FIFTH TEST, SYDNEY, DAY ONE (stumps)
England 234-4 v Australia
A maiden Ashes century still eludes Ian Bell, who played well
Led by Ian Bell's fluent 71, England ended day one of the final Ashes Test in Sydney on an encouraging 234-4.
Bell put on 108 with Kevin Pietersen (41) before Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood added an unbeaten 67.
They came together when veteran seamer Glenn McGrath, playing his final Test match, took two wickets in the space of five balls to put the Aussies on top.
The other decorated Australian bowler making his last Test appearance, Shane Warne, bowled 19 wicketless overs.
He did not extract huge spin and was not at his most consistent either, but his threat will increase during the course of the match.
Spectators arriving at the ground early in the morning were hit by a monsoon-like deluge and it was soon clear that despite the improving weather play would not start on time.
Finally, the toss took place at 11.10am local time (0010 GMT) and an 80-minute first session ensued.
England, who replaced Matthew Hoggard (side strain) with James Anderson, batted first after Flintoff called correctly.
McGrath's two-wicket burst threatened to de-rail England
And Andrew Strauss immediately looked anxious to score quickly, but had difficulty locating the middle of his bat.
His first boundary was an edge off Brett Lee that flew only marginally wide of the slip cordon and his second also came off the edge of the bat.
He was dropped on 21 by Justin Langer fielding at third slip to McGrath.
But it was no real surprise when he was out adding just eight runs to that score - attempting a cut shot at a ball from Lee that hurried onto him.
Adam Gilchrist had few problems taking the catch and Lee's first ball at Bell was a short-pitched snorter that the right-hander did well to defend safely.
England reached lunch on 58-1 but failed to add to that score before losing Alastair Cook for 20.
He contrived to get an inside edge to a Stuart Clark delivery, giving Gilchrist another catch.
Surprisingly, Bell was the dominant partner in the important partnership with Pietersen that occupied almost the whole of the extended middle session.
He was particularly strong through the on-side initially, before cutting both McGrath and Warne for boundaries after passing 50.
Pietersen hit just one boundary in a 104-ball innings that reaped 41 runs and he was generally content to be patient.
But after tea, he decided to take a more aggressive approach against McGrath.
Repeated attempts to come down the wicket to the hugely experienced seamer came to nought, however, and the method of attack eventually brought about his downfall.
McGrath simply bowled shorter and shorter until Pietersen obliged by top-edging an attempted pull to mid-wicket.
An encouraging score of 166-2 became a worrying one of 167-4 when in McGrath's following over he bowled a peach of a delivery that seamed through Bell's defences to bowl him off the inside edge.
Flintoff, 42 not out, batted in relaxed manner from the start of his innings, and two off-side boundaries off Lee followed by a six over wide mid-on off Clark got him going.
Collingwood, unbeaten on 25, played Warne well, and cashed in on two full tosses, despatching them for boundaries.
And the pair were beginning to look settled ahead of the second new ball before bad light brought about an early conclusion, with 80 overs bowled in the day.