Four-star Siddle insists Ashes still even

Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle said the fifth and final Ashes Test was still in the balance despite taking four for 63 as England, who won the toss, ended the first day at the Oval on 307 for eight.
Siddle, who closed the day’s play when he had Graeme Swann caught behind, earlier took a trio of top order wickets in a match Australia only had to draw to retain the Ashes but England needed to win to regain them.
Both Siddle and England batsman Ian Bell, who top-scored with 72, said it was a case of honours even after stumps here on Thursday in a series all square at 1-1.
“I think we are in a pretty good position,” Siddle told reporters. “To get eight wickets at the end of day and they are 300-odd, it’s pretty even.
“With the new ball, there was plenty of pace but the pitch soon flattened out and we had to be patient and work harder,” said Siddle, who also dismissed opener Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood and Bell.
“There’s a bit in it, if you’re patient enough, with both bat and ball. Bell did a good job.”
Siddle added: “The wicket looks fine from my eyes. There’s definitely going to be a result.”
The 24-year-old is now the leading bowler in the series with 20 wickets to his name after a nervy start to his first Ashes campaign.
“I’m disappointed with how I started the series but now I’m back on track.” Siddle said. “But I just want to bowl well for the team, even if that means bowling maidens while wickets fall at the other end. I’m feeling more at ease in an Ashes series.”
Meanwhile Bell said “I guess with the starts we had, we could be in a slightly better position than we are now.
“It wasn’t a typical Oval pitch, with the usual pace and bounce. It was slow and difficult to score on. We are quite happy to have got 300 on board but we won’t know until Australia bat how good that sort of total is.”
England’s innings meant Captain Andrew Strauss, in the hosts’ second Test victory at Lord’s, was the only one of their batsmen to have scored a century so far in this Ashes campaign.
Bell, himself still to score a Test hundred against Australia, said there could be no excuse for England’s lack of centuries.
“That is not a good enough stat at this stage of the series.”
Replays suggested both Bell, who played on to Siddle after failing to add to his tea score and Strauss, who made 55, may have been dismissed off no-balls.
“I was told it was a no-ball but I guess in a series like this there are swings and roundabouts,” said Bell.
South Africa born Jonathan Trott, brought in after Ravi Bopara was axed, marked his debut with an assured 41 before he was superbly run-out by Simon Katich’s direct hit from short leg.
“He looked as if he was playing for Warwickshire,” Bell said of county colleague Trott. “It was a good start for him, hopefully he can kick-on.”
Looking ahead, an upbeat Bell added: “Our tail have played fantastically well this series.
“If we can scrap our way to a few runs and start well with ball, the game is in the balance, I think it’s still fifty-fifty after day one.”
And with part-time Australia spinner Marcus North getting the ball to turn, Bell predicted: “I don’t think it will be a particularly easy wicket to bat last on.”
England, in contrast to Australia, are playing a frontline off-spinner in Swann and Bell said: “Hopefully Swanny will make the most of these conditions. But he’s still going to have to bowl well to get wickets.”

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2009