Australia moved within four wickets of victory in the second test and a 2-0 Ashes series lead after ending Joe Roots defiant innings late Sunday and exposing the England lower order once again to a hostile barrage of short-pitch bowling.
Set an improbable 531 to win when Australia declared its second innings at 132-3 before play resumed on day four,England lost captain Alastair Cook (1) in the second over and struggled to 247-6 at stumps. Root (87) and Kevin Pietersen (53) shared a defiant 111-run partnership and Ben Stokes contributed a valuable 28 batting at No. 6 in his first test to help England force the match into a fifth day.
hanging by a thread
With the lights on in the gloomy,overcast conditions,and the crowd clapping in time with Mitchell Johnsons run-up,Matt Prior (31) and Stuart Broad (22) batted resolutely and added an unbeaten 37 runs in a temper-fraying last six overs against the new ball to ensure the Australian paceman was restricted to just the one wicket on day four.
Also on the positive side for the English,it was the first time in the series theyve put on more than 180 runs in an innings.
It was Root,however,who batted courageously even as the top order crumbled. Promoted to bat at No. 3 after Jonathan Trott quit the tour,Root was Englands key man for a great part of Sunday.
The early departures of Cook,out hooking Johnson,and Michael Carberry (14),out hooking Siddle,were offset by the stand between Root and Pietersen (Englands first century partnership of the series) that took the total from 20-2 to 131-3.
But the removal of Pietersen and Ian Bell (6) between lunch and tea was another massive setback for England. Pietersen played with rare restraint,despite hitting three sixes,until he played onto his stumps and was dismissed by Siddle for the ninth time in his career,more than any other bowler in test cricket.
Bell,who scored an unbeaten 72 in Englands first innings of 172,could barely believe he hit a rank full toss from part-time legspinner Steve Smith directly to Johnson at mid-on.
Only three months after losing the Ashes 3-0 in England,the Australians could find themselves in a position to clinch the return series next week at the WACA in Perth.
Brief scores: Australia 570/9 decl & 132/2 decl vs England 172 & 247/6 in 90 overs (J Root 87,K PIetersen 53; P Siddle 2/21) at the end of Day Four
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