Australia saw the back of England dangerman Kevin Pietersen and captain Andrew Strauss as they closed in on victory in the first Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens yesterday.
England, at lunch on the final day, were 102 for five in their second innings — still needing a further 137 runs to make Australia bat again — and, more realistically, having to bat the majority of the last two sessions to save the game.
Paul Collingwood was 35 not out and 2005 Ashes hero Andrew Flintoff 11 not out after off-spinner Nathan Hauritz had taken two wickets for 26 runs in 12 overs.
Pietersen had taken his overnight score from 3 to 8 when, trying to leave a delivery from swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, he got into an awkward position and was bowled off-stump just 16 minutes into the day’s play.
Hauritz, who many pundits thought might be the weak link in Australia’s attack, was cut for four by Strauss.
But next ball Hauritz, bowling from around the wicket, got a delivery to turn and bounce away from the left-hander and Strauss, trying to repeat his cut shot, edged behind and was well caught by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin for 17.
England, already in trouble on their overnight score of 20 for 2, were now, at 46 for 4, in dire straits.
None of the England batsmen looked to have enough confidence in their defensive ability to bat time — even though Collingwood had lauded modern batsmen’s techniques after play on Saturday as a way of explaining the hosts’ failure to bowl Australia out on a good pitch.
As if to prove the point, Matt Prior, going through with a risky cut shot off Hauritz inappropriate to England’s position, fell next although it needed a fine catch from Michael Clarke to complete the dismissal.
Ashes-holders Australia had shown England how to bat on a slow pitch by piling up 674 for 6 declared in their first innings.
Hundreds from captain Ricky Ponting (150), Marcus North (125 not out), Simon Katich (122) and Haddin (121) saw Australia score four centuries in a Test innings against England for the first time.
North and Haddin’s contributions to Australia’s highest total against England in 75 years were especially creditable as both batsmen were making their Ashes debuts.