England will take a 306-run lead over Australia into day four of the second Ashes cricket Test after Kevin Pietersen struck an unbeaten double century to power his team to 551-4.
Pietersen hit 213 at the Adelaide Oval yesterday for his first century in 18 Tests. He shared stands of 175, 101 and 99 with Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell as England racked up more than 500 runs in consecutive innings against Australia for the first time in their 133-year-old rivalry.
“It’s wonderful to get runs, and it’s wonderful to put the team in a position where we can win a Test match in Australia,” Pietersen said in a news conference.
With two days remaining, Australia is battling to avoid going 1-0 down in the best-of-five contest as it seeks to regain the Ashes following last year’s 2-1 defeat in the U.K. England’s last series win on Australian soil was 24 years ago.
A victory in Adelaide -- where England declared its first innings at 551-6 four years ago before losing the match -- would leave the touring team knowing a win in one of the remaining three Tests would guarantee retaining the trophy.
“This is as big as it gets in the game and we want to do the best we can to get out of this Test match,” Australia captain Ricky Ponting told Channel Nine. “We’ll see what we’re made of won’t we? Simple as that.”
Rain that prevented any play after the tea break yesterday may yet help the home team avoid defeat. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology forecasts showers and thunderstorms for the final two days in the so-called City of Churches.
Pietersen became the second England batsmen in as many Tests to score a double century following Alastair Cook’s career-best 235 not out in the drawn series opener in Brisbane, where England amassed 517-1 to save the match. Cook was earlier dismissed for 148, one of only two batsmen to fall on day three.
Pietersen, who struck 31 fours and one six in his unbeaten 296-ball innings, brought up his 100 and 200 with singles, celebrating both milestones by punching the air. He’s the 10th England player to score a double century in an Ashes Test.
The right-hander’s 17th Test century was his first since March 2009 against the West Indies in Trinidad.
“I set myself high standards, and to get 80s, 90s, 99, 60s, 50s does my head in,” Pietersen added. “The state of the game was one where it was needed for someone to continue playing with a level head. We knew we needed to make sure we batted all day to get us into a great position to win.”
Cook and Pietersen had resumed with the score at 317-2 and added 34 runs to the total before Cook was caught behind off an inside edge from a Ryan Harris delivery.
Brad Haddin’s one-handed diving catch ended Cook’s 17-hour, 38-minute crease occupation across two innings following his effort in Brisbane. The left-handed opener has scored 450 runs for two dismissals so far in the series at an average of 225.
Pietersen and Collingwood maintained the flow of runs after Cook departed, lifting the score to 449-3 at lunch at a run-a- minute. Their 101-run partnership was ended by Shane Watson when he trapped Collingwood leg-before-wicket for 42.
Bell then joined Pietersen in the middle and they took the lead to 306 runs at tea after punishing the bowling of Xavier Doherty, one of three Australian bowlers to have conceded at least 100 runs in the innings. Bell will resume on 41.
Rain began falling during the break and the umpires called off play shortly after 5 p.m. local time. Day four will start half an hour earlier to make up for the 36 lost overs.
“I really do believe we are in a really strong position in this game,” Pietersen added. “There’s enough time to win the Test match.”
Australia was bowled out for 245 on day one after winning the toss at a ground where it’s lost once in the past 15 matches. It was the home team’s worst performance in the first innings at Adelaide since being skittled out by the West Indies for 213 in 1993.
“We are way behind in the game and we’ve only got ourselves to blame,” Watson told reporters. “So far we have been totally outplayed.”
The series is tied at 0-0 after England recovered a 221-run first-innings deficit to draw in Brisbane.
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