BRISBANE, November 25, – Peter Siddle celebrated a hat-trick and career-best Test figures on his birthday to bowl Australia into a commanding position against England after the opening day of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba Thursday.
The stout-hearted Victorian paceman sent England reeling with the first Ashes hat-trick in 11 years, as he captured six for 54 to help dismiss the tourists for 260.
At the close, Australia had negotiated seven overs in fading light to be 25 without loss and trail England by 235 runs, with Shane Watson on nine and Simon Katich not out 15.
The Test match exploded into life in Siddle’s 12th over late in the day when he dismissed Alastair Cook, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad with consecutive deliveries to rip the heart out of the England innings after skipper Andrew Strauss had won the toss.
It was the 11th time an Australian bowler has captured a Test hat-trick and the first in an Ashes encounter by either side since English bowler Darren Gough struck in Sydney in 1999, and came as Siddle marked his 26th birthday.
"We’re very confident and we’ve done everything we wanted to do," Siddle said. "That’s how we wanted to start the Test match, get that early breakthrough and go from there and finish the day the way we did.
"That’s the start we wanted to show everyone how we were going to play, and 10 wickets in a day and none down at the end of it is probably going to be a good position."
Siddle more than justified his selection ahead of Doug Bollinger when he followed up the significant scalps of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood in the space of nine balls in the middle session with four wickets in the post-tea period.
The England innings collapsed spectacularly with the Siddle show, sending them spinning from 197 for four to 197 for seven in the space of three spell-binding deliveries.
Siddle brought the crowd roaring to its feet when he dismissed Broad leg before wicket to bring up his hat-trick after having Cook caught by Watson at first slip and bowling wicketkeeper Prior.
It was an electric atmosphere as Siddle charged in on the hat-trick ball and hit Broad directly on his boot in front of leg-stump, prompting umpire Aleem Dar to raise his finger to send the ground into uproar.
Only Ian Bell, Cook and Pietersen, yet again fleetingly, offered any great resistance on an easy playing pitch.
Bell followed up his 192 against Australia A last weekend with another fighting display of 76 off 131 balls, sticking it out while wickets clattered around him.
"Credit to Siddle and Australia. I thought they finished the day off fantastically well and that spell of bowling probably turned the game on its head a little bit," Bell said.
"We’re not a million miles away from a par score, we know we are under par, but it’s day one of an Ashes series and we’ve got an opportunity for our taller bowlers to come and hit the pitch hard tomorrow."
Cook occupied the crease for nearly five hours for his 67 off 168 balls with six fours, while the dangerous Pietersen got another start only to throw it away on 43.
He went on the front foot to drive, only to get a thick edge off Siddle to find Ricky Ponting at second slip.
Collingwood only lasted eight balls before falling in Siddle’s next over, edging to Marcus North at third slip for four.
England lost the wickets of skipper Andrew Strauss off the third ball of the match and Jonathan Trott in the 14th over.
Strauss sliced a wide Ben Hilfenhaus delivery straight to Mike Hussey in the gully for a duck to strike an early psychological blow for the Australians, who are bidding to regain the Ashes lost in England in 2009.
Strauss’s dismissal follows his inglorious last series in Australia four years ago when he made just 247 runs at 24.70 and scored only one half-century in his 10 Test innings.
Watson bowled Trott for 29 with an inswinger on the last ball of his opening over which collected his off-stump.
England have not won the Brisbane Test since Mike Gatting’s team prevailed by seven wickets six tours ago — on the way to their last Australian series victory in 1986/87.