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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 07:20 GMT
Australia on course for whitewash
FIFTH TEST, SYDNEY, DAY THREE
England 291 & 114-5; Australia 393

By Oliver Brett

Shane Warne
Warne's batting has been better than his bowling in Sydney

England ended day three of the final Ashes Test under severe pressure at 114-5 in their second innings, leading a buoyant Australia by a mere 12 runs.

Shane Warne marked his last Test with a cavalier innings of 71 off 65 balls, the top score in Australia's 393.

Only Kevin Pietersen (29no) withstood the Australian bowlers as the hosts closed in on the first Ashes whitewash since England's 5-0 defeat in 1920-21.

Brett Lee and Stuart Clark struck twice and Warne had Andrew Flintoff stumped.

England began the day needing to rock Australia's middle order with the second new ball still a distant prospect.

They got the ideal start when Michael Hussey was caught behind off James Anderson in the second over of the day to leave the Aussies 190-5, still 101 runs behind.

But Australia's last five wickets produced more runs than their first five as the balance of power shifted towards the hosts either side of lunch.

Adam Gilchrist (62) and Andrew Symonds (48) began the onslaught by adding 70 for the sixth wicket.

Brett Lee
Brett Lee's two wickets with the new ball rocked England

And when Monty Panesar beat Symonds' loose drive to bowl him middle-and-off, Warne hit his first ball for four and his second for six.

He survived a massive appeal for caught-behind off Panesar on 10, and could also have been run out twice early in his innings.

But England's fielding was not at its sharpest on Thursday - Gilchrist also survived two tough chances in the 20s - and Australia seized the initiative ruthlessly.

Gilchrist had hit 102 not out from 59 balls in Perth, and with some booming drives and a symphony of stunning cut shots he threatened something similar here.

His stand with Warne was worth 58 in barely seven overs when Read went up for a catch off Anderson and umpire Billy Bowden erroneously gave the decision to England.

But Warne was unbeaten on 40 at lunch and had the appetite for plenty more runs.

Flintoff removed Lee cheaply but a killer stand of 68 for the ninth wicket then developed as Warne and Clark rode their luck and England's defensive fields yielded some easy runs.

606: DEBATE
TL

Warne, whose highest Test score is 99, must have had half a mind on a maiden Test century.

But Sajid Mahmood finally forced Clark to give Kevin Pietersen an easy catch in the covers and Warne - who had used his feet so well against Panesar - was last man out, stumped.

He had faced just 65 balls for his runs, hitting nine fours and two sixes.

It was advantage Australia, and Lee tore into England's top order with the new ball.

Alastair Cook got nowhere near middling an attempted pull, and was out having faced just eight balls.

And soon afterwards Strauss had to take cricket's equivalent of a standing count after copping another Lee torpedo flush on the part of the helmet protecting his temple.

He bravely continued and, helped by Ian Bell, ensured England reached tea without having lost any futher wickets.

But the Aussies dealt out four hammer blows in the final session.

Strauss, clearly unsettled by the earlier bouncer, was lbw to a ball from Clark that straightened before Bell played a loose drive to a wide delivery to be caught behind off Lee.

Paul Collingwood made his sixth low score in succession as he drove a Clark leg-cutter to gully and when Flintoff dragged his back toe over the popping crease, Gilchrist pounced to stump the England skipper.

SEE ALSO
England batsmen make solid start
02 Jan 07 |  England


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