First Ashes Test, Cardiff (day two, stumps): England 435 v Australia 249-1 Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 Long Wave, Red Button and BBC Sport website, plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles. Live on Sky Sports Match scorecard
Ponting and Katich were seldom troubled during their innings
By Oliver Brett
Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting both hit centuries as Australia frustrated England on day two of the first Test.
Katich (104) and Ponting (100) put on an unbroken 189 as Australia reached 249-1 at stumps, 186 behind England.
Captain Ponting batted superbly to pass 11,000 Test runs and notch his 38th Test century, while Katich produced a dogged knock for his eighth ton.
Earlier, Graeme Swann hit an aggressive unbeaten 47 as England took their overnight 336-7 to 435.
But although in the morning Australia's fielders chased the ball around, by the end it was England who were toiling away, desperately trying to find that elusive breakthrough.
The pitch always looked like it might help the spinners, and the generally overcast conditions suggested the ball might swing.
But in truth none of the bowlers got much assistance, certainly not enough to dismiss two fine players who seemed at the top of their games.
Swann disappointed with lack of spin
Day two began with the game well-balanced. England's Kevin Pietersen had said his team were looking for a total of 400, while Australia's coach Tim Nielsen was hoping they would fail to get past 360.
In the event, a total of 435 represented a fine achievement by England's last few batsmen, who were led by Swann - his 47 coming off just 40 balls.
Swann hit three successive boundaries off fellow off-spinner Nathan Hauritz - two confident drives and a reverse-sweep - but the best shot was probably the lofted straight drive off Ben Hilfenhaus played with barely any follow-through. It almost disappeared for six.
He and James Anderson (26) put on 68 in a frenetic partnership that infuriated Australia's bowlers, Mitchell Johnson in particular.
Australia were not at their best in the field, and the crowd made them know it. There was no bigger cheer than when Swann was caught off a Hauritz no-ball, and England got most of the breaks going - two lbw appeals which both might have been given on another day were turned down.
Finally the innings came to an end when Hauritz (3-95) had Anderson caught at midwicket and Monty Panesar taken at second slip.
Australia's openers had to face eight overs before lunch, never something any opening pair particularly relish. But Phillip Hughes was certainly up for the challenge and was happy to get bat on ball as much as possible.
The left-hander raced to 28 at the break, with most of his boundaries coming off Stuart Broad, as he played in the idiosyncratic manner which has perplexed many opposition bowlers.
Straight balls were punched through cover and point as he stayed leg-side of the ball, while anything wide of off-stump was laced to the fence.
Flintoff bowled with speed, skill and heart - but even he toiled
After lunch, Andrew Flintoff found a way to unsettle him by bowling round the wicket, cramping him for room, and bowling at uncomfortably high speeds nudging 94mph. He was the fastest bowler in the match, and soon enough he had his man when Hughes's bottom-edge was well caught by Matt Prior.
By then, he had almost caught Katich on 10 off his own bowling, a tough chance that bounced in and out of his outstretched hand about an inch from the turf.
Ponting survived an lbw appeal first ball from a suddenly rejuvenated Broad, but adjusted quickly to the conditions and as the partnership between him and Katich steadily grew in the run-up to tea, neither batsman looked particularly vulnerable.
Swann gave England control, sending down five maiden overs in succession at one point, but when Panesar came on he was less accurate, Ponting sweeping him for a rare boundary.
At tea Australia were going steadily at 142-1, with Katich just keeping ahead of his partner on 53, and the skipper looking ominous on 44.
By then, Ponting had already joined Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and the watching Allan Border in the very exclusive club of Test batsmen with 11,000 runs to their name, and of those he holds the most impressive average.
Katich had reached his half-century with an on-drive off Swann for four, but the same bowler got a delivery to spin through his defences on 56. England's concerted, sustained appeal for lbw was not upheld by umpire Billy Doctrove - though it had everything going for it - and the left-hander breathed again.
It's been a good day - Katich
Other than that close call, England struggled to build pressure on a wicket that remained deadly slow and was only beginning to take spin.
The landmarks were knocked off nonchalantly - the team 200, the 150-run partnership - and it was all achieved with the minimum of flourish or fuss as the batsmen chased each other to their centuries.
Katich got there first, pulling his 214th ball - bowled by Flintoff - down to fine-leg for a single. His century banished the memories of a troubled campaign in the 2005 Ashes. Later that year he lost his place in the side, and it took him two and a half years to win a recall.
Then in the final over of the day, Ponting pushed a ball into a space in the covers and dashed off for a single, reaching his century from 155 balls. Both he and Katich had struck eight boundaries.
Ponting's two very minor misdemeanours all day were a sliced drive for four off Broad that took him to his fifty, and an attempted slog-sweep off Swann that almost ended up as a catch to mid-on.
Everything else pretty much hit the middle of the bat, and if he can keep batting as well as that while getting solid support from players like Katich, England's battle to win back the Ashes may become very difficult indeed.
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