Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day December 15, 2006

Hayden and Ponting build after England stumble

Australia 244 and 1 for 119 (Hayden 57*, Ponting 57*) lead England 215 (Pietersen 70, Clark 3-49) by 148 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out - England
How they were out - Australia
Short cuts

Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting took Australia's lead to 148 by the close © Getty Images
Australia built a commanding position on the second day at the WACA, extending their first-innings advantage of 29 to an imposing 148 with strong innings from Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting. Their five-man attack had shared the success in dismissing England for 215, and without Kevin Pietersen's 70 and a tail-end rally Australia's advantage would have been even greater.

England only momentarily managed any momentum during the period when their last three wickets added 87 precious runs and then Matthew Hoggard removed Justin Langer with his first ball. But either side of that, it was a day of Australia gradually tightening their grip on the match and the Ashes.

Hayden and Ponting played intelligently and with a determination not to let England back into the contest. Both survived some testing moments against the new ball as Hoggard again found swing, but as the hardness disappeared the pair produced the most comfortable partnership of the match.

England had found batting a far from comfortable task as Australia hit their mark from the early overs. Runs were scarce but England were intent on continuing their positive attitude from the first day and this resulted in the first two wickets. Paul Collingwood slashed to gully before Andrew Strauss was sent on his way by a dubious caught behind decision as replays suggested daylight between bat and ball.

If ever there was a time for the Pietersen-Andrew Flintoff partnership to fire for England this was it, but both players found it difficult to play at their natural tempo as Australia's main three pacemen held sway. As is often the case in such situations, it was a lesser bowler who benefited from the pressure as Andrew Symonds showed his all-round worth.

His first ball to Flintoff had the England captain edging low to Shane Warne at first slip and with him went the last realistic chance of establishing a decent lead. Geraint Jones's miserable series continued with an airy drive to gully, and Ponting's hunch had reaped rich dividends. It isn't often Warne stands through a session without having a bowl, but he wasn't required by his captain until midway through the afternoon.

At one stage, when Sajid Mahmood had fallen to reduce England to 7 for 128, he wasn't looking like being needed at all, but Pietersen remained defiant and the lower-order refused to cave in. To begin with Pietersen's tactics with the tail were curious as he opted for singles early in the over leaving Hoggard to block four or five deliveries ... and the scoreboard wasn't moving.

However, the approach changed following a message from the dressing-room, and Pietersen took the attack to Warne. He benefited when McGrath made a hash of a catch at long-off when he was on 53, and to rub salt in Warne's wounds he then majestically drove a six over extra cover. Pietersen fell trying to launch another ball into the stands as Symonds, who'd replaced McGrath at long-off, safety held on.

Kevin Pietersen held England's innings together with 70 © Getty Images
Still, though, England refused to cave in as the unlikely alliance of Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar added 40, the highest stand of the innings. Panesar showed the value of hours in the nets - and that he has plenty of natural ability - by twice lofting Warne over midwicket and then on-driving Stuart Clark to the rope. While their partnership was valuable to England - both in runs and morale - in the cold light of day it showed that the top order failed to supply the goods.

For a brief moment one of those occasions where a last-wicket frolic leads to a burst of wickets from the opening bowlers seemed a possibility. Hoggard located the perfect spot with his first ball as Langer was bowled between bat and pad, and a number of deliveries whistled past the edges of Hayden and Ponting.

But the pair showed that the surface has more runs on offer than have been scored so far as their stand increased in tempo and fluency. Hayden was still far from his thumping best, but finally managed to kick on after making a start. The powerful sweeps he has often unfurled in the sub-continent made Panesar less of a threat than the first innings, and his first half-century of the series came off 77 balls. Ponting made up for a rare failure first time round with a steady 85-ball fifty and there was a spring in the step of both batsmen as they left the field.

Heading into this match Australia had one hand back on the Ashes urn. After today you can add a few more fingers to that grip.

Short cuts

Mystery of the day
Andrew Strauss' caught-behind dismissal. The replays suggested he missed it, Strauss was not pleased, Adam Gilchrist went up straight away, the cordon followed and Rudi Koertzen was convinced.

Charge of the day
Glenn McGrath wanted a dot-ball bouncer to keep Kevin Pietersen on strike, but as he delivered Kevin Pietersen was racing towards him and produced a tennis-style smash for a single.

Dismissal of the day
Matthew Hoggard's inswinger to remove Justin Langer with the first ball of the second innings. It was the second time in the game Langer had fallen to a ball sliding between bat and pad.

Surprise of the day
The last-wicket partnership between Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar, which cut Australia's first-innings advantage to 29. The pair put on 40 in the highest stand of the England innings.

Bore of the day
The defensive fields Ricky Ponting used against Kevin Pietersen slowed the pace of the second session and England's last three wickets added 87 while the tactic was being employed.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo