Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 2nd day January 4, 2011

England hold the edge despite Johnson's efforts


England 3 for 167 (Cook 61*, Anderson 1*) trail Australia 280 (Johnson 53, Anderson 4-66) by 113 runs

Mitchell Johnson did his best to keep Australia alive in the final Ashes Test with a vital half-century and two key wickets on an absorbing day, but England were handily placed on 3 for 167 in reply to 280. Andrew Strauss hit a sparkling 58-ball 60 to launch England's reply following Johnson's counterattacking 53, then Alastair Cook maintained his prolific form only to lose Kevin Pietersen shortly before the close.

Strauss and Jonathan Trott fell in quick succession to leave England 2 for 99 and memories of Perth, where Johnson had sparked a dramatic England collapse, were not far away. Cook should have become Michael Beer's first Test wicket on 46, but the delivery was called no-ball after Billy Bowden asked to check the front line when Cook lofted to mid-on. However, to Beer's huge credit he remained focused on the game and was able to steady himself under Pietersen's hook shot at fine leg in what could prove a pivotal wicket.

Australia were struggling to make 200 before Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus combined to add 76 for the ninth wicket but their momentum was eroded as Strauss raced out of the blocks against some shoddy bowling. Hilfenhaus was especially disappointing, dropping short at a friendly pace to allow Strauss free pull shots one of which cleared deep square-leg for six

Michael Clarke made an early mark as captain when he handed Johnson the new ball for the first time since the Lord's Test in 2009, but his opening spell lasted three overs, during which he was cut by both batsmen, and Strauss was motoring along at more than a run-a-ball in a perfect tone-setting display. The England captain also drove with authority, a sign his game is in top order, as Clarke began to realise the challenges of captaincy in the current Australian era.

Strauss went to fifty shortly after tea when he scythed a cut over the slips but Hilfenhaus provided relief for Australia when he went round the wicket and took off stump with one that shaped away from the left hander. That breakthrough sparked a lift in Australia's bowling and Trott fell for his first Test duck when he dragged Johnson into his stumps.

Cook had trailed in Strauss's wake during the opening partnership but oozed the confidence that over 600 runs in the series has brought him. His fifty came from 113 balls and when he'd made 59 reached 5000 for his career with the promise of plenty more to come.

Beer's first ball in Test cricket was dispatched by Pietersen, but despite the sickening disappointing of seeing a wicket denied he held himself together well. Pietersen had taken a blow on the arm early in his innings, yet was desperate to impose himself and couldn't resist taking on Johnson despite the close being four overs away which left James Anderson to survive a late bombardment.

Despite the two periods where runs flowed from Australia's tail and England's openers it wasn't easy when bowlers maintained consistency which is what the visitors did superbly for the first two hours. Brad Haddin set a poor tone for the home side in the fourth over of the day when he played a flat-footed waft outside off against Anderson, which wasn't the best way to start his stint at No.6. There was still life on offer in the pitch for the pacemen and both Mike Hussey and Steve Smith had to concentrate on defence.

After his double failure in Melbourne, Hussey was again looking solid but at no point did he get away from England as he had in Brisbane and Perth. Even taking into account bowler-friendly conditions and a sluggish outfield which kept boundaries to a minimum it was tough going by Australia. Paul Collingwood then claimed one of the biggest wickets of his Test career when a tight over to Hussey was rewarded with an inside edge into the pads and onto the stumps.

More galling for Hussey was that the strike came with the last delivery before the new ball and Collingwood was promptly removed from the attack. Smith had played against his natural instincts but couldn't resist flashing a drive at Anderson which went straight to third slip and it took just four balls to work over Peter Siddle who edged low to Strauss.

Johnson drove the ball as sweetly as anyone and Strauss was too quick to set his men back which conceded the advantage to a No. 8 in favourable bowling conditions. Hilfenhaus played his part, flicking Tim Bresnan over midwicket for six, and Johnson was happy to milk the deep-set field to give his partner the strike.

Johnson cut loose early in the afternoon as he launched Graeme Swann over midwicket for four followed by six then brought up his fifty with a nudge into the leg side which was greeted by huge roars. Bresnan broke through when Johnson missed an expansive drive and Anderson removed Hilfenhaus for his fourth wicket and 21st scalp of the series. However, those late-order runs could yet prove a vital factor in the final outcome.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2011, 23:13 GMT

    it was a no ball. i'm not doubting that. but billy i am only here to get my head on tv bowden. knew it was a no ball and he should have called it straight away. the clown bowden is losing the plot

  • Mark on January 4, 2011, 22:59 GMT

    Looking forward to seeing how the days cricket turns in a, so far, well contested match, I agree England currently have their nose in front.

    @landl47 Completely agree, ever close decision should be referred for review by umpires.

    @stationmaster Its an English conspiracy to make the Australians think he's slower than he is. Or, is it an Australian conspiracy to make the English think Bollinger and Siddle are quicker than they are. lol.

  • Steve on January 4, 2011, 22:28 GMT

    @CliveDunn... stop your whining mate. Don't you know that Gods an Englishman? The main reason Aussies have been losing is 1) They're not playing well 2) England have been playing well and 3) the UDRS makes sure the decisions are sound! It's probably worth blaming those rotten English for underhand things; like scoring hundreds, holding catches and taking lots of helpless Aussie wickets too....... Hey Australia your reign of supremecy is OVER... welcome to the exciting world of test cricket and get used to losing! There's no shame in it! COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • Hollis on January 4, 2011, 21:17 GMT

    Mitch Johnson, Watson and Hussey are true Australian cricketers to the bone ! Without their grit and determination in this series , the English team would have won comfortably.For once Strauss appeared to be defensive when he should have been attacking, but his positive leadership qualitity in his batting approach is certainly bringing the best out of the English batting line up. Michael Clarke is capable of such and must also lead from the front.Evenly balanced test, but Johnson and Clarke's performances over the next couple days will make the difference.

  • Mohan on January 4, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    England will be mistaken if they think they have an edge. Aus will do everything possible to win this game and they are capable of doing it. Watch out for an epic close finish.

  • Giles on January 4, 2011, 20:51 GMT

    Can anyone tell me why Bresnan is listed (on the TV) as being Medium fast, when Bollinger and Siddle are fast medium - if you look at the average balls speeds, Bresnan is as fast as both of them, often faster - so can anyone explain ?

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2011, 20:08 GMT

    How do spinners bowl no balls???????????????????????

  • Mirza on January 4, 2011, 18:33 GMT

    GOOD luck Usman Khawaja in the second inng :)

  • John on January 4, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    @RJHB: I couldn't disagree with you more. EVERY dismissal should be reviewed, not only for a no-ball, but also in case there was anything else the umpires missed. It's ridiculous to have a batsman walking off while the TV audience sees a replay showing he wasn't out. I'd also have the umpires (not the players) calling for a review of any decision they think is close even if they would have given it not out. They already do this routinely for run outs and often for low catches (even though the technology is least reliable for judging whether a catch carried). They should also do it for lbws, where the technology is almost always right. The only way we could ever go back to the days when the umpire's decision was final is to stop having TV replays. Anyone think that's going to happen? Nor do I.

  • Richard on January 4, 2011, 17:18 GMT

    We should lay off the umpires. Anyone who has done it knows how difficult it is, and I can only imagine with horror how much worse it must be if your decisions are dissected ad infinitum through endless slow motion replays. They should have access to the same technology to confirm or check their decisions that we have to analyse them, or ultimately their position will become untenable. @vichan-Actually the line is about 5cm/2in wide, about 5 times as wide as you say. It was, however, clearly a no-ball. @Garp-The heel does not have to be grounded. A vertical line drawn from the end of the heel would have to hit the pitch behind the white line.

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