England strangled Australia’s batting to seize control of the fourth Ashes Test on a low-scoring second day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) yesterday.
The beleaguered tourists, with the Ashes already lost, boosted their chances of averting a 5-0 series clean sweep with a rare rewarding day in the field as they defended what had appeared to be a below-par first-innings total of 255.
However, disciplined bowling and fielding stifled Australia’s scoring, and with it the wickets tumbled to put the home side under pressure on a slow-paced MCG pitch.
At the close, Australia were 164 for nine, trailing England by 91 runs with Brad Haddin on an unbeaten 43.
“Days like that have been few and far between on this trip, and we’re really hungry to get something out of this tour and I think we showed that today,” England paceman James Anderson said.
“I thought we fielded pretty well all day. We dived around a lot, we chased everything. I thought Alastair Cook set really good fields, we bowled to those fields and it was a really complete performance,” he added.
England were restricted in their first innings by a hostile spell from Mitchell Johnson, but Australia also labored for runs, with veteran opener Chris Rogers crawling to his third half-century of the series and wicketkeeper Haddin again defying England.
Cook’s tactics of drying up the runs reaped rewards with the cheap dismissals of key batsmen David Warner (9), Shane Watson (10), Michael Clarke (10), Steve Smith (19) and George Bailey (0).
Led by Anderson’s three for 50 and Stuart Broad (3-30), England tied up the Australia batsmen and looked set for what could prove a significant innings lead on a pitch which is expected to play harder through the Test match.
In the 13 overs to lunch, after polishing off England’s last four wickets, Australia lost Warner and Watson.
Warner top-edged Anderson high into the air to give wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow a straight forward catch and Watson was snapped up behind off Ben Stokes.
Anderson surprised Clarke with a delivery that darted back in and collected the top of off-stump in his 10 off 34 balls.
England’s bowling frustrated Smith trying to cut too close to his body and edged Broad to Ian Bell in the slips for 19 off 77 balls.
Rogers followed soon, slicing to Kevin Pietersen, who took a fine running catch at midwicket.
The veteran opener had batted for 224 minutes and faced 171 balls for his 61, his third half-century of the series.
“England are on top. We have had our worst day of the series,” Rogers said. “England played very well. They bowled outstandingly and we’re up against it. There’s a lot of game to go in the match so we have to fight well for the rest of it.”
Bailey, who clobbered Anderson for 28 runs off one over in the third Perth Test, was out for a painstaking duck off 19 balls after a long-winded review for a catch behind off the same bowler.
Johnson was caught by Anderson off Bresnan for two, Harris fell to a catch at short-leg off Broad for six and Siddle was out in the day’s last over to the same bowler.
England, resuming at 226 for six, only added 29 more runs to be all out, with Johnson taking five for 63 in a withering four-over spell of three for four.
Among the England wreckage was the wicket of Pietersen, outbowled going for a wild slog for 71 after adding just four runs to his overnight score.
Johnson now has taken 28 wickets at 14.96 for the series.
He had a double-wicket breakthrough in his opening over of the day, removing Bresnan (1) and Pietersen.
Bresnan received a brutish delivery first-up and he fended it away in an act of self-preservation to Bailey at short leg.
Pietersen, who passed Geoff Boycott as the fourth all-time England run-getter, went for a lusty swing and Johnson knocked back his middle stump.
Johnson then trapped Broad LBW for 11, and Panesar shouldered arms to spinner Nathan Lyon and was bowled for two, leaving Anderson 11 not out.
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