England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2nd day September 9, 2005

Rain stalls Australia after century stand

Australia 112 for 0 (Langer 75*, Hayden 32*) trail England 373 (Strauss 129, Flintoff 72, Warne 6-122) by 261 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out



Justin Langer gave Australia the perfect start with an aggressive innings © Getty Images
Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer produced Australia's first century opening stand of the series to give them the ideal base as they pursued England's first-innings 373 on the second afternoon at The Oval. But their progress was halted after tea when bad light and surrounding thunderstorms took the players off. England's tail had rallied at the start of the day, but their efforts only proved that this pitch is still full of runs and the Australians are determined to cash in.

It was surprising when Australia took the offer of bad light as soon as the teams reappeared after the tea interval. They are the side that has to win the Test to hold the Ashes and England won't be bothered how much time is taken out of the match. Although the downpours that hit the north and west of London skirted around Kennington, drizzle did arrive and the light never improved. Michael Vaughan would have been delighted to spend some time in the dressing-room to allow him and his attack to come up with some new ideas to tackle a new problem - a productive opening stand from Australia.

Langer was by far the more fluent of the openers and, after carefully negotiating the first burst from England's pace bowlers, he greeted Ashley Giles with two huge sixes, signalling his intent to dominate. Hayden, meanwhile, had to battle away as he strived to find the touch which has eluded him for the entire series. But the longer he stayed there the easier it became, and by the tea interval his footwork was more positive than at any stage this summer.



Ashley Giles ponders his harsh treatment from Langer © Getty Images
England did have the opportunity to force a breakthrough, albeit via an unlikely source. After Giles's first over was dispatched for 14, Vaughan turned to Paul Collingwood, England's fifth bowler in the absence of Simon Jones. Collingwood is by no means a frontline bowler but he surprised Langer with extra bounce and a flashing edge flew to the right of Marcus Trescothick at a wide slip. But Trescothick moved late and could only get one hand on the ball, parrying it to the boundary. Langer was on 53 at the time and was playing with ominous confidence.

The difference in England's attack from the previous four Tests was stark. It would be stretching the point to say Vaughan was searching for options but he was certainly missing a fifth frontline option - despite Collingwood's impressive spell. Steve Harmison was not at his best and with just the four main choices Vaughan needed everyone firing.

Giles switched ends and brought a modicum of control as well as creating the occasional moment of concern for Langer out of the footmarks, who was lucky to escape a close lbw appeal from an attempted sweep. But those areas will concern England too, with Shane Warne having already performed wonders in the first innings. However, there is a lot of work for England to do before they can consider batting again and they would gladly take a single breakthrough at the moment.

The signs at the beginning of the day were that Australia were focused and up for the challenge. Brett Lee struck in his first over to dislodge the dangerous Geraint Jones with a delivery that pitched on the off stump and held its line to clip the woodwork.



Freeze frame: Matthew Hoggard is dropped at slip by Ricky Ponting © Getty Images

With Jones's demise adding to the late fall of wickets on the opening day, Australia were engineering a promising position and England were in danger of falling short of the 350 that was really a minimum. However, Giles has a useful habit of scoring runs when England need them most - his heroics and Trent Bridge will still have been fresh in his mind - and he began to play his shots once he was joined by the fast bowlers.

Matthew Hoggard hung around for 50 minutes of resistance before he was fooled by a Glenn McGrath slower ball and spooned a catch to Damien Martyn at mid off. The Australians then felt rightly aggrieved when Rudi Koertzen missed an edge from Giles as he flashed at a wide ball from McGrath. Ponting was incensed by the decision, and Giles proceed to increase the Australian frustration by hitting out with Harmison.

Both batsmen chanced their arm, with Giles giving himself room to hit over the off side and Harmison unleashing his powerful short-arm pull. Harmison them took three consecutive fours off Brett Lee, including a stunning straight drive. Warne, though, brought an end to the fun when he claimed his sixth wicket, but he had Billy Bowden to thank as the ball which struck Giles in front would have spun past the off stump. Australia will have felt it evened up the umpiring decisions after the earlier rough call.

The bowlers - or more specifically Warne - had done their job and England's total was no more than par on an excellent surface. It was then down to the Australia batsmen, who haven't fired as a unit in this series when it really matters, to play their part by setting the foundations for a huge total. The batting may have spluttered so far but judging by the start made by Langer and Hayden they could well have chosen the most important moment of the summer to make an impact.

How they were out

England

Geriant Jones b Lee 25 (325 for 8)
Good ball, hit off stump with hint of movement

Matthew Hoggard c Martyn b McGrath 2 (345 for 9)
Drove slower ball to mid off

Ashley Giles lbw b Warne 32 (373 all out)
Struck in front but ball would have missed off stump

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo