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Ashes: Jonathan Agnew column

Fifth Ashes Test: Australia 280 v England 167-3 (stumps, day two)
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground Dates: 3-7 Jan (resumes 2300 GMT on Tuesday) Coverage: Live on Test Match Special (from 2245 GMT) on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW & online; TMS highlights online (UK only) and day's review on the TMS podcast; live text on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1; highlights on ITV4
Match scorecard

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in Sydney

Ben Hilfenhaus hits out during his innings
Ben Hilfenhaus' 34 could be crucial come the second innings

What a fascinating Test match - a good, old-fashioned, see-saw game in Sydney, the first time we have really seen anything like this in the series.

Australia will probably feel they had the better of day two, especially following the enterprising 76-run ninth-wicket stand between Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus as well as the late wicket of Kevin Pietersen, but England had their opportunities and missed them.

At 189-8, England really should have had Australia all out for 220 or less. In no way should the hosts have been allowed to score 280, a total which could be so crucial in what is likely to be a low-scoring game.

Australia were there for the taking. England know what Johnson can do with the bat, he's a dangerous hitter when he's on a roll.

But I don't understand the theory of pushing men back on the boundary when you are in such a dominant position. I don't like the tactic because as a bowler, it really is confusing and you start to question your own abilities, despite what the scorecard is telling you.

There was a point just after lunch when I thought England had lost a grip on the situation with Johnson and Hilfenhaus at the crease. A thick outside edge off Hilfenhaus's bat flew past gully's hand off James Anderson's bowling. However, the fielder didn't look right.

England usually have two players who field in the gully, Kevin Pietersen or Anderson. Anderson was bowling, but it wasn't Pietersen standing there, it was Tim Bresnan. What was he doing there?

It's difficult to tell what a good score on this surface is - although Andrew Strauss made it look positively flat with a superb run-a-ball innings

I also think Strauss got his tactics wrong after lunch when he opened with Bresnan at the wrong end. Let me explain.

The Paddington End is the more dangerous end for the seamers, offering more movement and bounce, while the Randwick End doesn't; it's more suited for the spinners.

However, Strauss chose to bowl Bresnan from the Paddington End while the threatening Chris Tremlett bowled from the Randwick End.

Bresnan leaked 15 runs from the first two overs of his afternoon session spell before he eventually removed Johnson, but by then England had lost their morning momentum.

England like to stick rigidly to their plans, but at 189-8 with an unpredictable pitch, why do you make batting easier for the number eight? Why treat Johnson any differently from the top-order batsmen who have struggled?

It's not so much about giving away the singles to get the number 10 on strike but more the change of mentality from everyone in the field.

It's difficult to tell what a good score on this surface is - although Strauss made it look positively flat with a superb run-a-ball innings.

Kevin Pietersen is out
It was not the first time we have seen this expression from Pietersen

It was only a fantastic delivery from Hilfenhaus which ended his innings. A total of 350 is possible, but England will need Alastair Cook to drop anchor, something he is more than capable of doing after surpassing a number of impressive records on day three.

As ever, Pietersen's dismissal will divide opinions. After stressing his insistence he had become a more responsible batsman following his superb double century in Adelaide, he once again fell to a high-risk stroke at a crucial stage of the game.

But that's KP. I have spoken about this particular subject on numerous occasions - and I doubt this will be the last time.

It's not too dissimilar to watching David Gower in his pomp, when he edged a needless push outside off stump to the slips. It's more the frustration of being denied the pleasure of watching one of the best batsmen on the planet in full flow.

Jonathan Agnew was taking to BBC Sport's Pranav Soneji

Listen to commentary highlights from the fifth Test (UK users only)

TMS podcast: Jonathan Agnew and Geoff Boycott's review (available worldwide)

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see also
Cook builds England reply at SCG
04 Jan 11 |  England
Justin Langer column
04 Jan 11 |  Cricket
We face crucial period - Anderson
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Fifth Ashes Test day two photos
04 Jan 11 |  England
Tuesday's Ashes gossip column
04 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket

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