Cricket

England finally show Ashes fight to peg back Australia in Melbourne

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England enjoyed their best day of a tortuous Ashes series to date on day two of the fourth test in Melbourne, reducing Australia to 164/9 at stumps having been bowled out for 255 earlier on in the day.

That leaves Australia 91 runs behind with one wicket remaining - although with Michael Clarke's men 3-0 up and with the Ashes already won, England's fightback is too little too late.

Stuart Broad and James Anderson were the architects of the home side's downfall, taking three wickets apiece, with the former conceding just 30 runs from his 16.4 overs.

The day began in a frantic fashion that would come to typify the cricket played in front of another packed crowd at the cavernous MCG as England, who started the day on 226/6, looked to battle on and establish that rarest of beasts on this tour; a first innings score close to the 400-mark.

England also had high hopes that Kevin Pietersen could add to his hard-fought 67* on day one, but they were soon extinguished as the 33-year-old, who fought to defend himself equally as valiantly off the field in the build up to this test match, had his stumps smashed in the second over of the day by a fired-up Mitchell Johnson, four balls after Tim Bresnan had been removed by the same man.

That set the tone for the remainder of the England innings as they lost four wickets in eleven overs for just 29 runs - an effort that seemed to epitomise their calamitous tour to date.

However rather than punish England for gifting their wickets away as they have done all series, the Australians were equally as generous as first Jonny Bairstow - in for the out-of-form Matt Prior - took his first test match catch off the bowling of Anderson to dismiss the in-form David Warner, his 600th international wicket,  before Shane Watson fell five overs later to Ben Stokers.

That left Australia reeling on 38/2 and bought skipper Clarke to the crease, but he was gone 32 balls later when he left an in-swinging from Anderson which rattled his stumps with just ten runs on the board.

While his batting partners came and went, opener Chris Rodgers carried on accumulating runs and eventually reached his half century to help Australia limp to 94/3 just before tea.

Broad returned to the fold after the break and soon wickets starting falling again; Steve Smith, dropped by Anderson on seven, was snared by Ian Bell at first slip - Graeme Swann's usual spot before his retirement from cricket this week - for 19, before Rodgers played a rare loose, and attacking, shot which found Pietersen at mid-off to gift Bresnan his first wicket of the innings.

Anderson returned to snare George Bailey for a 19-ball duck after Alastair Cook had sensibly referred a caught-behind decision was the turned down by umpire Aleem Dar, before Brad Haddin entered the fray and started swinging freely.

The Australian wicketkeeper hit the first ball he faced for a towering six off the bowling of Stokes. The fun continued when Haddin hit three fours in four balls off Anderson, who then dropped the dangerous, as England have found out regularly on this tour, Johnson while he was on two.

Luckily for Anderson four overs later and Johnson was gone as he clung on to an almighty blow from the Australian bowler out in the deep.

That left Australia still more than 100 runs back of England at 151/7, and it wasn't long before Ryan Harris became the 8th Australian back in the hutch as Broad had him caught at short leg by Joe Root while trying to fend off a vicious delivery.

That set up a tense last ten minutes and in a manner fitting of this madcap day, Broad had his third as Peter Siddle could only direct his weak drive to Bresnan at cover to end proceedings.

England will be looking to remove the last Australian batsman quickly to ensure a healthy first innings advantage on day three before building an intimidating total for the hosts to chase down.

However, with Haddin at the crease, unbeaten 43 from 49 deliveries and surely ready to let his arms go again, that may not be as easy as it sounds.

Topics:
Cricket
England cricket
Australia cricket
The Ashes
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