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Aussies in driver~~s seat in third Ashes Test

Published: Friday, December 15, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Perth:Australia edged closer to regaining the Ashes after another spectacular English batting collapse on the second day of the third cricket Test at the WACA Ground here.

At stumps Australia were 119 for one in their second innings, an overall lead of 148 over a despondent England, who were bowled out for 215 in the last over before tea on Friday.

Australia already lead the five-Test series 2-0 and can wrap up the Ashes and a fifth successive home series victory over England with a win here.

Eager to atone for the 2005 defeat in England, captain Ricky Ponting seemed to have the scent of Ashes success and was 57 not out at the close. Opener Matthew Hayden, who emerged from a recent form slump Friday, was also on 57.

The pair had steadied the Australian innings with a century partnership after Justin Langer was bowled for a first ball duck by a perfect Matthew Hoggard inswinger on the first ball of the innings.

The English appeared to wilt in the field late in a day that had held so much early promise for the tourists.

Australian seamer Stuart Clark, who was the pick of the home side's bowlers with 3-49, dismissed suggestions the Australians had broken the spirit of the English and that the Ashes were within reach.

"We're trying not to focus on that, but we are in a good position in the game," he said.

"There is a lot of excitement about getting ourselves in a good position to win the Test match.

"We played some good cricket today and put England under pressure."

Kevin Pietersen, who top-scored for England with 70, was not ready to raise the white flag and predicted the wicket would only get better for batting.

Pietersen said he would not be concerned by chasing 300-plus for victory in the fourth innings.

"The stats and scoreboard don't look too bright for us," he admitted.

"It is a situation we have to try to claw back tomorrow.

"If we make Australia battle for every single run tomorrow and our batters bat well, who knows?"

England resumed at 51 for two on Friday, having dismissed the home side for just 244.

But things went awry for the tourists almost from the start, with Paul Collingwood falling in the fourth over of the day to spark another collapse.

The English slumped to 128 for seven at one stage before a late rally by Pietersen and tailenders Steve Harmison (23) and Monty Panesar (16 not out) enabled them to reach 215.

It was an indictment on some of the English batsmen that Harmison and Panesar put on the biggest partnership of the innings (40) for the last wicket.

They could have been valuable runs and looked so when Langer fell to Hoggard, but their importance lessened as Ponting and Hayden built their partnership.

The Australian bowlers dominated the England batsmen, despite champion leg-spinner Shane Warne not bowling until well into the day and having little impact.

Clark was almost unplayable at times and beat the bat on numerous occasions.

It was another disappointing batting effort by the English, who started the day looking to consolidate on the bowling heroics of Panesar and Harmison on Thursday.

However, as on the final day in Adelaide they collapsed early, this time to a combination of lively bowling on a bouncy pitch and poor shot selection.

After Collingwood was caught in the gully by Hayden from the bowling of Glenn McGrath, wickets fell regularly as the English struggled to put together a significant partnership.

Opener Andrew Strauss was striking the ball sweetly, but on 42 he aimed a drive at the probing Clark and was given out caught behind.

Replays seemed to indicate the ball had just missed the outside edge of the bat but umpire Rudi Koertzen slowly raised the finger.

Pietersen held the England innings together and started to strike some lusty blows, but holed out to Symonds at long-off from the bowling of Brett Lee.

Apparently left out of the first two Tests because of his poor batting and fielding, Panesar looked a compact and well-organised No.11 and struck a couple of glorious boundaries, the standout an on-drive off Clark that Pietersen labelled the shot of the series.

Brief Scores:

Australia 244 and 119 for 1 (Matthew Hayden 57 n o, Ricky Ponting 57 n o; Hoggard 1 for 21) Vs England 215 all out (Kevin Pietersen 70, Andrew Strauss 42, Harmison 23; Stuart Clark 3 for 49, Andrew Symonds 2 for 8, McGrath 2 for 48, Lee 2 for 69)

AFP

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