Fifth Ashes Test, The Oval, day one (close): England 307-8 v AustraliaMatch scorecard
Bell looked set for his ninth Test ton until his dismissal straight after tea
By Jamie Lillywhite
England failed to build on a promising position in the deciding Ashes Test as Australia restricted the hosts to 307-8 after the first day at The Oval.
They were 108-1 at lunch, with skipper Andrew Strauss making an assured fifty.
He shared a century stand with Ian Bell who overcame a torrid start to top-score with 10 fours in a valiant 72.
Andrew Flintoff, in his final Test, made only seven as five wickets tumbled after tea to a combination of poor shots and aggressive pace bowling.
England, who need to win the Test to regain the Ashes, won the first battle of the day when Ricky Ponting called incorrectly at the toss and Strauss chose to have first use of what looked to be a perfect batting wicket.
But an exceptionally dry surface started to show signs of wear after just a couple of overs, courtesy of Peter Siddle's bustling footmarks, and by lunch repairs usually made much later in a Test match were being carried out by the ground staff.
Occasional spinner Marcus North was finding extravagant turn and bounce, and with pieces of the pitch breaking up frequently, assessments of what constituted a good score began to change.
After the out-of-sorts Alastair Cook rigidly prodded to second slip in the sixth over, Bell was given a formidable working over by Siddle, who reached speeds in excess of 93mph.
Bell happy to get 300 on the board
Bell, who made a pair in the 2005 Ashes Test at The Oval and went into the match without a century in 31 previous innings at number three, had been moved up the order despite a poor display at Headingley where England were crushed by an innings and 80 runs.
He might have been given out on nought after a Siddle bouncer brushed his wrist, but umpire Asad Rauf correctly gave him the benefit of the doubt, with several replays unable to determine whether contact with the glove was made.
But the Warwickshire batsman showed admirable resolve and also weathered a prolonged series of short balls from left-armer Johnson, another to pass the 93mph mark, to compile his 21st Test fifty.
In the second over of the afternoon session, Strauss drove gloriously through the covers to the boundary to record the century partnership from 139 balls, the captain's contribution 52.
The combative Siddle has a total of 10 wickets in the last three Ashes innings
But three balls later he was gone, for 55, to a disappointingly tame nibble outside the off-stump, neatly caught low by Brad Haddin, although replays showed bowler Ben Hilfenhaus had over-stepped by several inches.
The partnership was 102, the same number made by the entire England team in the first innings at Headingley.
Australia used their four seamers for 46 overs before introducing a change of style, in the form of North's part-time off-spin.
Trott's first run came after 12 balls, including a bizarre bouncer from North, and no doubt a few choice words of mental disintegration from the Australians aimed at the South-African born batsman.
Paul Collingwood drove loosely to gully and the departure of Bell, who got an inside edge that left his off-stump out of the ground in the first over after tea, saw the scoring rate dip alarmingly.
Although Matt Prior hit two stylish boundaries he was hopelessly deceived by Johnson's slower ball, through his drive early and easily caught at cover.
That brought in Flintoff to a wonderfully warm, stirring ovation, somewhere between a heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Gardens and The Last Night of the Proms.
He opened his account with a boundary through gully off Johnson, but it was to be his only one and he edged a wide one in the left-arm paceman's next over, to immense dejection from the crowd.
Siddle satisfied with first day
Trott, having replaced Ravi Bopara in the side, showed signs of his prolific county form with some elegant strokes, but after a patient 41 he was brilliantly run out by Simon Katich, whose razor sharp collect and direct hit from short-leg saw the batsman out of his crease.
England lost Graeme Swann in the final over but Stuart Broad was unbeaten on 26 at the other end and England must hope he will be able to muster enough runs to help the bowlers apply pressure on the Australians.
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