A dominant Australia looked firmly on course for a 5-0 Ashes series sweep when they reached 140 for four, a lead of 311, at the close of play after skittling England for 155 on a dramatic second day of the fifth Test yesterday.
Chris Rogers, who had made 73 not out, and George Bailey, unbeaten on 20, are set to resume on day three today looking to further inflate the lead before Australia unleash their pace attack on the hapless tourists.
England’s bowlers made inroads into Australia’s batting order in the final session to contribute to the 13 wickets to fall at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but the day was defined by a first hour that left the tourists reeling at 23-5.
While a dispirited England had once again contributed to their own batting downfall, Mitchell Johnson (3-33), Ryan Harris (3-36) and Peter Siddle (3-23) played decisive roles with another display of top quality pace bowling.
“It’s obviously not a done thing yet, we’ve got to make sure we bat well in the morning and get some more and bowl like we did today to bowl them out again,” Harris told reporters. “We sort of figure they are going to fire at some stage, we hope they don’t but... I don’t think the wicket’s getting any easier. If we bowl like we did today, I think we’ll go alright.”
Australia made 326 in their first innings before reducing England to 8-1 overnight and drove home their advantage by ripping through England’s top order in the early blitz.
It was Harris who started the carnage with the second ball of the day, when England captain Alastair Cook inexplicably padded up to an inswinger and was trapped LBW for 7.
Harris could have had a second wicket with his next delivery when Ian Bell edged the ball behind, only for Shane Watson to fluff a reasonably simple catch in the slips.
Nightwatchman James Anderson braved a couple of overs of short bowling before departing, also for 7, after finding the edge with a stab at a fuller length Johnson delivery, which Michael Clarke leaped to claim in the cordon.
Kevin Pietersen lasted just nine deliveries and 12 minutes before being dismissed for 3 courtesy of another edge to the slips from a Harris delivery, which Watson took this time after a juggle.
With England at 17-4 after just 32 minutes of play, Bell did his best to dig in.
He took 42 minutes to get off the mark, but had just two runs on the board 14 minutes later when a superb delivery from Siddle had him caught behind by Brad Haddin.
“We knew we had to start well and pick up early wickets, we didn’t think we’d get that many, I guess,” Harris said.
Debutant Gary Ballance (18) went just after lunch before Jonny Bairstow (18) and Ben Stokes (47) offered some resistance in a partnership of 49 for the seventh wicket.
When they were dismissed in one Siddle over, England’s hopes of any kind of respectable score went with them.
England saved the follow-on and looked like they might just scramble to tea, but Johnson returned to the fray and clean bowled Boyd Rankin, the third of the England new caps, for 13 to end the innings and bring up the break.
Stuart Broad, welcomed to the crease by a chorus of boos, scored 30 not out in a late flourish, but England needed him to shine with the ball if they had any hope of saving the Test.
Anderson made the first breakthrough for the tourists, trapping Dave Warner LBW on his back foot for 16 and having Watson caught behind for 9.