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Page last updated at 19:09 GMT, Sunday, 2 August 2009 20:09 UK

England set up chance of victory

Third Ashes Test, Edgbaston (day four):
England 376 v Australia 263 & 88-2
Match scorecard

Andrew Flintoff batting for England
Flintoff played a series of superb shots as he took the game to Australia

By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at Edgbaston

Andrew Flintoff thrilled a passionate packed house at Edgbaston by striking a memorable 74 off just 79 balls to give England an outside chance of winning the third Test.

With much of the first three days lost to rain, England began day four on 116-2, trailing by 147.

Flintoff, with help from Stuart Broad (55) and Matt Prior (41) took them to 376 all out, with Australia's bowling workhorse Ben Hilfenhaus picking up 4-109 from 30 overs.

Australia then lost Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting, reaching stumps on 88-2, just 25 runs behind. Shane Watson, their top-scorer in the first innings, played intelligently again to finish unbeaten on 34, with Michael Hussey on 18.

Though the odds favour a draw even if no play is lost to bad light on Monday's extended final day, early wickets will heap further pressure on Australia's remaining batsmen.

But even if it does end in stalemate, England will still take a 1-0 lead into the fourth Test starting at Headingley on Friday, with the finale at The Oval on 20 August still to come.

Seven of the 98 overs scheduled for Sunday were knocked off after the first hour was lost because of damp areas in the outfield. Saturday's deluge had ruled out the entire third day's play.

Ian Bell, resuming on 26 not out, struck one boundary behind point off Peter Siddle before the bowler appealed vociferously for lbw against the right-hander. Umpire Rudi Koertzen, the bane of Australian supporters, gave the batsman the benefit of the doubt - and replays suggested height might have saved Bell.

Oliver Brett Blog

Andrew Strauss pulled Hilfenhaus's first poor delivery for four as England looked to play positively, but he added just five runs to his overnight 64 before attempting to cut a delivery that was a little too close to his body. Hilfenhaus had the wicket, Graham Manou accepting an easy chance to break an 81-run partnership.

Paul Collingwood watched a Hilfenhaus outswinger all the way onto his bat to hit an impressive cover-drive for four as England passed 150 but he stayed on the attack into the final over before lunch - and paid the price when edging another wide outswinger from Hilfenhaus to second slip.

At lunch England were 159-4, but only added a further nine runs in the extended afternoon session before losing Bell, lbw to another Johnson outswinger, umpire Koertzen - who, to give him his due, had a good day - finally upholding an Australian appeal. Bell's 53 still represented a fine return in his comeback Test.

However, England were 95 runs behind with just five wickets in hand - and the onus was on Prior and Flintoff to try to get England significantly closer to the Australian total. The two right-handers did exactly that in a stand of 89, effectively putting defeat out of the equation.

Flintoff's first boundary, a cover-drive off the hard-working Hilfenhaus, was greeted with rapture by the crowd.

The 200 was also noisily saluted and moments later Watson had his first bowl in an Ashes Test, with Hilfenhaus's marathon spell finally at an end.

Watson over-pitched, Flintoff drove him gun-barrel straight for two boundaries, and in good time he and Prior had raised their fifty partnership.

While Prior's innings was full of busy ones and twos, Flintoff played the big shots, favouring front-foot drives on the off-side. Australia were desperate for a wicket when Prior tried one shot too many, pulling Siddle straight to mid-on.

Stuart Broad (left) exchanges words with Mitchell Johnson
Broad (left) batted well and found time to exchange words with Johnson

But Flintoff attacked Nathan Hauritz, driving him for a wonderful six over wide mid-on as England went level with Australia's 263, and then sweeping him for a boundary to reach his fifty.

With Broad a willing cohort, Flintoff kept the runs flowing all the way to tea, entering the 70s with another fine cover-drive, this time off Johnson.

But the fun came to an end when Hauritz got a ball to turn and bounce into Flintoff, who got his bat out of the way but not his gloves, and the ball looped tamely to slip. Flintoff took what seemed an age to leave the crease, and the crowd took a while to comprehend that their hero had been dismissed.

Broad and Graeme Swann steered England to tea on 316-7, and Australia took the new ball immediately afterwards. Swann really infuriated the Aussies with a chancy 24 before Johnson's slower ball defeated him, and Anderson nicked Hilfenhaus behind.

But Broad took England's lead past 100 with an on-drive for four off Hilfenhaus and pulled the now exhausted bowler for another boundary, taking him to his half-century.

When he was caught and bowled by Siddle, 31 overs were left for England to make as many dents as they could to an Australian batting line-up which has looked decidedly fragile since Cardiff.

Katich and Watson put on 47 before Graham Onions picked up the first wicket, Katich edging behind. Ponting made only five, and endured a torrid over from Swann - including one excellent lbw appeal - before finding himself bowled through the gate by the last delivery.

Hussey was inches away from being dismissed first ball for the second time in the match, but a sprawling Onions could not quite reach a caught-and-bowled chance.

The left-handed Hussey now went after Swann, who had suddenly lost his line and length, taking the spinner for three boundaries in an over. With Watson again combining solid defence and fluent driving, Australia ended an entertaining day in decent shape.

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see also
Flintoff eyes Edgbaston victory
03 Aug 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
02 Aug 09 |  England
Anderson haul puts England on top
31 Jul 09 |  England
England toil after weather delay
30 Jul 09 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England

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