By Nick Mulvenney
STUART Broad took five wickets to put England in charge on the first day of the first Ashes Test despite a battling Australian rearguard that kept the hosts alive at 273 for eight at the close of play on Thursday.
The England paceman’s first four wickets helped trigger an Australia collapse from 71 for the loss of a single wicket prior to lunch to 132-6 during the middle session.
Broad, cast as the pantomime villain in Australia after his failure to walk at Trent Bridge earlier this year, then returned with the second new ball to bowl Mitchell Johnson for 64 and break his 114-run seventh wicket stand with Brad Haddin.
Haddin, playing his 50th Test, was unbeaten on 78 when stumps were drawn with long shadows across the ground, and will resume on day two with Ryan Harris, who had scored four.
Australia won the toss and decided to bat on a bright, sunny morning at the Gabba and the booing of Broad, branded a ‘smug Pommy cheat’ on the front page of the local Courier-Mail newspaper, contributed to a festive atmosphere.
Opener Chris Rogers was the first victim of the bounce Broad managed to generate from the Gabba track but it was the dismissals of Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and David Warner around lunch that shifted the momentum firmly England’s way.
Watson, whose preparations for the series were disrupted by a hamstring injury, looked like reaching lunch with his wicket intact until Broad intervened.
The all-rounder pushed at a ball he could have left and edged it to Graeme Swann at second slip, swatting his bat in disgust at the manner and timing of his dismissal for 22.
Australia captain Clarke faced just seven balls after lunch before he was making his way back to the dressing room with one run to his name after he popped a catch Bell at short leg.
Opener Warner had looked dangerous in building an innings of 49 with some choice shots but he threw it all away when he swatted a Broad delivery straight to Kevin Pietersen in the covers.
James Anderson then pitched in to remove debutant George Bailey for three runs before Chris Tremlett, the third England quick, curtailed a promising innings from Steve Smith for 31.
Haddin, whose half century was his 13th in Tests, then combined with Johnson, recalled for his pace bowling than his batting prowess, to stem the flow of wickets.
Johnson hit six fours and two huge sixes for his eighth Test 50 before Broad smashed his wickets asunder to complete his 11th Test five-wicket haul.
England, who won the first series of this year’s double header 3-0, are chasing a fourth successive Ashes triumph and a first victory at the Gabba since 1986.
All is not lost for Australia, however, and they could look to the corresponding Gabba Test in the 2010-11 series for some comfort.
England were bowled out for 260 on the opening day but battled back for a draw, carrying the momentum from that recovery to clinch the series 3-1.
By Nick Mulvenney