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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 07:21 GMT
Fifth Test, day three as it happened
FIFTH TEST, SYDNEY, DAY THREE: Close of play - England 291 and 113-5 v Australia 393

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

THE DAY'S ACTION (all times local to Sydney - GMT+11)

By Tom Fordyce

CLOSE OF PLAY: Eng 114-5
Monty survives Clark's last over, but does it really matter any more? Once more it's been Australia's day all over. And all over is pretty much what it is. England lead by 12, with just five wickets left. Four of whom scored two runs between them in the first innings. I'm all for looking on the bright side, but where is the bright side here?

1812: Eng 113-5
England are effectively 11-5. And that's not good in any language. And what's this - Monty's coming in as the nightwatchman! Ah well - why not. I'd send my mum in if she were there.

1804: WICKET - Flintoff st Gilchrist b Warne 7, Eng 113-5
It gets worse - Flintoff plunges forward at a Warne leg-break, is beaten outside off stump but then lets his back foot slide just forward of the crease - and Gilchrist doesn't need asking twice. I blame that wasp. What was it doing, agitating Warne?

1804: Eng 112-4
Good news for England - Flintoff cuts Clarke to fine leg for four, and Warne gets attacked by a wasp.

1759: Eng 107-4
Warnie's back at last, which means he's been warming up for half an hour - a personal record in his last Test. No great joy as yet, but enough bite to keep him chirpy.

1755: Eng 106-4
Probably about 20 minutes left today, we reckon. Two off Clark's over. Almost said the ball had stopped moving around there - foolishness of the highest order.

From Jim, TMS inbox: "I'm in Seattle, building an Airfix Lancaster. Which, by the way, is sticking together better than the England cricket team."

1751: Eng 104-4
Crack open the champagne, slay the fatted calf - England are ahead! Fred gets off the quacker with a punch through midwicket for three, and KP then drives Symonds square to move to 25. Off 83 balls.

1746: Eng 98-4
Freddie stands at the crease, helmet tilted down over his eyes as if it's two sizes too big. Clark McGraths him with a maiden. It's a slow death.

1742: Eng 98-4
When Symonds is bowling threatening maidens, you know you're in trouble. Clark has now got 26 wickets in this series. England's best is Matthew Hoggard with 13. I'm sorry - no more depressing stats. Except the score, of course.

1736: WICKET - Collingwood ct Hayden b Clark 17, Eng 98-4
If you're just waking up, go back to sleep. Clark fools Colly with a slower leg-cutter and Hayden takes a fine tumbling catch in the gully. England are still four runs behind, with just six wickets left. And the last four scored two between them in the first innings. It's not going to happen, is it?

1732: Eng 96-3
Warne starts to warm up, which probably means this is Symonds last over. No joy from it.

From Mark Bevan in Neath, TMS inbox: "Let Pieterson keep two bats - it might double his scoring rate."

1723: Eng 94-3
Single to Colly, two to Pietersen, who lays the blame for his slow scoring rate on his bat and signals to the dressing-room for a new blade. Geraint Jones jogs out with four of them - not spilling a single one.

1723: Eng 91-3
More Symonds, more trundling, another maiden. You get the feeling Colly doesn't mind the dot balls, but KP sees each one as a personal insult.

1718: Eng 91-3
Here comes Clark again, to a shout from Warne of, "C'mon boys - we're only one wicket from the tail." Someone tell Freddie, who's next man in. Good battling from Colly - a four cut away that sees Ponting's face meet photographer's long lens as he dives in vain to prevent the boundary.

1710: Eng 87-3
Hello - Symonds gets the chance of a trundle. Dreds bouncing like those of Adam Duritz of Counting Crows fame, he asks Billy B for a very optimistic lbw against Pietersen and then gets popped through wide mid-on for four.

1705: Eng 83-3
An explosion of runs - Colly survives a big bellow for caught behind (ball flicking pad strap, I'd wager) and then uses Lee's pace to carve him through point twice. Lee does his best Andre Nel snarl; Colly meets it with ginger impassiveness.

1700: Eng 73-3
Would you be surprised to learn that McGrath has just bowled another maiden? Would you?

1653: Eng 73-3
Colly tries to turn Lee to leg and instead squirts a fat outside edge through point for three. That's his first scoring shot. Warne issues a chatty reminder.

From Steve Fallis in California, TMS inbox: "First Martyn, then Warne and McGrath. Clever tactics by England. By lying down in such spectacular style England may entice the whole Australian team into retirement - thus securing future glory." 1653: Eng 68-3
Any more of this and Pietersen will start eating his bat in frustration. Another maiden from McGrath. Why is he retiring? I'm not trying to change his mind, of course.

1648: Eng 68-3
Joy unconfined - a whole run! Pietersen drives at Lee and the ball squirts past Hussey at cover. Take that, Australia! Confused by the rush of runs, the man driving the drinks trolley attempts to steer his monstrous machine onto the outfield a full 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Bowden waves him off dismissively.

1643: Eng 67-3
Maiden from McGrath, and England's constipation is reaching chronic levels. Thing is, you don't get any prunes from this attack.

1641: Eng 67-3
Yet another maiden - Ponting's plan to Kay Pee is working a treat. He can't get Lee away at all. How long do we give it before he goes shopping at Slogs-R-Us?

1635: Eng 67-3
Poor old Colly - after he dared give Warne a modicum of chat earlier on, he's now getting the full torrent from the blond chubster. Even lip-reading Warne is enough to make a sailor blush.

From BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich at the SCG: "It's time for Round Two between Warne and Collingwood in the sledging bout. Warne can be seen directing some verbal daggers at Colly, but there is no reaction - yet."

From Lee Mann, TMS inbox: "Jason in Guernsey: Mitchell Johnson has a girlfriend, Jessica Bratich, who has competed at the Karate world championships and won bronze. Perhaps your girlfriend should stick with you..."

1627: WICKET - Bell ct Gilchrist b Lee 28, Eng 64-3 That's what pressure does to you - Bell swipes horribly at a wide one from Lee and snicks it into Gilchrist's grateful gloves. Lee strikes in his first over back, and England slump again. Hey, at least we can all find something else to do on Saturday...

From Simon Bown in Melbourne, TMS inbox: "Crumb of comfort: at least Jason will still be paying 20% income tax in Guernsey whilst his ex lives on what's left after Mitchell pays up to 47% on his earnings in Australia."

1623: Eng 64-2
Ponto's got a plan for Pietersen - two men close in in front of the wicket on the off side, and a shortish midwicket. Drive through that, he seems to be saying. KP can't - it's another maiden - and you can almost smell his frustration.

1619: Eng 64-2
Three to Bell as Clark goes a fraction wide. KP's looking to get busy, and Ponting makes sure to fill his ear with a few soothing comments on the way past.

1614: Eng 60-2
McGrath bottles up Pietersen with a maiden so relentlessly accurate you could have sworn you were watching five replays of the first ball. Jason in Guernsey's had a nightmare there - his girlfriend has not only left him at dawn, but for an Australian she's never even met. Can anyone offer him a crumb of comfort? Or a date?

1610: Eng 60-2
Pietersen gets off the mark with a thumping drive through cover off Clark. Bell tries to do the same but the ball rolls off his bat with the pace of a dazed snail.

From Jason in Guernsey, TMS inbox: "My girlfriend would like to know if Mitchell Johnson has a girlfriend or wife or partner of any sort. It's very urgent as well as she is leaving me in the next 10 minutes. Thanks."

1606: Eng 55-2
Batting against McGrath looks like torture. Every ball looks like it could just clip the top of off stump, so you feel you have to play at it. But if you play at it, it'll probably move off the seam and you'll be sending splinters to the boys in the slips. Bell stays alive.

From Paddy in Dubai, TMS inbox: "At least this name banter has taken the mind off batting collapses and impending doom. My old bank manager was called Mr Borrow. He was about as friendly as Brett Lee to Strauss - he bounced my cheque to the church when I got married."

1559: WICKET - Strauss lbw b Clark 24, Eng 55-2
There it is - Clark strikes, an inswinger which pitches in line and looked like it was going on to clip leg stump. Up goes Aleem Dar's finger, and England are effectively -47 for two.

1556: Eng 55-1
McGrath back into the attack, and Strauss gets two streakers - one a thick outside edge through fourth-ish slip for four, and then a top-edged pull which flies over Gilchrist. Hearts in mouths. Which is an unpleasant thought, if you think about it.

Email the BBC Sport website and the TMS team on

1550: Eng 48-1
Here we go again - Clark with the first over, and he doesn't quite find his line. Sure it won't take long. On the enjoyable subject of amusing names, apologies to all those who sent in ones which were too close to swear words/descriptions of the most private parts of the human anatomy to use - I enjoyed each and every one, but even at 4am English time I'd get an instant red card for putting any of them on the site. As it is I've already got concerns about our Japanese politician friend. Fearless journalism - that's what you get at the BBC.


1525: Eng 43-1
Shane Warne grabs the ball for the last over before tea, and the crowd roars its approval. "Come on, king!" chirps Gilchrist. Bell, remarkably, seizes on a succession of looseners to clip three fours through midwicket. That was more like it. England still 59 behind, but alive in the game - for the moment at least...

1523: Eng 31-1
Stuart Clark replaces Lee, obviously to set up an accuracy-off with McGrath. Big, big lbw shout against Strauss; a possible skinny inside edge saves his skin.

1519: Eng 31-1
Flintoff's got his pads on in the pavillion, which suggests he's either got zero faith in the four batsmen ahead of him or cold legs. Two singles off the over, the smell of danger still in the air.

1515: Eng 29-1
Nice from Strauss, flicking a leg-side stray from Lee to the fine leg boundary. 10 minutes to go until tea - and absolutely no mockers-inducing comment on that from me.

1511: Eng 24-1
McGrath's bowling beautifully - just short of a length, nibbling it in at Strauss and away from Bell. Three slips, a gully, backward point - and Gilchrist's venus fly-traps waiting behind...

From Russell in Sydney, TMS inbox: "My fiancée worked in the medical industry with a Dr Doctor. I had the pleasure of working with a lady called Marie Bumpass - I never could look her in the face without grinning."

1506: Eng 22-1
Lee barrels in to Bell, who is doing his best not to look scared. A thick outside edge flies through third slip for four, and there's a big lbw shout which looked like it was just missing down leg. Strauss's grille has a large dent in it from Lee's cruncher, and there's a dark red welt on his neck where the ball went next.

1501: Eng 18-1
Ian Bell, you're a very lucky man. McGrath gets a little extra bounce, Bell has a push and the ball flies off a thick edge just over Ponting at third slip. There's a horrible sense of inevitability about this for seasoned England watchers.

From Peter Hammond in California, TMS inbox: "How about Ms Spellings, US Secretary of Education?"

1457: Eng 13-1
Brave, brave batting from Strauss. Just one over after being knocked to the ground by Lee, he cuts him deliberately over the slips for four and then gets onto the front foot to drive him for two more.

From Jez Earl in Australia, TMS inbox: "My wife went to school with a Rupert Chicken and Russell Sprout."

1452: Eng 6-1
McGrath against Bell, and it's a maiden so testing Bell must have had a litter of kittens. The ball's darting everywhere off the seam. You wouldn't fancy it out there right now, you really wouldn't.

From Martin Warren in Hong Kong, TMS inbox: "There's a Roman Catholic cardinal in the Philippines called Cardinal Jaime Sin - ie Cardinal Sin for short. If you don't believe me, Google it."

1447: Eng 6-1
Crunch - Strauss cops one flush on the lid from Lee and goes down like felled tree. He's on his knees - that couldn't have hit him any squarer. Genuine concern from the Aussie fielders, but Strauss climbs slowly to his feet, shakes his head and tells all and sundry he'll carry on. That was a brutal blow.

From Neil in North Sydney, TMS inbox: "At school we had a Religious Education teacher called Mr Wellard. To add to the irony of his brutally unjustified surname, he also had a blond wig and a ginger beard."

1439: WICKET - Cook ct Gilchrist b Lee 4, Eng 4-1
Oh no... Lee drops short and Cook top-edges his attempted pull into the grateful gloves of Gilchrist. 5-0 here we come - an Auswash to start the new year with. Sigh.

1439: Eng 4-0
McGrath opens the Aussie bowling for the last ever time in a Test. Writing those words has provided me with a small crumb of comfort. He beats Cook twice outside off, but the Essex tyro then cuts him tastily for four.

From Greg Monahan, TMS inbox: "I almost went to uni at Bowdoin, and I am not remotely surprised that a professor there has the time to send that email."

1433: Eng 0-0
Right England - let's see what you can do after that onslaught. Brett Lee takes the first over, Andrew Strauss on strike, and it's a fiery maiden. On his way to the crease, Strauss copped an earful of chat from all 11 Aussie fielders. I don't think they were wishing him luck.


From Henry Laurence PhD, Department of Asian Studies, Bowdoin College, Maine USA, TMS inbox: "As a professor of Japanese politics, I can confirm that Noboru Takeshita was Prime Minister of Japan from 1987-1989. Ed from Japan is correct that no Japanese family name ends in a T: there is no such sound in the Japanese language. On the other hand, if the gentleman from Perth called his client "Mr Takashit" then his name could not be Takashi, since this is a first (given) name rather than the family name which follows Mr. Hope this helps, since at this rate Japan would have a better chance of beating the Aussies than England do..."

1418: WICKET - Warne st Read b Panesar 71, Aus 393 all out
It's over, and Warne won't get that Test ton today at least - he charges Monty, misses by a metric mile and is stumped by Read. Australia have a priceless lead of 102, and the SCG rises as Warne and McGrath walk off a Test arena as batsmen for possibly the final time.

From David, TMS inbox: "Please tell me retirements are legally binding."

1417: Aus 393-9
McGrath is given the biggest talking-to of his life by Warne. It's going something like this: "McGrath - don't get out, mate - alright?"

From Gordon in Singapore, TMS inbox: "How about Norman Conquest, a chemistry teacher at Prestwick Academy around 1970?"

1410: WICKET - Clark ct Pietesen b Mahmood 35, Aus 393-9
Clark tries to hit Mahmood into space, gets the ball less than a hundredth of a way there and Pietersen runs in from cover to take a steepler. A standing ovation greets New South Wales legend and final batsman Glenn McGrath.

From Mike in Auckland, TMS inbox: "I once had a client called Lay Sze Ho - she was a librarian."

1406: Aus 391-8
Warne might as well get the England team to line up and kiss his quivering rump. After battering Monty for another four, he turns to Paul Collingwood at slip and tells him, "You got an MBE, right? For scoring seven at the Oval?"

1359: Aus 382-8
More Mahmood, more runs. Warne thumps him backwards of point for four, Clark contents himself with two singles. England's batsmen from seven to 11 contributred two runs between them; their Aussie equivalents are closing in on 100.

From Duncan Abate, TMS inbox: "The two best local female triathletes in Hong Kong have first names 'Gorilla' and 'Oil'. I am absolutely serious about this."

1353: Aus 373-8
Mahmood into the attack, and as we all know by now, that means runs. Warne cuts him fine for four to move to 61 off 54 balls. Two more runs and he'll be Australia's top scorer in this match. He's loving every single minute of it. Flintoff looks sick.

From Sam Jones in Reading, TMS inbox: "At my college we had lecturer called Mr De'Ath. Being slightly grown-up we didn't find this terribly amusing, until we discovered that he was actually a "Dr" De'Ath, and had dropped the "Dr" in a futile attempt to stop avoid people taking the mickey."

1347: Aus 366-8
Clark wants a slice of this now - cracking Flintoff square and then down the ground. The partnership's up to 41 already, and it's hurting England. And me, to be fair.

From Julian Tatton in Melbourne, TMS inbox: "A couple of years ago I was on a large recruitment project, and had the pleasure of speaking to a Bich and a Ho on the same day."

Batsman scores 50
1347: Aus 355-8
Crunch - Warne leans back and drives Anderson high over cover for four, and that's his half-century. The SCG crowd rise to him, laughing as they do so - it's not been a classic knock, and he should have been out at least twice, but Warne being Warne, he's still there. Hey - only two and half more days to go, and he can never hurt England again. Until he moves into coaching.

1342: Aus 355-8
Harmison takes over from his skipper, but the frustration mounts - Clark smears a cross-batted something over mid-off for three. Warne then almost dislocates his shoulders trying to hit the next three deliveries to Bondi.

From Steve in Canada, TMS inbox: "Ed from Japan - I believe there was a Prime Minister in Japan recently who had the surname 'Takeshita'."

1338: Aus 345-8
Flintoff's trotted off the field for a mo, so Ed Joyce comes on and Andrew Strauss bosses the field. Anderson zips it past Clark's outside edge for the millionth time, and then gets flipped away to leg every time he goes straighter. Potential curses escape his lips.

1334: Aus 337-8
Steady from Freddie, and Clark continues to play and miss like a man aiming at a marble with a piece of string.

1330: Aus 335-8
Nice away wobble from Jimmy A. Clark doesn't have a clue what's going on, but being an Australian tail-ender he still manages to score - a two and single through midwicket.

From Duncan Hewett in Adelaide, TMS inbox: "My school seemed to specialise in funny names. We had a Mr Glew for woodwork, and a Dr Spillet for chemistry."

1326: Aus 332-8
Freddie again from the Randwick end, and Clark continues his impression of an old-school tail-ender, missing repeatedly with self-conscious prods outside off.

1320: Aus 331-8
Anderson from the Paddington end, and he does Clark all ends up. Twice. Keep Warne off strike and England could polish this off sharpish.

From Ed in Japan, TMS inbox: "It's not possible for a Japanese person to have a surname of Takashit. His name was probably Takashi. Either David is taking the mickey or his client was."

1315: WICKET - Lee ct Read b Flintoff 5, Aus 325-8
Wallop - Flintoff strikes with the third ball after lunch, Lee pushing at one outside off which moved away a fraction. Good work Fred, and Read's fifth pouch of the innings. That's lifted the 2am mood in Blighty.


1232: Aus 325-7
Anderson takes the final over before lunch, and new batsman Lee wastes no time in cutting him square for four. That's lunch - Warne's on 40 off 32 balls, and if he gets his first ever Test century today, the words may be typed by my tears falling heavily onto my PC's keyboard.

From Grant in Sydney, TMS inbox: "Am working in an office in Sydney, and have been taking stick from a fat guy for the last month. When I finally think I can tell him where to stick his meat pie, Warne comes out and smacks us around like nobody's business."

1227: Aus 320-7
Flintoff goes looking for the old round-the-pads castling trick on Warne, who survives two before getting wise and flicking the ball to fine leg for two.

From David in Perth, TMS website: "I used to have a Japanese client called Mr Takashit. You don't need a nickname with a surname like that."

1220: WICKET - Gilchrist ct Read b Anderson 62, Aus 318-7
Anderson strikes in his first over with the new ball - and Gilchrist gets an absolute stinker. He tries to reach a wide full-lengther, there's a solid noise and Billy Bowden raises his crooked finger after an age. Replays suggest the noise was the bat hitting the ground, and boos ring out around the SCG. Isn't Gilchrist a walker?

1215: Aus 317-6
You'd think this was potentially Warne's last ever Test innings or something... The old puffer launches Monty high over midwicket for a straight six, and then leans back and cuts him behind square for four. He's steamed to 37 off just 22 balls, and his eyes are out on stalks.

1210: Aus 306-6
Gilchrist goes to 10,000 career first-class runs with a lucky hoick off Harmison. Don't worry - Chris Read and Geraint Jones will get there too some day. Ahem.

From BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich at the SCG: "The SCG is witnessing a real contest. The two teams are trading blows, but Gilchrist looks intent on having the biggest say with his powerful hitting."

1206: Aus 302-6
Crack - Warne belts Panesar back over his head for four, is nearly caught behind on the next and punches another two through midwicket. Who needs a tail that can bat? Oh yeah...

From Dave in Hong Kong, TMS inbox: "I went to a school with two Titts - Derek and Kevin."

1154: Aus 296-6
Gilchrist, clearly inspired by Warne, belts the returning Harmison four two fours behind square. That's the lead for Australia - this partnership is scoring at over nine runs an over.

From Mike Alcock in Liverpool, TMS inbox: "A bloke I work with had an unfortunate accident where he lost half an ear. Obviously the lads had plenty of sympathy and nicknamed him '18 months' (an 'ear and a half...)"

Batsman scores 50
1159: Aus 281-6
Gilchrist goes to his half-century with a single off Monty. The way Warne is shaping up, he'll either join him there in about three overs or go down in flames in the attempt.

1154: Aus 281-6
The game has suddenly exploded into life. Warne, moving between the wickets with the pace of a listing oil tanker, avoids being run out off the first ball of Mahmood's over only because the bowler inexplicably fails to gather the ball. Gilchrist then boffs a full toss straight for four, hooks Mahmood just short of deep square leg for one and watches Warne cream Mahmood back past the stumps for another four. I've got blisters on my fingers.

1149: Aus 270-6
Huge applause as Shane Warne trots to the wicket. He settles down, sweeps his first ball from Monty for four, smashes his second over midwicket for six, completely misses the fourth and then seems to get a huge nick to his fifth. Read takes the catch, every single fielder goes up... and umpire Aleem Dar gives it not out. Blimey. Got to be honest - that looked out, and even Shane can't get the guilt off his face.

1143: WICKET Symonds b Panesar 48, Aus 260-6
At last - great bowling and great captaincy, and England have the breakthough - Symonds is given the chance to gamble over mid-on and is cleaned up by a delighted Monty. England needed that...

1143: Aus 260-5
Brilliance and banality from Sajid - two balls past Gilchrist's outside edge, another one wide and smashed away for four.

From Niall in Luxembourg, TMS inbox: "I have one friend whose surname is Grundy, which has led to... Grun DMC."

1139: Aus 252-5
Gilchrist moves on to 36 with a couple of chancey drives at Monty, coming down the pitch and not really getting to the pitch of the ball. Monty looks interested.

From J Maguire, TMS inbox: "When a few of my friends and I used to play snooker we decided to give each other some nicknames; none was better than Andrew "The Love" Inman..."

1134: Aus 248-5
Mahmood is as consistent as lumpy custard. Symonds waits for the tasty bits and tucks into a run four when Harmison dives like a falling oak tree at mid-on and fails to lay a leaf on the shot.

From Andrew Robinson in Nottingham, TMS inbox: "I went to school with a lad called Hardeep. It was the time when Take That were around the first time. We called him 'Hardeep is your love'."

1129: Aus 242-5
It's Monty o'clock at last. Bong - Symonds takes an easy single into the gap at mid-on. Bong - so does Gilchrist. Add two more bongs and you're there.

1124: Drinks break at the SCG. Talking of nicknames, I think it's hard to beat the moniker given to my mate's pal Barry, who's a Buddhist. Nope - not "Barry the Buddhist", but "Barry Krishna". Quality. Anyone beat that?

Email the BBC Sport website and the TMS team on

1121: Aus 238-5
Better from Mahmood, who I seem to recall we had a nickname competition for during the Pakistan series. Think the winner was the fella who suggested "For Dancing", as in "I'm in Mahmood For Dancing." Bleak days, on reflection.

1115: Aus 235-5
Hamie comes on, and like a wayward hound he strays as soon as he's off the leash. Easy singles off four balls, a smashed Gilchrist drive on another which Anderson almost pouches full-length for the greatest-catch-nearly-taken-but-not, and then a steepling pull which takes so long to come down that they run four.

1110: Aus 224-5
Saj Mahmood comes on for Harmison, and his first four balls are exemplary. It then goes very Mahmood - a short wide one which Symonds thrashes over Anderson at deep gully for four, and a half-volley which the big biffer drives beautifully for four more. it's getting away from England here...

1105: Aus 216-5
Great shot from Gilchrist - a slashing square cut off Flintoff that flies for four. The partnership's up to 26, and Gillie has 21 of them. Gulp.

From Peter Adams in Brisbane, TMS inbox: "We're on such tight water restrictions here that my mum isn't allowed to spit. Even when my dad annoys her."

1100: Aus 212-5
Nothing fancy from Harmison - just a spot of line and length. Actually, considering how he's bowled in this series, that is quite fancy.

From David Chapman, TMS inbox: "Steve Moralee - mate, I'll swap you your mother-in-law for one disapproving father-in-law. Comes with complimentry guilt imposition, noisome throat-clearing and withering glances, as well as comments on driving skills, todays youth and how accountants are responsible for all the evil in the world."

1052: Aus 209-5
Freddie pounds Symonds with three bouncers. No smiles from England's captain today. In the Aussie dresing-room, Ricky Ponting is pulling a stray hair from Justin Langer's cheek. Honestly. Langer's face is screwed up in anticipation of pain as his skipper comes in close with his forefinger and thumb and plucks him like a beautician.

1046: Aus 207-5
Anderson takes a blow, and Harmison steps up. Gilchrist pushes his first delivery away for a single, and the remaining five are classic Harmie - one a desperate plodder miles down leg, one a useful short one, the rest somewhere in between.

From Francis On, TMS inbox: "I got two sets of postage stamps for Xmas - England rugby World Cup winners and England Ashes winners - both going against strict 150-year-old Royal Mail policy of not showing live people other than the Queen on British stamps. Both teams have been playing like the living dead since the stamps' release - maybe the Royal Mail knows something we don't."

1046: Aus 206-5
Right on the button from Flintoff - another maiden, and Symonds just can't get him away. Just short of a length, just wide of off stump. With pace. Lovely.

From Robery Whitehead, TMS inbox: "I've seen my mum spit. She used to do it all the time - into a hanky, then proceed to clean my face with it. Apparently it was as good as having a wash."

1042: Aus 206-5
Gilchrist is going after Anderson here. One attempted drive finds mid-off, but a second races through cover for three. After Symonds nibbles a single, Gilchrist thrashes two more square. It's getting a touch too Perth for England's liking here.

From Matthew Aylmer, TMS inbox: "I got another omen playing Brian Lara Cricket 2005. England won the Sydney test but only due to Chris Read making an unbeaten 43... and he didn't drop anything either. Spookily, Flintoff made made 89 and KP made 41. Co-incidence? Probably."

1037: Aus 200-5
Great stuff from Flintoff - a maiden, even with Symonds clearly eyeing Gilchrist's example and fancying a slice of boundary pie.

From Steve Moralee in Sydney, TMS inbox: "My mother-in-law has arrived here in Sydney from London and is staying for nine weeks. Will consider any swap offers."

1033: Aus 200-5
Uh-oh - Adam Gilchrist doesn't look like he's going to mess about - he blazes Anderson high over gully for four and then drives him beautifully through mid-off for four more. NB I've never actually see my mum spit - she's not that sort of woman. Fight yes, spit no.

From BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich at the SCG: "Plenty of short stuff for Symonds. England have a spring in their step after the early breakthrough, but they have been in this position before this series and let it slip."

From Daniel Heap, TMS inbox: "I got a electronic Sudoku gizmo. It's nice, but it's bright pink and has 'toys for girls' emblazoned on the front."

1028: Aus 192-5
Fred keeps it tight against Symonds, bouncing him early on and giving up just a pair of singles. England are looking uncharacteristically aggressive here. It's as surprising as seeing your mum spit.

From Jamie Vickery, TMS inbox: "Someone bought me an MCC tie for Xmas - apparently they got it on eBay."

From Neil Holloway, TMS inbox: "I played International Cricket Captain today and re-created this Ashes series with the same squad, strangely enough we were 4-0 down going into the Sydney match and won it - probably blind optimism but I would like to think a good omen."

1020: WICKET - Hussey ct Read b Anderson 37, Aus 190-5
How's about that? Jimmy Anderson serves Hussey a pacey outswinger first ball and Mr Cricket nibbles it behind, where Chris Read takes a fine diving snag. Just the start England needed, and Anderson leaps into Flintoff's arms with a smile as wide as Mike Gatting's waistband.

From Sam Thornley, TMS inbox: "I have an...what's the word, exciting pair of superman socks. And also an amazing original Airfix, build your own cardboard plane. Starter kit. Want to swap?"

1018: Aus 190-4
Whoosh - what a great first ball from Fred - beats Symonds all ends up outside off stump. Three more testers follow before Symonds works one away behind square for two.

From James Smart, TMS inbox: "I got a Smasher bat just like Chris Read's. Just like his, mine hasn't been used too much."

1014: England are out on the field, deep in their cosy huddle. And here come Hussey and Symonds. Looks like Flintoff to open, Symonds to face.

1010: From D Fletcher in the TMS inbox: "Anyone got a wicketkeeper who can bat and a third seamer who can bowl?"

1005: While we wait for the start, anyone got any unwanted Christmas presents they want to swap? Drop me a line if you have, and we'll see if we can set up some sort of Swapshop-style exchange system.

1000: The forecast for today is okay - chance of the odd shower this morno but clearing up in the afternoon.

From BBC Sport's Scott Heinrich at the SCG: "The morning showers have abated and the sun is doing its best to poke through. Ricky Ponting has just been presented with an award after being named the ABC's cricketer of the year. Well done, Punter."

0956: Late news from the middle - the start has been delayed a fraction, until 1015 Sydney time or 1115 GMT. Spot of moisture out there that they're keen to get rid of. Sure that 15 minutes will make all the difference.

0945: Morning or evening, depending on where you are - the sun is shining at the SCG, and unjustified optimism is once again filling English hearts. Well, why not? Steve Harmison, dander very much in attack position, may rip through the remaining Aussie wickets in record-breaking time. As Mama Cass once sang, why not dream a little dream?

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