Amidst sea of fans,England sinking again

In front of 91092-strong crowd visitors struggle to 226/6 against Australia on first day of Boxing Day Test at Melbourne.

Written by Associated Press | Melbourne | Published: December 27, 2013 12:25 am

Mitchell Johnson made the most of the second new ball,taking two late wickets in front of a world record crowd Thursday to leave England on a precarious 226-6 at stumps on the opening day of the fourth Ashes test against Australia.

Kevin Pietersen had two big reprieves to bring up a half century and anchor a dour England batting performance before Johnson (2-59) struck shortly before the close of play to remove Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow. He was unbeaten on 67 at the close of play.

Ryan Harris (2-32) claimed the important wicket of Ian Bell (27) earlier in the evening session to add to his dismissal of Joe Root after lunch.“I think it’s just our day,” Harris said. “I think we’ll take honors,but it’s a pretty close day.”

A crowd of 91,092 _ a record for a single day of test cricket —attended the opening day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,surpassing the 90,800 also set at the MCG in 1961.

“Australia were very good and they bowled well in partnerships again as they have all series,” said Bell,who joined Michael Clarke with more than 1,000 runs for 2013 before he was dismissed. “The runs weren’t the easiest,but you have to earn the right to score runs. Hopefully Kev’s done a lot of hard work today and he can push on tomorrow.”

After successive top-order collapses this series,England maintained a cautious approach on a MCG wicket that offered as much to the batsmen as the bowlers.

Luck with KP

Pietersen,who has been widely criticized for several cheap dismissals this series,stifled his usual expansive style and was helped by more than a little luck.

The big-hitting South African-born batsman had a reprieve shortly before tea,escaping on six when substitute fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile stepped over the boundary rope as he held a catch at deep backward square off Harris’ bowling. The result was six runs for England instead of a wicket for Australia.

“It’s one of those things where obviously just misjudged where the rope was,” Harris said. “He took a good catch,he just couldn’t make it stick.”

Pietersen got a second life after tea when George Bailey dropped a difficult chance at midwicket,again off Harris’ bowling.

Surprise decision

Michael Clarke’s sent England in to bat for the first time after winning every toss this series. It was only the sixth time he’s opted not to bat first from 20 tosses won since becoming Australia’s test captain in 2011.

“I think Michael wanted to lose this one,he didn’t know what to do,”

Harris said.

The decision shaped to be a poor one early on as the Australian bowlers struggled to take control.

“When you win the toss and bowl you want to make sure you’re firing from both ends and we probably didn’t do that,” Harris said. “But once again we pulled it back,” he added.

Some tight bowling from Peter Siddle finally paid off with the wicket of England captain Alastair Cook in the 17th over.

Cook,whose previous appearance ended with a golden duck in the second innings of the third test at Perth,made 27 in a confident 48-run opening partnership with Michael Carberry before Siddle tempted him into an edge to Clarke at second slip.

Opener Carberry,who survived a decision review for lbw shortly before lunch,appeared set to bring up just his second half century of the series before losing his leg stump to allrounder Watson for 38. It was the third time Watson has claimed Carberry’s wicket this series.

Watson continued to look dangerous until breaking down mid-way through his seventh over and limping off the field with groin pain. He later returned to the field after tea.

Harris had Bell caught behind for 27 and Johnson quickly got a result from the new ball when he induced nick from Stokes (14) to Watson at first slip and bowled Bairstow,who was recalled at the expense of veteran wicketkeeper Matt Prior with England already out of contention in the series. England has been in disarray only four months after winning the previous Ashes series in England,with No. 3 batsman Jonathan Trott quitting the tour with stress-related issues after the first test and Graeme Swann retiring after the defeat in the Perth.

MCG breaks Test attendance WR

Associated Press

Melbourne,December 26

A world record crowd of 91,092 attended day one of the fourth Ashes test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday to watch Australia again take the contest to England.

The total crowd surpassed the previous mark of 90,800 for a single day of test cricket,also at the MCG,set on the second day of the fifth test of the West Indies’ tour of Australia in 1961.

“To play in front of 90-plus-thousand people … the noise out there was unbelievable,” Australia pacemen Ryan Harris said.

“The boys in the change room now are just so pumped that they played in front of that many people,” Harris told a news conference after stumps. “And the noise we got our there was just unbelievable. Especially at the end when Mitchell (Johnson) was charging in,it was just enormous.”

Rare experience

Ian Bell,who replaced out of form wicketkeeper Matt Prior as England vice-captain,said playing in front of such a massive crowd was a very rare experience.

“As a player it’s something that you’ll never forget,so I think any opportunity you get to come and play at the MCG is a great one,” he said.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said Melbourne’s annual Boxing Day test has become a “landmark event” for Australians.

“We thank and congratulate the cricket loving public of Melbourne and the Melbourne Cricket Club for creating something special.”

The MCG has a maximum capacity of 100,000,according to its website,and has attracted bigger crowds for football and Australian Rules football matches.

Despite Australia already clinching the Ashes 3-0 after the third test at Perth last week,Australian fans have been eager to witness the resurgence of their national team after three consecutive Ashes series defeats.

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