We've had another battling day's test cricket at the SCG. It started off in familiar fashion with the lower half of the England order collapsing after they [Australia] split the Collingwood-Flintoff partnership. And that was a big blow for England. Flintoff played really well, probably the best he has played so far with the bat on this tour. He was aggressive but aggressively sensible.
Australia had some terrific momentum going with both Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath who were getting the ball to swing out and troubling all the English batsmen and suddenly Ricky Ponting decided he'll go with ploy of giving Flintoff the easy run and having a crack at the lower order players. The momentum that Australia had built up suddenly stopped dead. And it looked at one stage that Flintoff was going to go on and get a well-deserved 100, but in trying to get to that 100 he aggressively went after Stuart Clark, who got a good one to move away from Flintoff, he was well taken by Gilchrist.
England got to 291; a useful score but 350 would have put them well and truly in the contest. Clark was immaculate as ever, McGrath bowled a good spell this morning and Shane Warne chimed in with the last wicket, that of Monty Panesar. Monty plays Warne well when he plays him with a straight bat looking to drive through the off-side, but he has trouble when he plays him across the line and that's how he fell to Warne to give him his 1000th victim in International Cricket. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden got away to a good start once again, Langer was the aggressor he looked to get things moving and he got out to a good climbing delivery from James Anderson, just got the glove and went through to Chris Read who took a good catch behind the wicket. That was a good breakthrough for England.
Hayden and Ponting really seem to enjoy batting together and they were building a really good partnership. Suddenly England decided they were going to make Hayden square cut the ball they frustrated him a bit wide outside off stump, eventually he tried to cut one - Boom! He was out! This was a simple plan but a good cricketing plan and it was well stuck to by Steve Harmison, he deserved the wicket. Monty Panesar came on and bowled well to Michael Hussey. And then Anderson produced a beautiful piece of fielding to get rid of Ponting and Harmison produced a beautiful delivery to get rid off Michael Clarke. England were a bit unlucky that the rain came just then because Harmison was firing. When they came back it was Andrew Symonds and Hussey who went on quite aggressively. If it was 5 down at stumps you could say that the match was evenly poised. It still could be if England bowl well. You get the feeling that Panesar is going to cause some trouble on this pitch. As it is they have to bowl remarkably well and bowl well first thing tomorrow morning. They have to break the Symonds-Hussey partnership and get rid off Gilchrist quickly. But the important thing is England are showing much more fight and we could have a really good contest here in Sydney.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist