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Ricky Ponting tightens noose around England

Published: Saturday, November 25, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Brisbane:Australia were digging a massive hole for beleaguered England to escape from, as the tourists faced a demoralising defeat in the first Ashes cricket Test at the Gabba here.

Merciless skipper Ricky Ponting refused to enforce the follow-on after Australia dismissed the Ashes holders for just 157 to seize a massive 445-run innings lead on Saturday.

Instead Ponting sought to give his four bowlers the luxury of putting their feet up and resting as cracks widened on the wearing Gabba pitch under a baking sun to aid his master leg-spinner Shane Warne with two days to play.

The Australians swelled their advantage to 626 runs cruising to 181 for one by stumps on the third day with Justin Langer unbeaten on 88 and Ponting not out 51, the pair putting on an unbroken 113-run partnership.

The highest losing fourth innings total in an Ashes Test was 417 scored by England in Melbourne 1977.

Ponting was hellbent on ramming home the psychological advantage on the flattened tourists with a massive first-up victory here heading into the second Test of the series, starting in Adelaide next Friday.

The Australian skipper now has to decide when to call a halt to the run avalanche and unleash his bowlers on England to try and wrap up a victory set up by three lopsided days of cricket.

The Australians Saturday only lost the wicket of Matthew Hayden, who perished on 37 going for a risky second single. The video umpire needed several replays before giving him out, fractionally beaten home by James Anderson's throw from backward square leg.

Ponting, who mastered the England attack for 196 in the first innings, became the third Australian to pass 9,000 Test runs when he reached 12 during his second innings.

The other Australians are Allan Border (11,174) and Steve Waugh (10,927).

The day's star was Glenn McGrath, who captured his 29th five-wicket haul in Tests and 10th against England to finish with 6-50 as England folded in their first innings.

McGrath, who turns 37 next February, now has taken 548 Test wickets, the third best of all-time.

Wise-cracking McGrath poked fun of pre-Test claims that he was past his best by imitating a geriatric hobbling off the field to the amusement of the crowd.

McGrath followed up the wickets of England openers Andrew Strauss (12) and Alastair Cook (11) late Friday, to dismiss Kevin Pietersen (16), Geraint Jones (19), Steve Harmison (0) and Ashley Giles (24).

First-change paceman Stuart Clark took 3-21 off 14 overs and Brett Lee 1-51 from 15 overs, leaving little for Warne, who only bowled nine of the 61.1 overs.

Only Ian Bell showed significant resistance for England with a patient 50 in almost four hours.

Clark removed Bell with the second ball of a new spell when the No.3 attempted to drive only to thick-edge chest-high to Ponting at second slip.

Bell, who averaged just 17.10 in last year's Ashes series, batted for 228 minutes for his dogged half-century off 162 balls with five boundaries.

The tourists' slim chances of saving the Test nosedived after the dismissals of influential batsmen Pietersen and Flintoff within five balls in the first hour of play.

Pietersen did not offer a shot to a McGrath off-cutter and was adjudged leg before wicket. New Zealand umpire Billy Bowden gave Pietersen out but 'Hawkeye' video analysis suggested the ball was just missing off-stump.

Flintoff was soon following Pietersen back to the dressing room when he edged Lee to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist for a duck.

Australia batted through almost the first two days to take an iron grip with 602 for nine declared.

The 63-year Gabba attendance record was broken after just three days with a aggregate crowd of 117,322 beating the 1933 Bodyline series Brisbane Test best of 93,143 which was set over six days.

AFP

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