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Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 17:45 UK

Australia charge thwarted by rain

First Ashes Test, Cardiff (day four, stumps):
England 435 & 20-2 v Australia 674-6d
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

Ben Hilfenhaus celebrates the wicket of Ravi Bopara
Australia snapped up two late England wickets and are firm favourites to win

By David Ornstein

England face a fight to save the first Ashes Test after being dominated by Australia on day four in Cardiff.

Marcus North (125no) and Brad Haddin (121) both crafted superb centuries as the tourists posted 674-6 declared - a first-innings lead of 239 runs.

England's situation then worsened when Mitchell Johnson trapped Alastair Cook lbw for six and Ravi Bopara fell in the same manner to Ben Hilfenhaus for one.

The hosts were 20-2 - 219 runs behind when rain forced an early finish.

Australia should be delighted with their position going into day five and will be confident of taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.

While England would have been relieved to see the heavens open just as tea was taken, they still face an uphill battle to avoid defeat as the forecast for the final day is fair.

Captain Andrew Strauss (6no) and his predecessor Kevin Pietersen (3no) will return to the crease on Sunday hoping to build a solid partnership and help their side to safety.

The weather was always expected to play a part but, despite forecasts of morning showers, day four got under way as scheduled at 1100 BST.

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Conditions were fairly muggy with heavy cloud cover, which should have helped England to get the ball swinging as they went in search of early wickets.

But there seemed a general lack of urgency about the hosts and Australia, who resumed on 479-5, were able to ease through the opening exchanges.

Haddin, four not out overnight, would have expected an uncomfortable start, but he received nothing of the sort - clipping, hooking and driving Stuart Broad for three effortless boundaries to calm any nerves.

At the other end, North was allowed to get his eye in all too comfortably and, from an overnight score of 54, the left-hander pushed on towards three figures with little trouble.

Andrew Flintoff, England's principal pace threat, was not introduced until the 11th over of the morning session but by that point the batsmen had settled into a nice rhythm.

The all-spin combination of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann did cause problems - both beat the outside edge and Swann had a decent lbw shout against Haddin correctly rejected by Aleem Dar - yet they could not dissuade Strauss from taking the third new ball three overs before lunch.

Flintoff and Anderson were restored to the attack as England went in desperate search of a pre-interval breakthrough, but the move backfired as North and Haddin punished some wayward new-ball bowling.

Brad Haddin and Marcus North
Haddin and North put on 200 runs for the sixth wicket

North guided Anderson behind point to record a richly-deserved century - the Western Australia captain has now scored tons on both his Test and Ashes debuts - and Haddin took a quick single off Flintoff to pass 50.

Australia reached lunch on 577-5, a lead of 142 runs, and after the re-start they put England to the sword.

Haddin was their destroyer-in-chief and signalled his intent by hitting cutting, edging and flicking three successive Anderson deliveries to the rope.

The 31-year-old New South Wales wicketkeeper was treating England with utter disdain and closed in on his second Test century with towering sixes off the ineffective Swann and Panesar.

When he flicked Paul Collingwood to fine leg to reach 100 it was the first time Australia had hit four tons in an Ashes innings.

Strauss must have been praying for rain but if anything the skies began to clear and Haddin's assault continued as Collingwood was dispatched for a couple more leg side fours and another six.

He eventually holed out to Ravi Bopara at deep midwicket - ending a 200-run partnership with fellow Ashes debutant North - but the damage had already been done and Australia captain Ricky Ponting called his men in.

It was Australia's highest total against England since being dismissed for 701 in 1934 at The Oval and their fourth highest ever in the Ashes.

Just 25 minutes remained before tea and it was critical for England to reach the break unscathed, but they failed miserably.

As the light deteriorated and the floodlights came on for the second time in the match, Cook played across a full-length delivery from Johnson and Bopara was trapped attempting to flick Hilfenhaus to leg.

Luckily for England the rain then arrived, but for a third day running the spoils belonged to a powerful-looking Australia who were left scenting victory.



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see also
Collingwood demands batting focus
11 Jul 09 |  England
England v Australia photos day four
11 Jul 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
11 Jul 09 |  England
Clarke & North make England toil
10 Jul 09 |  England
Aussie batsmen dominate England
09 Jul 09 |  England
England make solid start to Ashes
08 Jul 09 |  England
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England


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