Hayden and Symonds stun England

Australia sit in the box seat for a 4-0 series lead after the second day at the MCG, thanks to a stunning partnership between Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden, worth almost 300. They Queensland pair came together with Australia in trouble after losing three quick wickets, but savaged the bowling for more than two full sessions to take total control of the match. England made things difficult for the Australian batsmen in the morning session, but grew increasingly defensive as the day wore on and now find themselves in need of a miracle turnaround.

The day started well for England, under clear skies but with a lively wicket and a fairly new ball assisting their seam attack. Australia began cautiously in a difficult batting period, and Ponting lasted half an hour with hardly an aggressive shot, appearing determined to make his mark. A poorly judged pull shot was his undoing however, as he went after a short ball well outside off-stump and skied it to midwicket, gone for 7. Flintoff was bowling well with three wickets to his name and got solid support from Hoggard, and Hayden and Hussey struggled to the drinks break at 79-3.

Hussey was beaten a number of times early in his innings, and after drinks he was bowled by Hoggard for 6. Hoggard found some swing in to the left hander, and Hussey could only flick his pad as the ball crashed through the gap. Michael Clarke also came and went quickly, edging to Read in Harmison’s first over for a duck, and suddenly Australia were in danger of conceding a first innings deficit with the score at 84 and half the wickets gone. Ponting, Hussey and Clarke were all averaging over 100 for the series before today, but neither could reach double figures on a difficult MCG surface.

Andrew Symonds arrived for this Boxing Day test with just two half-centuries in 11 tests, and has remained in the test side mainly because of his useful medium pace bowling. He took 21 deliveries to get off the mark this morning, but got to lunch unbeaten on four. After the break, Hayden and Symonds finally got the better of the wicket, playing their way in with some assistance from surprisingly defensive field settings. Flintoff threw two men on the leg-side fence immediately after lunch to Symonds, and when Monty Panesar was brought on he was easily milked for runs with few fielders saving singles. England’s cause wasn’t helped by minor niggles to Hoggard and Harmison throughout the day, and no bowler managed to really tie down the batsmen through the middle session.

Hayden and Symonds added 115 in the afternoon session with just one major scare, and after being 4 off 32 at lunch, Symonds brought up his 50 in 79 deliveries before the tea break. The seamers struggled to find the same assistance that they had in the morning, as the wicket flattened out and the ball got older. Monty returned for his second spell shortly before the break, and was close to a breakthrough when he struck Symonds on his back pad in front of leg-stump. Umpire Koertzen once again turned down the appeal however, and Hayden displayed his new found touch at the end of the same over with a glorious straight six to move to 98. He then promptly hammered the first delivery of Panesar’s next over for a boundary to reach his 27th test century. It was far from his most fluent test innings, and by rights he could have been out twice on the first evening, but it will have been a deeply satisfying innings for the veteran opener after he worked through a tough period for his first 50 runs.

Symonds signalled his intent with the first ball after tea, flaying Mahmood through the off-side for a boundary, and Australia proceeded to add 96 runs in 18 overs before the final drinks break. Symonds brought up his maiden century with a savage straight six off Paul Collingwood’s bowling, and took the score past 300 in the process. By drinks, Australia were more than 150 runs ahead an in total control of the game. Hayden cruised past 150 as Symonds increasingly dominated the scoring, and the pair moved up the list of record 6th wicket stands before finally being seperated with the score on 363, after adding 279. Sajid Mahmood broke the partnership with the new ball, squaring Hayden up with a good delivery and catching the edge, and he removed Gilchrist for one in his next over, as the Australian ‘keeper slashed at a wide delivery and edged it to Collingwood at second slip.

As the day came to a close, Warne strode out to the crease to a standing ovation in what may be his final innings at his home ground. He was beaten twice outside off stump before getting off the mark with a top edged pull, and Australia finished the day in total control at 372-7. Andrew Symonds remained unbeaten on 154 off 215 deliveries in comfortably the finest moment of his test career, and it would appear that only weather can prevent Australia from moving on to the SCG with an Ashes whitewash on the cards.

Score Summary
England 159
Andrew Strauss 50, Paul Collingwood 28
Shane Warne 5-39, Stuart Clark 2-27

Australia 372-7
Andrew Symonds 154*, Matthew Hayden 153
Andrew Flintoff 3-77, Sajid Mahmood 2-67

Australia lead by 213 runs with three days remaining.
Australia lead the 5 test series 4-0.

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