England under pressure

The Aussies began their day in an excellent position at 346-3, with both Ponting and Hussey set at the crease. English captain chose the swing bowlers, Anderson and Hoggard, to open proceedings for the day rather than go for the pacier Steve Harmison. However, neither bowler found much swing in the morning session as the Australian pair batted calmly and confidently.

As with day one, the only bowler to challenge the Australian batsman was captain Flintoff. The dynamic all-rounder bowled intelligently and asked questions of both batsmen throughout the session, and was justly rewarded when he managed to break through Hussey’s defences to bowl him for a well-made 86. However, Ponting and Hussey had already added 209 runs together to take the score to 407-4.

The next batsman in was Michael Clarke – under pressure to retain his position in the side with the recent good form of Shane Watson. Clarke began nervously but quickly found his feet as Australia went to lunch with no further alarms.

Giles and Hoggard were given the task of keeping the batsmen quiet in the post-lunch session and Hoggard immediately found some swing as he consistently troubled both Clarke and the set Ponting. However, Clarke was completely at home against Giles and grew in confidence, once driving the spinner down the ground for a massive six.

Ponting continued to score at will, notching up his 1000th run at the ‘Gabba and moving into the 190s. Unfortunately for the Australian captain, Hoggard managed to strike his pad while on 196 and Ponting was gone for a brilliant captains knock. The swing bowler immediately switched his angle of attack to around the wicket as Gilchrist strode to the crease. Only three balls into his knock though, Hoggard struck Gilchrist on his pad and the appeal was given to remove the Australian wicketkeeper for a duck.

With the score at 471-6, the Englishmen were in a position to wrap the innings up earlier than expected. Hoggard managed to have Warne miscue a drive but the chance was dropped by Anderson running in from mid-on. From then on, the Aussies continued serenely to further demoralise the England team. Harmison was brought back into the attack but struggled to find rhythm as he again bowled wide after wide. Eventually the mercurial pace bowler had his first wicket of the Test match, as Warne tickled one down the leg-side to go for 17.

Soon after, Clarke notched up his 50 but he couldn’t continue on with it as he edged a wide one from Anderson to second slip to give him his first wicket. England might have thought the main work was done, but Stuart Clark and Brett Lee combined for an entertaining stand of 50 from just 46 balls to take the score to 578-9. Clark contributed 39 off 29 balls with two huge sixes off Anderson before Flintoff yorked him to take his fourth wicket. The Aussies batted on just long enough to post the 600 before Ponting waved them in. The innings ended on a massive 602-9 and the English batsmen had their work cut out for them.

The England opening batsmen began their reply aggressively, rattling along at four runs per over before the first wicket fell. Brett Lee bowled with fire and pace but was unable to take an early wicket. However Glenn McGrath found his groove quickly and removed Strauss to a brilliant catch from Hussey at deep midwicket for 12. There were some jitters in the Australian camp as Hussey trod on Lee’s leg in the process of taking the catch. Luckily for Australia, the damage was minimal and Lee only needed minor medical treatment.

The very next delivery McGrath managed to get one to move away just enough to remove Cook for 11. England were in all sorts of trouble while McGrath was on a hat-trick in his comeback Test match. Collingwood managed to keep McGrath’s next delivery out, but he didn’t last long. Stuart Clark, brought on to bowl while Lee was receiving treatment, troubled Collingwood consistently and removed him for a scratchy 5. The score was 42-3, and England were looking down the barrel.

Meanwhile, Bell looked solid at the other end while he watched a procession of batsmen come and go. However, he found some stability as Pietersen strode to the crease. Pietersen pulled his second ball from McGrath to midwicket for four, and looked comfortable at the crease from the moment he came in. With few overs left in the day, Ponting brought Warne on to a huge cheer from the Brisbane crowd. His first over was unremarkable as both batsmen played for stumps, and there was only time for one Warne over before play was wrapped up for the day.

With three full days remaining, the England batsmen have a Herculean task ahead of them to save the Test match. Bell and Pietersen are the last specialist batsmen in the England side with Flintoff, Jones and the bowlers to come. Both batsmen will need to make substantial contributions if England are to avoid the follow-on, let alone get close to the enormous Australian total of 602. As with past Ashes encounters on the same ground in the recent past, the Aussies remain in total control at the conclusion of the second days play in Brisbane.

Australia 602-9 dec
Ricky Ponting 196, Michael Hussey 86, Justin Langer 82, Michael Clarke 56
Andrew Flintoff 4-99, Matthew Hoggard 2-99

England 53-3
Ian Bell 13*, Kevin Pietersen 6*
Glenn McGrath 2-25, Stuart Clark 1-9

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