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Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Friday, 26 November 2010

Ashes: Michael Hussey keeps Australia on top of England

First Ashes Test, Brisbane:
England 260 v Australia 220-5 (day two, stumps)

Dates: 25-29 November Day three resumes: 2330 GMT Coverage: Listen live to Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and online (UK only). Watch live on Sky Sports 1, highlights on ITV 4
Match scorecard

Mike Hussey
Hussey began his innings under great pressure after some poor form

By Oliver Brett

Mike Hussey hit an unbeaten 81 to keep Australia in a good position after two days of the first Ashes Test.

England's bowlers did well between lunch and tea at the Gabba, as the hosts slid from 96-1 to 143-5.

But the under-pressure Hussey hit back with Brad Haddin as the Aussies reached 220-5 in reply to England's 260, before rain brought an early finish.

The best bowlers for England were James Anderson (2-40) and Steven Finn (2-61), but Graeme Swann (1-59) struggled.

An intriguing final hour was on the agenda at Brisbane with England about to take the second new ball when umpires Billy Doctrove and Aleem Dar took the players off.

The murky light had become an issue, and though England captain Andrew Strauss was unhappy with the ruling, a few minutes later a tropical storm unleashed itself, ruling out any further play.

On a day when fortunes had flowed one way and another, it was a disappointing conclusion, particularly for England. Strauss's men knew one or two quick wickets late in the day may have prevented Australia establishing a sizeable lead.

Still, the tourists had been able to put Australia's fragile middle order under serious pressure in the middle part of the day - and pick up vital wickets in an encouraging performance.

For the first couple of hours on Friday, England's first innings score of 260 suddenly looked hopelessly inadequate as Australia reached 96-1 at lunch.

Steven Finn celebrates
Finn goes airborne to celebrate his first Ashes wicket

The bowlers asked occasional questions of Australian openers Simon Katich and Shane Watson, without bowling quite enough testing deliveries, and the batsmen made fairly serene progress from an overnight 25-0.

Katich survived an early run-out chance when Alastair Cook's attempt at a direct hit from 15 yards missed.

Broad hit Watson on the chest with a bouncer which almost trickled on to the batsman's stumps, but generally the big Queenslander looked in good order, hitting some exquisitely timed drives for four.

With the partnership on 67, Katich was given lbw by Doctrove, but Australia reviewed the decision and there was clear evidence to suggest the ball would have comfortably cleared the top of the stumps.

The bowler, Anderson, was beginning to bowl nicely, and had his reward when a ball just wide of off stump left Watson uncertain whether to go forward or back.

He got into a poor position and edged straight to a relieved Strauss at first slip, falling for 36. But with an increasingly settled Katich on 46 at lunch, batting with Ricky Ponting, England remained a clear second in the battle for supremacy.

The tide turned quickly in the early exchanges of the afternoon session, however. Anderson's second wicket of the day was fortunate, Ponting the man out to a leg-side "strangle" pouched by Matt Prior.

Katich unexpectedly fell to Finn for exactly 50 at a time when England's Ashes newcomer looked somewhat daunted by circumstances, and was struggling for any rhythm.

The wicket-taking delivery was nothing special, but Katich drove back down the wicket and Finn, one of the tallest bowlers ever produced by England, threw himself forward to pluck a fine return catch three inches off the turf.

Suddenly, Finn turned into an unplayable bowler. He could have removed Hussey first ball, but the left-hander's outside edge did not quite carry to the slips.

He arguably should have had Michael Clarke for a duck: after England had reviewed Dar's not-out decision, the snickometer detected sound as the ball passed the edge of the bat, but the final verdict was determined by other evidence which could not pick up Clarke's edge.

While at one end, Hussey pulled Finn for some fine boundaries and dominated Swann in what appeared a pre-determined policy, Clarke looked scratchy and ill at ease.

The back problem that put the vice-captain's participation in doubt appeared to remain an issue and he was finally put out of his misery, having made nine from 50 balls, when Finn had him caught behind off a poorly executed pull shot.

Swann, after some poor early overs, got in on the act when Marcus North edged an off-break to slip to depart for one and Australia were suddenly 143-5.

Even at tea, which came at 168-5, Australia remained in danger of trailing on first innings.

Hussey, however, displayed the raw hunger of a man who might have been dropped had he not produced a timely century for Western Australia while young pretenders Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja failed for Australia A in England's final warm-up match.

The 35-year-old's desire, plus his well-known determination and vast experience, turned him into a rock-solid force in the final session.

Haddin (22) combined some fine shots with a series of wafts outside off stump that had England's seamers gasping in frustration.

And they will have to find a way past him, and more importantly Hussey, early on Saturday to keep the tourists in touch. Day three will begin half an hour early, at 2330 GMT on Friday.

Listen to the day two Test Match Special podcast right here.

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see also
Early start suits England - Finn
26 Nov 10 |  Cricket
Jonathan Agnew column
26 Nov 10 |  England
First Ashes Test in photos
26 Nov 10 |  England
Flower undergoes melanoma surgery
26 Nov 10 |  England
Siddle hat-trick shocks England
25 Nov 10 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket

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