Dukes a hazard for Aussie quicks

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood made underwhelming first impressions in England, six days out from the Ashes opener.

Australia’s recent run of dominant form was soiled on a day of toil in Chelmsford, where Essex eased to 3-299 at stumps on Thursday.

It was the first hit-out on tour for Starc and Hazlewood, who starred in their side’s recent 2-0 series win over West Indies.

Both extracted decent bounce from a flat pitch that Australia scored 562 runs on, but struggled for consistency in the two sessions.

Starc finished strongly when he went around the wicket late – skittling the stumps of Tom Westley for 144 and nightwatchman Jamie Porter for a duck.

But the left-armer started with a loose wide and was erratic for most of the day.

So much is said and written about the Dukes ball and local conditions leading up to every Test series in England.

But experiencing it for the first time is something different altogether.

“We were a bit all over the shop at times,” said Peter Siddle, whose control made him the pick of the bowlers.

“Our consistency with the ball wasn’t quite on.

“You’ve got to be patient over here.”

Day two of Australia’s final tune-up before the Ashes begins in Cardiff on Wednesday actually started quite well for the tourists.

Mitch Marsh continued his eye-catching Ashes audition by scoring 169, while Siddle and Nathan Lyon belted the ball in a final-wicket stand worth 73 runs.

It was as sign of things to come from Westley and Ravi Bopara, who will resume on 86.

Starc and Hazlewood were unable to build enough pressure to create the first breakthrough on a day that featured two rain delays.

Siddle noted the young guns improved the longer the day went.

“It’s about learning and all the blokes here know what to do now,” he said.

“It was good to … get the boys used to it and have a chance to see what it’s like to bowl in these conditions.

“We’re a lot better drilled than we have been in the past … this series we’ll be on.”

The Victorian veteran was responsible for the visitors’ early source of joy in the field, bowling Jaik Mickleburgh for 29.

Shane Watson outperformed Marsh with the ball, but neither allrounder conjured up a wicket.

Lyon wasn’t called into the attack until the 24th over.

The offspinner’s opening five overs went for 54 runs, while he finished with figures of 0-110 from 19 overs.

Lyon did create a chance when Bopara, then on 35, danced down the wicket and misread a delivery.

He should have been stumped, but stand-in keeper Peter Nevill was unable to collect the ball cleanly.

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