Alastair Cook hit an unbeaten half-century to lift England to 167-3 in reply to Australia’s 280 on day two of the series-deciding Ashes cricket Test in Sydney.
Cook scored 61 and shared a 66-run partnership with Kevin Pietersen to steady England’s first-innings pursuit after it lost Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott in seven balls to slip to 99-2. James Anderson was 1 not out at stumps.
England, seeking its first series victory in Australia for 24 years, scored at 3 1/2 runs an over to cut the deficit to 113 and regain the initiative after Mitchell Johnson’s 53 off 66 balls earlier led the home team’s recovery from 189-8.
“It’s a crucial session for us first thing in the morning,” Anderson, who took 4-66 with the ball, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “With the conditions we’ve had the last two days the ball has done a little bit in the morning. Hopefully we can get some good partnerships going.”
England took an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the best-of-five contest in Melbourne to retain the Ashes and would seal its first series triumph in Australia since 1986-87 by avoiding defeat at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
A win for Australia at the SCG would tie the series at 2-2, the first such scoreline since 1972. England last won back-to-back Tests on Australian soil in 1979.
Strauss Sets Tone
Strauss smashed 60 off 58 balls, including eight fours and a six, to help take his team’s score to 98. Ben Hilfenhaus ended the opening partnership by clipping Strauss’s off stump with a ball that straightened off the seam.
Trott lasted six balls before edging a Johnson delivery onto his stumps. It was the first time Trott failed to score a run in his 30 innings in elite Tests.
Cook reached his half-century after being given a life on 46 as spin bowler Michael Beer was denied a wicket in his Test debut by a no-ball. The left-hander was caught by Hilfenhaus after trying a slog-sweep, only for umpire Billy Bowden to call for a review that showed Beer had overstepped in his delivery.
Beer was involved in the next wicket, though, taking a catch at deep backward square leg to remove Pietersen for 36 as the England batsman attempted a hook shot of Johnson’s bowling.
Night-watchman Anderson joined Cook in the middle and the pair took England to the close of play without further loss. Cook lifted his series-leading run tally to 638 at an average of 127.60.
“In the morning session we just have to be patient,” Johnson told the ABC. “With Cook being in, he’s batted so well this trip and we’d like to restrict him as much as we can. If we can bowl as well as their bowers did I think we can be pretty close to bowling then for the same amount.”
Resuming at 134-4 after winning the toss on day one, Australia lost four wickets before Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus counterattacked with a 76-run ninth-wicket partnership off 89 balls, the biggest of the innings.
Johnson hit five fours and a six in reaching his sixth half-century in elite Tests before he was bowled by Tim Bresnan. Hilfenhaus was the last man out for 34, leaving Beer 2 not out.
Anderson’s four dismissals took his tally to a series-leading 21 wickets. Bresnan finished with 3-89.
The home team added nine runs to its overnight total of 134-4 from the rain-curtailed opening day before Anderson had Brad Haddin caught behind by Matt Prior for 6.
Mike Hussey, Australia’s leading run-scorer in the series, was dismissed for 33 by an in-swinging delivery from Paul Collingwood that the batsman edged onto the top of the stumps.
England took the second new ball immediately following Hussey’s dismissal and Anderson struck with an out-swinger to have Steve Smith, demoted a spot down the batting order to No. 7, caught for 18 at third slip by Collingwood.
Four balls later, Anderson got Peter Siddle to edge to Strauss at first slip. Bresnan and Anderson then wrapped up the innings.
“When the opposition wins the toss and bats it’s not very often you get them out for less than 300,” Anderson added. “We’re really gelling as a bowling group and it’s showing out on the field.”