Mike Hussey hit 81 not out to lift Australia to 220-5 in reply to England’s 260 before bad weather cut play short on day two of the series-opening Ashes cricket Test in Brisbane.
Left-hander Hussey, who came in with Australia struggling on 100-3 at the Gabba, struck 13 fours and one six in his 144-ball innings to lead a sixth-wicket recovery with Brad Haddin, who is unbeaten on 22.
The pair shared an unbroken 77-run stand, the second highest of the match, to take Australia to within 40 runs of England’s first-innings total after the touring team rallied with four wickets in the middle session.
“The game’s really interestingly poised, it’s pretty tight and probably 50-50 at the moment,” Hussey said at a news conference. “The first hour or two hours tomorrow might be the pivotal point of the match.”
Play was abandoned with 17 overs left because of bad light and a rain shower that soaked the bowlers’ run ups. The third day will start half an hour early at 9.30 a.m. to make up time.
Hussey, who sealed his place in the team last week with a century in domestic cricket amid media reports he could be dropped, will resume 19 runs short of his 12th Test hundred. He last reached triple-figures in January against Pakistan.
“In the lead up there was plenty of speculation,” Hussey said. “I was trying to block it out as much as I could, but until you are named in that final 11 players you’re still a bit nervous.”
After reaching 96-1 at lunch to gain control of the series opener, Australia collapsed to 168-5 at tea. Steven Finn took two wickets in the middle session and James Anderson and Graeme Swann snared one each.
Anderson removed Australia captain Ricky Ponting for 10 in the second ball after the interval when the batsman edged a leg-side delivery to wicketkeeper Matt Prior. Simon Katich brought up his 25th half-century in Tests with a boundary before getting caught and bowled by Finn as Australia lost two wickets for four runs to be 100-3.
Hussey then edged his first delivery off Finn, though the ball landed just short of Swann at second slip. He went on to counterattack either side of the afternoon drinks break with four boundaries off successive overs from spinner Swann, the world’s No. 2 ranked Test bowler.
“It would have been nice had it carried another yard,” Finn told reporters. “He’s obviously a very good player, he averages over 50 in Test match cricket. We need to bowl to our plans to make sure that he doesn’t get too many more.”
Prior claimed his 100th Test dismissal when Michael Clarke top-edged a Finn delivery on 9 to leave Australia at 140-4. Marcus North lasted just 8 balls before edging a Swann delivery to Paul Collingwood, who took a low catch at slip.
Anderson got England’s only breakthrough of the morning when opener Shane Watson edged to England skipper Andrew Strauss. Australia’s openers had taken the score to 59-0 in the first hour after resuming at 25 without loss.
England’s last Ashes series victory on Australian soil was in 1986-87. Australia has only lost two home series since that defeat to Mike Gatting’s England team.
Last year’s series in the U.K. was decided on the final day as England sealed a 2-1 victory. Finn said he expects another closely fought contest.
“It was billed as a very even series before we came into it,” Finn said. “Seeing the nature of the way wickets have fallen and the clusters in which they have done so, it’s going to ebb and flow.”