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Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day
England finally produce a solid start
January 2, 2007
Kevin Pietersen coming in at No. 4 paid off
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It was a bit more of the same old story for England today. Just when it looked like they were getting on top with the bat a wicket would fall. Andrew Flintoff won the toss once again and decided to bat first. He has been good in that regard, here in Australia. It was a good looking pitch, it was a bit overcast, there was rain overnight, he [Flintoff] was brave enough to take the right decision and bat first.

By the end of the day's play England were in a position where they might be able to go on and get into a reasonably strong position. I think if they can get 350 in the first innings and if they bowl well they have an opportunity. But it was a struggle once again. The Australian bowling has been accurate. Andrew Strauss will have to look back at this series and think, "What a nightmare!" This is the first time he has looked out of form. It was real struggle for him today. Alastair Cook, same thing for him, he battled hard, got into the 20s again. Stuart Clark, who has angled the ball across him and troubled him by getting him caught behind got him that way once again only on this occasion the ball was coming in to him.

The England openers managed to put 45 on the board, their best start of the series, but they are not being able to go on and get that big one. Ian Bell fought hard; he has been prepared throughout this series to work really hard for his runs. Kevin Pietersen came in at No. 4 finally batting at the right position and they persevered. Pietersen did a few things particularity to Glenn McGrath; he advanced and looked intent on dominating which has got to be his greatest asset coming in at No. 4. But finally he overdid the 'looking to dominate', twice he charged McGrath, the second time McGrath's bouncer got him high up on the bat and Michael Hussey took a good catch at mid-wicket. Then McGrath followed up with the peach of the day. He bowled a beauty, it looked like it was going to swing away from Bell, he just started to move the bat that way, it opened up a gap, McGrath got the ball to move back off the seam, clipped the inside edge of the bat and took the top off off-stump.

Two wickets in a hurry and it looked like England were in trouble, but Flintoff decided that he was going to be more assertive with the bat and if he was going to come out of this slump he was going to do it by playing aggressively. He got solid support from Paul Collingwood. He is suited for the No. 5 position and batting alongside Flintoff or Pietersen. Another thing he has done well in the series whenever Shane Warne has made a mistake outside leg-stump he has picked him up, picked him up for a couple of boundaries, three boundaries in fact.

Flintoff and Collingwood were re-building the England innings, they got it up to 230s with four wickets down, when light was offered and they decided to take it. So really not a bad day for England, if they can go on and get 350 I think they are in a position where they can do something good in this match, but that will all depend on the way they bowl. And it will depend a lot on how Collingwood and Flintoff go about this partnership.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

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