Jonathan Trott hit an unbeaten century to lift England to a 346-run lead over Australia on day two of the fourth Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Trott scored 141 and shared an unbroken stand of 158 with Matt Prior, who made 75 not out, as the touring team reached 444-5 at stumps after slipping to 286-5 before the tea break.
England, which would retain the Ashes by winning at the MCG, has three days remaining to try to force a victory after dismissing Australia for a record-low 98 on day one. Not since 1907 has any team scoring under 100 in the first innings of a Test fought back to win.
“It’s an important Test match,” Trott said in news conference comments broadcast on Fox Sports. “I work hard on my game and it’s good to be able to contribute to put the team in a good position.”
The best-of-five contest is tied at 1-1. As Ashes holder, England would keep the trophy by tying the series. The English last successfully retained the Ashes in 1986-87, when Mike Gatting’s team secured a 2-1 win in Australia.
The Australians went wicket-less in a final session that yielded 140 runs as Trott and Prior racked up a record sixth-wicket partnership for England at the MCG.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting was later fined for dissent under the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct after remonstrating with umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill after unsuccessfully challenging a caught behind decision against Kevin Pietersen.
Ponting spent more than a minute arguing with Dar and also exchanged words with Hill and Pietersen. The Dubai-based ICC said Ponting pleaded guilty to a Level 1 offence and was fined 40 percent of his match fee by Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle without the need for a full hearing.
“Ricky’s actions as captain of his country were unacceptable,” Madugalle said in an ICC statement. “A captain is expected to set the example and not get involved in a prolonged discussion with the on-field umpires and question their decision.”
Trott reached triple figures for the third time in five matches against Australia with a boundary off Ryan Harris. It was his fifth century in 17 Tests since making his debut against the Australians 16 months ago.
Prior, who was given a life on 5 when Mitchell Johnson had him caught behind off a no-ball, became the fourth England batsmen to make a half-century in the innings following Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Pietersen.
Prior had joined Trott after England lost three middle-order batsmen for 24 in the afternoon session.
Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle, who has taken 3-58, broke a 92-run stand between Trott and Pietersen by trapping Pietersen leg-before-wicket for 51 and then took two catches off Johnson’s bowling to remove Paul Collingwood for 8 and Ian Bell for 1.
Resuming at 157 without loss, England’s openers could only add two runs before Cook, on 82, edged a Siddle delivery to Shane Watson. Siddle then had Strauss caught by Mike Hussey for 69 to make it 170-2.
James Anderson and Chris Tremlett each took four wickets yesterday as Australia slumped to its lowest first-innings total in 133 years of elite Tests at the MCG after Strauss won the toss and chose to bowl first.
“It’s going to be tough to win from here, that’s pretty obvious,” Siddle told reporters. “There’s still a lot of work to be done before we can worry too much about batting.”