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December 1, 2006
England's batsmen produced a day of dogged defiance to haul themselves into a promising position by stumps on the first day of the second Test at Adelaide. Led by a fighting 113-run partnership between Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, and boosted by another aggressive, counter-attacking half-century from Kevin Pietersen, England reached the close on 3 for 266, with Collingwood unbeaten on 98. It was gritty and seldom pretty, but after their drubbing at the Gabba last week, it was precisely what England - and this series - desperately needed.
Australia's four-man bowling attack was stretched to the limits during a tough day in the field. Brett Lee was again below par while Glenn McGrath, playing in spite of a painful callous on his heel, bowled 18 unthreatening overs for 51 runs, and was overlooked for the second new ball late in the day. That honour instead went to Stuart Clark, who grabbed both of the early wickets to fall, and was again Australia's most potent weapon, if strangely underused. Shane Warne, meanwhile, toiled without reward, once again finding the bullish blade of Pietersen a little too hot to handle.
It would be overstating the case to suggest that this was a re-run of that famous first day at Edgbaston in 2005. England's run-rate, for starters, was funereal from the moment that Andrew Flintoff won an important toss and chose to bat, and once they had mustered just 58 runs in the opening session - for the loss of both openers - there was never any danger of England overhauling the 407 runs they had managed on that occasion.
Rash dismissals were the common feature of England's innings - a surprising aberration given the caution that marked most of their cricket. Andrew Strauss was the first to fall. Big things were expected of England's most fluent batsman of recent times, but after showing not a trace of anxiety in the first hour of the day, he clipped a leg-stump half-volley to a diving Damien Martyn at mid-on, three balls after the drinks break.
Clark was in just his second over at the time, and he struck again six overs later, when Cook flashed at a hint of width and feathered his attempted drive to Adam Gilchrist behind the stumps. England had slumped to 2 for 45 on a blameless pitch, and alarm bells began to ring when Warne - fresh from yesterday's fine-tuning session with his mentor, Terry Jenner - entered the attack. Ripping the ball with greater venom than he had shown at Brisbane last week, he had England's batsmen in all sorts of difficulties, especially Bell, who came excruciatingly close to losing his off stump as he shouldered arms at a straighter one.
The expansive early turn for Warne might have caused one or two murmurs of regret in the England dressing-room, after their decision to omit the extra spinner, Monty Panesar, but by the close he was toiling, along with the part-timer Michael Clarke, whose 10 overs were milked for 27 runs. Collingwood endured some anxious moments in the closing overs as he sweated over his first Test century against Australia, but he and Pietersen survived to the close.
Highlight of the day
Paul Collingwood's unbeaten 98. After the disappointment of his Brisbane 96 he was back in the groove and was unlucky to get only one ball in the final over to reach three figures.
Lowlight of the day
Ian Bell's poor attempted hook off Brett Lee. He'd already scored eight in the over when he added to England's problems with picking the right short ball to thump.
Most important event of the day
Andrew Flintoff's shout of heads to win the toss and bat. If Ponting had batted first on this pitch England could have been close to being out of the game already.
Shot of the Day
Kevin Pietersen's lofted drive for six. Adelaide's straight boundaries are notoriously vast, but that didn't deter KP in his bid to get after Warne. Hell, he even sliced it and it cleared the ropes.
Glare of the Day
Brett Lee to Justin Langer after the dismissal of Ian Bell. Despite screeching "miiine!" at the top of his lungs as he raced in to pouch a top-edge pull, Lee still had to brace himself for a collision as Langer charged in.
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