CARDIFF // Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood both reached their half-centuries as England recovered from 97 for three at lunch to 194 for three at tea of the first Ashes Test in Cardiff. The session started off at a slow pace as Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, opted to continue with his policy of bowling his quicker bowlers. Pietersen (52 not out) and Collingwood (50 not out) were watchful at first before the arrival of the spinners Nathan Hauritz and Michael Clarke into the bowling attack. Then the pair were freely allowed to salvage their precarious position with singles before motoring with a barrage of boundaries towards the close of the session. Pietersen was the first to reach his half-ton in the penultimate over from 99-balls. His innings so far includes three fours. On the final over the pair brought up their 100 partnership with Pietersen sweeping for a single. Two balls later Collingwood reached his personal milestone with a push through mid-off. The morning session dominated by the tourists through two hours of unrelentingly hostile pace bowling. Mitchell Johnson extracted little out of the pitch in his opening three overs but the introduction of Peter Siddle in partnership with Ben Hilfenhaus transformed the Australian attack. Alastair Cook (10) was the first to go, pushing a full length delivery from Hilfenhaus high to gully where Michael Hussey dived to his right to complete an acrobatic catch. Ravi Bopara, scorer of consecutive centuries in his last three Tests, played forward calmly to his first ball from Siddle. The second hit him on the grill of his helmet and the third was fended perilously close to short-leg. Strauss relieved the pressure with a pulled four and seemed to be settling in for a long stay when Johnson returned to the attack. The left-armer produced a vicious ball aimed at the throat which struck Strauss (30) on the glove as he ducked and flew high above the slip cordon. Michael Clarke, running back from first slip, held the simple catch. Bopara played and missed repeatedly, but also produced some sumptuous drives, with 11 coming off one Johnson over. He had reached 35 when Johnson released a slower delivery which Bopara played at too early. The ball ballooned to cover and Phillip Hughes accepted the easy catch.
Earlier Strauss won the toss for England and opted to bat. England recall the left-arm spinner Monty Panesar instead of the fast bowler Graham Onions, who impressed in his first two Tests against the West Indies in May. Australia selected the seamer Hilfenhaus and its front-line spin bowler Nathan Hauritz, with Stuart Clark surprisingly omitted. Clark was his team's leading wicket-taker in the last Ashes series.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting said: "I was going to bat obviously, but I think the ball might swing around in the morning." The Australians are seeking to retain the Ashes urn after thrashing England 5-0 in the 2006-07 series, following England's 2-1 win the last time the teams played in England in 2005.
England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar. Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Simon Katich, Phillip Hughes, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Marcus North, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Hauritz. *With agencies