane Watson at first slip before Siddle's next offering, an even fuller effort, sliced between Matt Prior's bat and pad.
Siddle had four slips, a gully and a point for his hat-trick delivery but didn't need any of them as he unleashed a painful yorker at the end of his 19-step sprint to the wicket. It appeared his target was Stuart Broad's front foot and the ball never deviated from the batsman's toe. It was a mistake.
"I'd like to say it was the plan," Siddle said, "but I was looking to hit the top of off ... To get him on the full with a bit of shape was a dream ball. I'll definitely remember it for a long time."
Broad departed after a failed referral that temporarily interrupted Siddle's fist pumping, but the replay showed what the locals knew and gave the crowd two opportunities to show their love. "To see the finger go up quickly was very pleasing," Siddle said. "Then all the boys came charging in and Stuart was still in, so I sort of thought he'd call for [the review]. When you hit them on the full you're pretty confident."
He became the 11th Australian owner of a hat-trick during his six-over spell of 4 for 26, and finished with 6 for 54. The display also came in front of David Saker, his former coach at Victoria, and the man who is now assisting England. Everyone was watching him.
Siddle appeals like a man given a surge of electricity, arms shaking violently and noise roaring from his shuddering white lips. The regular performance was on show again when he pitched up and had Graeme Swann's lbw confirmed by another England challenge.
Victim No.7 should have come with James Anderson's edge to Brad Haddin, but the one-handed attempt to the wicketkeeper's left was spilt. Siddle kept pushing for more until he was given a rest and the debutant Xavier Doherty finished off Ian Bell and James Anderson to end the innings at 260.
The high-voltage nature of Siddle's work has always impressed his colleagues, but in the lead-up to the Test the final bowling spot was between Siddle and Doug Bollinger. Currently the debate for the next game should be between the inconsistent Mitchell Johnson and Bollinger.
With the nickname of Sid Vicious and a childhood spent wood chopping, it would be easy to think of Siddle as tree-stump thick. He is definitely smart enough for his trade and realised that his length was too short for the light green surface before lunch. So he fixed it and the results were almost instant.
Following Andrew Strauss's wicket in the first over, the day burned slowly until Siddle's first intervention. In his second spell, having had to wait for the ball after lunch, he altered his length and one went off the seam to collect Pietersen's edge as he strode forward to drive. The same tactic worked against Paul Collingwood, who pushed a nick low down to Marcus North, and suddenly England had lost 2 for 8. After that it was Bell and Siddle who earned the applause.
The other local bowlers had mixed days as they battled nerves created by a long and uncertain build-up. Johnson's line was a problem and he gave away regular singles, Ben Hilfenhaus started well but tailed off, as did Shane Watson. Xavier Doherty, the debutant spinner, was steady before tea when given a dozen overs despite the conditions suiting the fast men.
Siddle's strikes covered up all the flaws and his energy quickly flowed through the team. He turned an average day for the attack into a satisfying one while registering a couple of unforgettable milestones.
"I don't want to be mean to parents and friends who have given me presents over all the years, but this is definitely going to be one of the best birthday presents that I'm ever going to get," he said. "It's an amazing feeling."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo