Eng v Aus, 4th Investec Test, Chester-le-Street, 1st day August 9, 2013

Australia's economy brings great value

Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle have led Australia's bowling in this series, but it was their other three team-mates who stole the show in an opening day battle of patience and discipline

There is a Bannatyne's Health Club at the Durham cricket ground, overlooking the action from the north-west side of the oval. Had the boss and Dragon's Den entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne been watching from the balcony on Friday and been asked to invest in Test cricket, he'd have been skeptical. Who's going to watch a sport where 546 balls can be delivered in a day and less than a hundred of them bring scoring shots? I'm out, he might have said, for the numbers don't stack up.

The economics certainly worked for Australia on the first day at Chester-le-Street. They squeezed the life out of England's batting line-up with a display so miserly that Bannatyne himself would have looked profligate by comparison. From the moment Jackson Bird launched a full-stretch dive to cut off a Joe Root hook at fine leg early in the morning, then nonchalantly jogged in to bowl the next delivery as if nothing had happened, this felt like a day of Australian discipline.

That a few late runs were thrashed by the tail was a slight annoyance for Australia, but this was precisely the kind of day they required after the much greater frustration of being denied a victory chance by the Manchester rain. There is nothing more dispiriting than dead-cat bounce followed by a splat. Australia discovered that in Melbourne in 2010-11 when they were bowled out for 98 on Boxing Day having just won the Perth Test, and this year's Lord's Test was a similar downer.

This was a day on which, apart from David Warner missing a run-out chance, opportunities were taken. It was a day on which Australia made the DRS work for them. But the genesis of it all was their consistent tight bowling, the dots and maidens that piled up, dulling the attention of Durham spectators witnessing their first Ashes Test, but piquing the interest of Australian fans hoping for a strong series finish.

If there was one dismissal that epitomised the day it was that of Jonny Bairstow. For 41 consecutive deliveries he failed to winkle a run, rusted on to his score of 12 for more than an hour. He broke through with a cover-drive for two off Nathan Lyon and two balls later tried even harder to be positive but was lbw attempting to sweep an accurate Lyon delivery from around the wicket. Lyon's around-the-wicket line made batsmen play all day.

At times his natural drift almost turned him into a legspinner, as deliveries slid across the right-handers and kept going on with the angle. It was that approach that drew Kevin Pietersen's edge. Pietersen and Jonathan Trott were the only England batsmen to show any real intent but even they had to fight hard for their runs, gifted few bad balls by an attack that made use of the slow surface.

The absence of Mitchell Starc was a subject of debate in the morning, for his reverse swing at Old Trafford had posed a serious challenge to England. But he also released the pressure far too often with loose deliveries and his replacement, Bird, was naggingly accurate and, until a less-threatening late-afternoon spell that hovered around 130kph, difficult to get away.

Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, the first bowlers picked on this trip when fit, in fact leaked the most runs early as the sluggish pitch offered them no assistance. Again, Shane Watson was the most economical. In this series he has not so much compiled dots as ellipses and six maidens from 13 overs on the first day at Chester-le-Street continued his trend. Watson has bowled 74 overs in this series and half have been maidens.

"I am actually trying to take wickets," Watson said in the lead-up to this match, when his series tally stood at 1 for 114 at 1.86 runs per over. "I am trying to take wickets by being patient but also trying to work the batsman over. One of the outcomes is to keep it really tight but the reason you play is to get wickets."

Watson added one wicket to his tally on the first day of this Test, drawing Root out to defend and enticing a faint tickle behind. Watson's length makes him an awkward customer and he finds just enough movement to make batsmen nervous about driving. If Watson the batsman faced Watson the bowler, the bowler would come out on top. And Watson's Test future may well rely on his consistent work with the ball.

Here, he is likely to come in at No.6, continuing his sightseeing tour of the Test batting order. If he does bat there, Watson will have occupied every position from one to six over the past year of Test cricket. Five months ago he was exploring life as a non-bowling batsman, now he is content with his likely new role as bowling workhorse and middle-order man. He needs to be happy with it, because that's what Australia need from him.

Watson will be replaced at the top of the order by Warner when Australia bat on the second day of this match. The lack of pace in the pitch won't make things easy for Warner and Australia's batsmen must balance patience with scoring intent, as Trott did for England. Such balance has not been a batting strength of Australia in recent years.

The first day in Durham belonged to the relentless Australian attack. It is now up to the batsmen to match their discipline.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2013, 8:04 GMT

    Australia today exposed the English batting lineup. They showed how brittle they could be against accurate bowling. I have always believed that the English side is the most bloated side today in test cricket and today they have exposed. Except KP they have no class batsmen, the others are just average talented guys who apply themselves like Cook and Bell. I would be thrilled if Australia win this test and the next, and take back the Ashes at home later this year. They deserve it. Good luck.

  • parjanya on August 10, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha: Bang on.Tis really a matter of perception.British media does have a tendency to go overboard,with a couple of guys on Sky being biased and talking outright rubbish.For heaven's sake,can't they see how they have been slipping after Lords ? It is abundantly clear that not only do the aussies have a better attack but a better strategy.England meanwhile are on the defensive in tactics(except some bombast by swann to the media at edgebaston) and have shown their hand.Four sessions of resolute batting can win them this test match. Yes,the aussies are certainly peaking well.

  • hari on August 10, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    Australia was lacking in drying up runs for the opposition batsmen. They leaked too many runs in India and helped them pile up huge totals every first innings. When you are bowling first, the key is to give least scoring opportunities to the batsmen. Furstrate them and one among you will reap the rewards. It was Lyon this time. If Ausies had taken as many wickets on day 3 at Old Trafford, they could have won it before the rain came. Here too they leaked atleast 20 runs more than England deserved and ideally Aussies should have batted atleast 5 overs on day1. Plucking out the last one should be done immediately. It will then be a big test for Aussie batsmen on this wkt. If they do not want to bat on day 4 or 5 they need to apply themselves and take atleast a 200 runs lead. Otherwise Swann will double Lyon's tally and skittle out Aussies. Warner, Clarke, Smith and Watson are the key. If one of them scores big and others 50 plus scores, then Aussies will close in on leveling the series.

  • parjanya on August 10, 2013, 2:21 GMT

    Talk about utilising the conditions after losing the toss-the stangle was so effective that probably Bell watching from the pavilion was seething.He went after the bowlers(or rather tried to) from the word go,and so he himself had to go. As a strategy,it was extremely effective and Lyon bowling on the 1st day,on a supposedly seamer friendly wicket,did enough to raise aussie hopes of winning this test.Now if only the aussie batters could do the grinding properly....

  • rob on August 10, 2013, 1:05 GMT

    I reckon Australia have either matched or beaten England in 11 of the last 12 sessions of Test cricket. That looked highly improbable in the days following Lords.

    That was a damn good effort by the bowlers but as the OP said, it's over to the batsmen now. Actually the first job is to take that last wicket. Best not get ahead of ourselves here.

    Batting won't be easy and they will need to really get their heads down. A run rate of 3 p.o is fine if they can manage that. This is a golden opportunity because there's plenty of time for a result. .. More or less knocking England over in a day is the opening we've been looking for. Barring weather or something freakish, there's going to be a result in this match.

    Things can still go horribly wrong from here of course, but this is the best position we've been in this series on day one (OK 300+/3 ain't bad either). C'mon batsmen, take care of your bowlers and back up their good work with some runs. C'mon.

  • James on August 10, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    Have to say I'm amazed that England imploded. While the track is a little slow, there was no swing and little off the track. I fully expected England to notch up 350-450. Bird is actually a good choice on this track, and he Focussed on line and length.

    England and fans are hoping for antother Australian batting implosion. But I think that is not the most likely scenario here. Just about all the Australian batsmen have a decent knock under their belts now, and they will have the best of batting conditions. A great chance to get a 100+ first innings lead. Then again, that's what I said in the second test.

    I find the argument that Australia are playing to full potential while England are under performing to be disrespectful, and indeed arrogant. I'll say it again - the English media built England up to be something they are not, and trashed Australia to a degree unwarranted. This has created a kind of delusion amongst some that all England has to do is turn up and victory is guaranteed

  • Guy on August 9, 2013, 23:40 GMT

    Coverdale is quite right, Australia's batsmen are likely to struggle on a slow-ish pitch like this. Could be a tough and turgid Day 2.

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2013, 22:15 GMT

    It was definitely Lyon's day and there have been a fair number of critics that never thought they'd say that. Especially not on the first day of a test against England.

  • Luke on August 9, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    Today's performance was typical of Australia's bowlers this series. However I'm wondering which of the batting teams will show up tomorrow.

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