Fifth match evenly poised

The second day of the final Ashes Test match finished off evenly poised with Australia bowling out England for 291 in their first innings, but losing early wickets themselves in reply.

The day before was a hard, toiling day of cricket. The Australian bowlers only managed to take four English wickets despite bowling well all day. Ian Bell played a top innings and Andrew Flintoff looked in good nick.

The second day of the final Ashes Test started early to make up for overs lost to bad light the previous day and Australia were looking to finish off the tail cheaply.

However a return to form by Andrew Flintoff threatened to put the English in a strong position as they sought to avert an Ashes whitewash.

With some fine driving and lofting, the captain took the game right up to the Australian bowlers. But it was not enough as his partners fell around him. A collapse seen time and time again during the series.

Paul Collingwood, continuing his mediocre output, fell to a stunning Glenn McGrath delivery, for 27. McGrath, bowling beautifully all morning, made one wondered whether it was the right decision for a man of his sustained powers and abilities to retire so soon.

What followed soon after was a Brett Lee special. At the end of the 88th over, the eighth for the day, Lee produced two spectacular balls to dismiss Chris Read and Sajid Mahmood with successive deliveries. Finally cashing in on some his best bowling in recent times.

The English tail wagged slightly with Harmison managing to stay in the middle for just under an hour as Flintoff showed many a glimpse of his 2005 form.

Langer, in his final match, had a horrible time in the slips cordon, putting down three catches for the innings, some easy, others hard.

England were not able to capitalise on the let-off though, Flintoff out soon afterwards to Stuart Clark. Clark, a strong contender for the man of the series, managed to extract a thick edge from the English captain and Gilchrist took a brilliant catch to send of Flintoff who had played a quality innings.

The English side would have been very disappointed with the morning’s play, all out for 291, after starting the day in a prime position on 234-4. Australia on the other were delighted with their six wickets for the first session.

All the Australian fast bowlers performed superbly throughout the innings, McGrath bowling beautifully, ending with 3-67. Lee and Clark continued to show that despite two legendary Australian bowlers retiring, the future attack would be nothing to laugh at. Lee ended up with 3-75, Clark on 3-62.

Warne, despite managing only the one tailender wicket, on a largely unresponsive track, brought up his thousandth wicket in Test’s and ODI’s combined.

Just before lunch, for the second last time, the Australian openers walked out to the crease with purpose. Langer who like this series but unlike the majority of his career came out firing. Making a mockery of the England attack and the new ball, but after a quickfire 26 from 27 balls, he was out to Anderson, taking England’s first wicket in his return match.

Next man in Ponting, together with Matthew Hayden proceeded turn up the heat on the English attack as the fours flowed and the runs came quick and fast.

England to their credit were able to pull the Aussies back, removing Hayden with a nice, consistent piece of bowling from Harmison and Ponting falling on his own sword a little while later, attempting a run that clearly wasn’t there.

The Australian captain, looking set in the crease, was on 45 and looking threatening, before he took on James Anderson in the field and was comprehensively beaten by a direct hit at the stumps.

Michael Clarke didn’t fare much better, falling to Harmison in a similar way as in Melbourne, attempting a cut, but the ball going through to the keeper, out for just 11. This being the third time Clarke had been dismissed by Harmison in the past three matches.

Symonds, Hussey and the rain saw to the end of play, with Australia on 188-4, 103 runs behind England in the first innings.

Australia will look to build on their score tomorrow and to break away from England, whilst the tourist will be mindful that some early wickets, and they’re right into Australian the tail.

England 291
Andrew Flintoff 89, Ian Bell 71
SR Clark 3-62, Glenn McGrath 3-67, B Lee 3/75

Australia 188-4
Ricky Ponting 45, Mike Hussey 37*
Steve Harmison 2-34, James Anderson 1-55

Australia trail by 103 runs with 6 wickets in hand in the first innings

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