Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Australia stay on course for a big win

AP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

Australia spin bowler Shane Warne throws the ball back in frustration at England batsman Kevin Pietersen after he had played at it during the second innings on day four of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

The ASHES 2006/2007

Shane Warne took four wickets and had a running duel with Kevin Pietersen yesterday, keeping Australia on course for a big win over England in the Ashes series opener.

At stumps on the penultimate day, England was 295 for five in its second innings with Pietersen unbeaten on 92 and trying to lead a face-saving rearguard revival.

Still 354 behind, the Ashes holders needed to bat through three sessions today to save the first Test.

Justin Langer, who reached his 23rd Test hundred before Australia declared at 202-1 in the morning session, said he'd expected England to rally after being skittled for 157 in the first innings.

"We were expecting England to put up a fight and that's what they did," said Langer, who also scored 82 in Australia's first innings of 602-9 declared. "It's an outstanding batting wicket -- we've had 10 for 800, which shows what a good batting surface it is."

Warne removed Ian Bell (0) and Alastair Cook (43) in the first two sessions and then -- when England's middle-order was staging a recovery -- he struck two serious blows.

He enticed No. 4 Paul Collingwood down the pitch and had him stumped for 96, ending a 153-run fourth-wicket partnership with Pietersen.

Four overs later, Warne had England captain Andrew Flintoff (16) caught at long-on by Justin Langer to claim his 300th Test wicket on Australian soil and put a savage dent in England's resistance.

His 4-108 from 31 overs improved his world record career haul to 689 Test wickets.

Warne v Pietersen

Warne's battle with Hampshire teammate Pietersen lasted several hours. Criticized in the domestic media for being too friendly with some English players, a frayed-looking Warne threw a ball at the striker's end after fielding his own bowling and it almost hit Pietersen.

South African-born Pietersen knocked the ball away with his bat and responded with some verbal abuse and several boundaries.

After losing vice-captain Strauss (11), inexcusably hooking Stuart Clark to substitute fielder Ryan Broad at fine leg with the total at 29, and Bell, England faced a quick defeat.

Collingwood had a shaky start before settling down to stroke 13 boundaries and two sixes -- including a lifted flick behind the wicket off Brett Lee.

"I'm obviously disappointed I didn't make a hundred but from the team's point of view it was an important day for us," Collingwood said. "The first three days were hugely disappointing -- we needed a day like this to get that confidence back and prove to ourselves that we can beat Australia."

It was the second time in 12 months he's been out for 96 in a test. The 30-year-old Durham right hander said he obviously "got a bit excited knowing I was only one shot away from a century in Australia."

Australia batted for 23 minutes Sunday before declaring with a 647-run lead.

Ponting strained the left side of his back turning for a run but continued until Langer took a single off Steve Harmison to reach triple figures. He left the field, unbeaten on 60, and did not return for the remaining 80 overs while he was treated for the problem.

"It was very generous of the captain to let me get my hundred," Langer said. "I thought we should declare last night, but he was adamant he would like to see me get a hundred. The injury had nothing to do with [the declaration]."

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