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Eng 3 wickets shy of victory on Day 4

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Published: Thursday, January 6, 2011, 13:35 [IST]
 
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Eng 3 wickets shy of victory on Day 4

England are on the brink of a historic Ashes victory yet again. After toting up a mammoth first innings total of 644, thanks largely to centuries from Alistair Cook, Ian Bell and Matt Prior, they then reduced Australia to 213/7. Thus the visitors are just three wickets away from taking the match and the series and are most likely to complete the task when both sides resume battle on Day 5 at Sydney.

On the morning of Day 4, England resumed their first innings at the overnight score of 488 in 140 overs with Matt Prior not out on 55, and Tim Bresnan on 0. Bresnan struck the first four of the day, in the 146th over to take England past the 500-run mark. Prior then steered Mitchell Johnson wide of the slips for another boundary, two overs later. Prior continued to torment the fast bowler when he smacked him for two fours in the 150th over - one shot, a cover drive and the other, heaved through point.

Bresnan was giving Prior steady support and in the 162st over, the latter picked off-spinner Michael Beer for two doubles to cross the 550 mark. Bresnan then came to the party, striking leg-spinner Steven Smith for two fours, one over mid on and the other, over mid-off. Prior, then spanked Beer through extra cover to move to 95. In the following over, he ran three off Smith to notch up his century. Prior had become the third centurion of the innings, after Alistair Cook and Ian Bell.

Johnson came in for some more tap when he was smashed by Bresnan and Prior for a four each. In the 168th over, he go some respite when he had Bresnan caught by captain Michael Clarke in the slips for 35. With his little innings, he had effected a 101-run stand with Prior.

Johnson was then victimised by Graeme Swann who swatted him for two fours in the 170th over, thus taking England past 600 runs. But there was more relief to follow for the Aussies when in the next over, Ben Hilfenhaus had Prior caught behind for 118.

With England nearing the end of their mammoth first innings, Graeme Swann cut loose, hooking Johnson for a six over fine leg and then smashing him for a mid-off four. Swann and Chris Tremlett took their side into lunch at 636/9. But soon after the break, Hilfenhaus wrapped up the innings for 644 when he had Tremlett caught behind for 12. England had thus gained an overwhelming lead of 364 runs.

Australia were bound to feel the pressure of a looming innings defeat. But that didn't faze opener Shane Watson as he pulled Anderson to the midwicket fence first ball. He subjected Anderson to a similar shot for four in the 5th over, but the English bowlers were mostly keeping the opening pair quiet. However, Watson's latent aggression was itching to find vent and after swatting Anderson for another boundary in the 7th over, he went after Tremlett. He edged the bowler past gully for one four and then punched him across mid-off or another beautiful boundary.

In Tremlett's following over, Watson once again struck him for two fours. But Watson's fun came to an abrupt end in the 13th over, when he was run out while attempting to squeeze out a second run. Australia were 45/1 in 12.4 overs. At the end of the next over, the surviving opener Philip Hughes, struck Bresnan for a four to bring up Australia's 50. But just 2 runs and 5 over later, he was caught behind off a ripper from Bresnan and the hosts had slipped to 52/2.

Captain Micahel Clarke was in sooner than he would have liked, but settled in with a four off Swann in 23rd over. Australia then went into tea at 77/2 in 27 overs. After the break, the duo of Clarke abd Khawaja presed on to take Australia past 100 in the 34th over. Then, Khawaja struck a couple of confident fours, but reached the end of the line when he was caught behind off Anderson for 21, as Michael Hussey walked to the crease. But Anderson who appeared to be on a roll, dismissed Clarke in the 44 th over in the same fashion as his previous wicket.

Australia had stumbled to 124/4 and were once again in familiar position after their top order had caved in. Hussey and new batsman Brad Haddin, struck a couple of fours between them till in the 53rd over, Hussey picked Swann for three runs to bring up Australia's 150. But Bresnan pegged back the hosts further, when he smashed a long-hop from Bresnan straight into the strong palms of Kevin Pietersen at gully. The bataman was on his way for 12 and Australia were in trouble at 161/5 in 54 overs.

Then three overs later, Chris Tremlett returned to effect a double strike. He first had Haddin caught behind for 30 and then cleaned up Johnson for a duck. Australia had slumped to 171/7. But then Peter Siddle and Steven Smith put on a fight, with the former powering two fours off Anderson in the 66th over, to take Australia past 200.

The hosts ended the day on 213/7. However they still trail England by a sizable 151 runs. It seems unlikely that this pair or that batsmen to, come would be able to make up that sort of deficit and England are all set to snatch a historic victory when the two sides meet for the last day of the 5-match Test series.

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