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Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 18:47 UK

Australia on top as England slump

Fourth Ashes Test, Headingley (day one):
England 102 v Australia 196-4
Match scorecard

Stuart Clark and Peter Siddle
Stuart Clark and Peter Siddle were lethal either side of lunch

By Oliver Brett

England were dismissed for their lowest Ashes score since 1997 as Australia seized control of the fourth Test with a strong display at Headingley.

England, without Andrew Flintoff, opted to bat first but slumped to 72-6 at lunch and were all out for 102.

Stuart Clark took 3-18 before Peter Siddle (5-21) blew away the tail.

Ricky Ponting hit 78 and Shane Watson 51 in a brilliant stand of 119 as Australia batted well in challenging conditions to reach 196-4 in reply.

In just one day of cricket, they put themselves in such a strong position that it is difficult to work out an obvious way in which England, whose bowling was also well below its best, can avoid defeat.

In the morning session alone, the hosts collapsed in a two-hour horror-show that may prove key should Australia win here and set up a decider at The Oval.

England had gone into the Test clutching a 1-0 lead with two to play as they looked to win back the urn lost in 2006-07 after a 5-0 whitewash in Australia.

Ravi Bopara
Bopara's dismissal was the result of a poor shot by an out-of-form player

But their build-up for this match had been far from ideal. Severe doubts over Flintoff's fitness were confirmed when the all-rounder failed to make the starting XI - England electing for the bolder option in replacing him with a specialist bowler in Steve Harmison rather than picking the extra batsman, Jonathan Trott.

When the captains tossed, Matt Prior's fitness had only just been confirmed following a back spasm in the pre-match warm-ups - and England had also endured a night's sleep interrupted by a fire alarm in their hotel.

They enjoyed only one brief period when things went their way. Three lbw decisions went against Australia soon after tea as they suffered a mini-collapse to go from 133-1 to 151-4.

But Michael Clarke (34) and Marcus North (7), whose marathon stand on the final day at Edgbaston had prevented an England win, batted safely through the final 16.3 overs of the day.

The decision to bring in Clark and drop spinner Nathan Hauritz proved an excellent one as Australia's all-seam attack reaped maximum reward from a pitch that offered bounce, some pace and plenty of swing and seam movement.

But even though Clark, Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson produced some terrific deliveries, too many England batsmen were suckered into playing without full conviction at balls they should have either left completely, or attacked with purpose.

Only Alastair Cook (30) and Prior (37 not out) reached double figures.

Cook played patiently, and only at balls that he needed to, until a really good delivery from Clark just nibbled off the seam, took Cook's edge and went straight to first slip. Prior, meanwhile, backed himself to produce a counter-attacking innings but lost the strike after lunch and was left high and dry.

Depressingly, the other nine batsman contributed just 18 runs between them.

Australia caught everything, were able to keep attacking fields all the way through, and tested the batsmen with nearly every ball. And when they batted they showed up their hosts with a committed display both in defence and attack.

The omens that batting might be a struggle came as early as the first ball, when Hilfenhaus swung a ball into Andrew Strauss's pads only to find umpire Billy Bowden reluctant to uphold an lbw appeal that had everything going for it.

606: DEBATE
Silk

Strauss lasted just 16 more deliveries. Stretching across his stumps attempting to push Siddle into the covers he edged to North at third slip, who took a fine one-handed catch. England's captain was the vital wicket for Australia to capture, and all the more valuable with no Flintoff to come in lower down.

Ravi Bopara was the second man out, caught on the back foot trying to defend a ball well wide of off-stump. No in-form Test number three would have played at the ball, and Bopara's edge, off Hilfenhaus, looped up gently to gully.

Ian Bell dealt with the full-length swing bowling well, but when Johnson tried something shorter that he could have pulled or got out of the way off he left his gloves in the way, and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin took an easy catch.

England had to try to reach lunch just three wickets down, but managed to lose another three - all to Clark.

Paul Collingwood, the first of three men out for ducks, played forward - fearing the inswinger - but edged to second slip, Cook was also sent on his way and then Stuart Broad played too casually at one going down the leg-side and was snapped up by Simon Katich at short square-leg.

England barely scraped to their 100 as Siddle quickly removed numbers eight to 11 after lunch.

Graeme Swann and Harmison supplied outside edges, while Siddle went for the short-pitched option to have James Anderson and Graham Onions caught off the glove, though replays showed Onions was wrongly given out by umpire Asad Rauf - the ball had struck the batsman's forearm.

Hopes that Australia may not be able to produce a substantial lead were raised when Katich gloved a Harmison lifter to Bopara at leg-gully.

But it did not transpire that way. Any short-pitched bowling was eagerly latched onto by Ponting and Watson, who were scoring at better than eight runs an over in the early stages of an eye-catching partnership.

Ricky Ponting
Ponting was committed in both defence and attack in an excellent 78

The first two balls of the innings, bowled by Anderson, were short and wide outside the off-stump and eagerly cut with confidence by Watson to the point boundary. There were doubts about Anderson's fitness after he appeared to pull a muscle when batting, and he bowled poorly throughout.

Ponting pulled Onions' first ball for six in a woeful over that cost the Durham man 17 runs in all. Onions did improve, and beat the outside edge of both right-handers on occasion, but Australia still reached tea in excellent shape on 69-1, just 33 runs away from England's total.

It all continued swimmingly for the Aussies after tea, Ponting hitting Broad off the back-foot through point for an exquisite four to reach his half-century and, once Australia had motored into the lead, Harmison was twice pulled by Watson contemptuously for boundaries.

Finally Onions ended a series of outswingers by dismissing Watson lbw with a straight one, the Queenslander having hit his third Ashes half-century in as many innings.

Ponting, who could have been run out on 32 had Bell not missed a golden chance, continued to interest England's fielders and was an inch inside his crease when taking a tight second to fine-leg.

But Broad removed him with an inswinger of full length, umpire Rauf upholding a concerted lbw appeal. The same bowler was given another lbw decision when bowling from round the wicket to the left-handed Michael Hussey for 10, Dar happy that the ball would not have slid down the leg-side.

England were battling back, but Clarke and North, enjoying marginally easier conditions in bright sunshine, ensured Australia ended with a valuable 94-run lead - with power to build on that on Saturday.

Australia did get a slice of luck just before stumps when a fearsome Harmison delivery clattered Clarke on the wristband of his glove, the ball looping up to Prior for a catch. Umpire Rauf rejected the appeal, perhaps reckoning the ball had struck forearm - a privilege he had not afforded Onions - and the Australian vice-captain battled on.



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see also
Prior calls for England recovery
07 Aug 09 |  Australia
Jonathan Agnew column
07 Aug 09 |  England
England v Australia day one photos
07 Aug 09 |  Cricket
Flintoff ruled out of fourth Test
07 Aug 09 |  England
Ponting plays down crowd antics
06 Aug 09 |  Australia
Classic Ashes clashes: Headingley
04 Aug 09 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
Australia in England 2009
20 Sep 09 |  England


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