Sat, Nov 25, 2006 - Page 20 News List

England's reply starts ominously

SLOW BEGINNINGThe visitors struggled to 53-3 at stumps on day two of the Test, although captain Andrew Flintoff said he saw `some encouraging signs'

AP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

England bowler Mattew Hoggard, second left, celebrates after dismissing Australian captain Ricky Ponting, right, for 196 runs on day two of the first Ashes Test match between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Ricky Ponting took out 14 months of frustration on the England bowling attack and Glenn McGrath tormented the tourists' top order.

Ponting plundered 196 runs, guiding Australia to 602 for nine declared before McGrath took wickets with consecutive balls as England struggled to 53-3 at stumps Friday on day two of the first test.

England, defending the Ashes for the first time in two decades after the upset 2-1 win in last year's series, needed a vast improvement to save the test.

McGrath removed openers Andrew Strauss (12) and Alastair Cook (11) on consecutive balls with the total at 28.

Paul Collingwood blocked the hat-trick ball, but was out with the addition of 14 to the total when he was caught behind off Stuart Clark.

"To get a couple of wickets early on always does wonders for the confidence," said McGrath, returning from 10 months out of test cricket to play his 100th match. But, "there's still a lot of cricket left in this game.

"We don't want to take it easy. We want to get out there, nail it and show them why we are the best team in the world."

McGrath remained wary of England, however, saying Australia was a convincing winner of Lord's opener last year before the hosts rallied two win the series.

England's fielders got an early taste of the distinct difference in conditions for this series, spending 11 1/2 hours in the field across two cloudless Spring days in subtropical Brisbane.

"It's been two hard days. Australia played well, but I thought we stuck at it and in patches we did alright," England captain Andrew Flintoff said.

"There are some encouraging signs and it's fair to say tomorrow we have to bat well," he said.

Ian Bell was 13 not out and Kevin Pieterson was unbeaten on six at stumps.

Flintoff said England needed big partnerships yesterday to save the match, but denied his lineup was overawed.

"There's a lot character in the side and [we're] looking to the challenge of this series," Flintoff said. "After two days we're not going to be deflated, we just have to get better."

With the exception of Flintoff, who took 4-99 in 30 overs, England's bowling attack lacked direction.

"Going into a series like this you expect a few nerves ... turning up and playing a game of the magnitude of this," Flintoff said. "But the lads have experienced that now so they know what to expect for the rest."

Besides Ponting, who hit 24 boundaries to all parts of the ground in his 32nd test hundred, the Australian innings contained lots of contributions.

Mike Hussey accounted for 86 in a 209-run stand with Ponting -- the highest for the fourth wicket in an Ashes test in Australia; Justin Langer opened the innings with 82; and No. 6 Michael Clarke added 56 before he was out the ball before tea.

Lee remained unbeaten on 43 when Ponting declared shortly after Australia had reached its second-highest total in an Ashes test in Australia in 60 years.

No. 10 Clark belted 39 from 23 balls, including consecutive driven sixes hit off James Anderson, in a cameo before he was clean bowled by Flintoff.

Australia's tailenders added 72 runs after tea to frustrate the bowling attack of the visitors, which had gained some confidence after taking four wickets in the middle session.

Matthew Hoggard struck twice in four balls to remove Ponting and Gilchrist (0), both lbw, in an eight-over spell that netted 2-14.

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