England on top after day three

England are on top at the end of the third days play at the Adelaide Oval with the Aussies still trailing by 239 runs.

The England bowlers improved dramatically from their form of the first Test at the ‘Gabba, with all the bowlers troubling the batsmen at times. Hoggard was the main destroyer for England, picking up top-order wickets at crucial times to swing the balance England’s way.

Australia began the day looking to erase the massive deficit of 523 runs. The pitch was still a good one for batting with precious little assistance for the bowlers. However, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff both found their groove in the morning session and didn’t allow any easy runs.

Their persistence was duly rewarded when Hayden flashed at one outside the off stump to be caught behind for 12. The score was 35-2 and Australia were looking in trouble. Martyn was the next batsman in the order. However, he didn’t look as comfortable at the crease as usual with Hoggard again moving the ball just enough to plant the seed of doubt in the mind of the batsman.

Similarly to Hayden, Martyn was eventually dismissed flashing at a wide ball and was caught well by Bell at at gully for 11. With three wickets down for only 65 runs, the Australians had the ideal pair out in the middle to negotiate the tough period.

Hussey and Ponting both began slowly, getting to terms with the accurate bowling from the entire bowling line-up – even the beleaguered Harmison. However, Ponting was given a lifeline on 35 when he pulled a Hoggard short ball straight to Giles at deep square leg only to see the relatively easy chance spilled. After that minor setback, the Australian captain didn’t look back and set about breaking some more batting records.

Briefly before lunch, England had another chance to remove Ponting when he was caught well short of the crease taking off on a quick single. Unfortunately for the Englishmen, Collingwood missed the direct hit and the opportunity to remove Ponting for 49.

Both batsmen looked much more comfortable in the afternoon session as Ponting and Hussey gained in confidence. The pair batted through the session, with Ponting bringing up another Test ton – his 33rd, breaking Steve Waugh’s Australian record of 32.

The evening session wasn’t without controversy. Hussey survived a close call on 70 when an appeal for run out was adjudged not out. The replays showed that the bat was out of the crease when the bails were disturbed but the gap between frames meant the only option was to give the batsman the benefit of the doubt.

The run-out decision did nothing to disturb the concentration of the batting pair, with both continuing with few troubles until the new ball was taken. Hoggard was entrusted with the first over when the new ball was available, and he struck with the final ball of the over. Ponting edged a regulation outswinger to finally be dismissed for 142.

Clarke was the next man in, and looked at ease immediately. The young batsman timed the ball well and was comfortable playing some hostile bowling from the England pace bowlers. The pair put on 29 in quick time when Hoggard finally broke through Hussey’s defences. Hussey bottom-edged a ball onto the stumps to be gone for 91. The Aussies were 286-5 with only Gilchrist and the bowlers to come.

The England bowlers immediately came around the wicket to Gilchrist, looking to exploit the same weakness they had exposed in the 2005 Ashes. However, Gilchrist was able to stand firm for the remainder of the day and the Australian score at the end of the day was 312-5, still trailing England by 239 runs with two days to play.

England 551-6 dec
Paul Collingwood 206, Kevin Pietersen 158, Ian Bell 60
Stuart Clark 3-75

Australia 312-5
Ricky Ponting 142, Michael Hussey 91
Matthew Hoggard 4-76

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