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Pigeon’s double blow leaves England on a shaky platform

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The Australians have fired in all three departments of the game on the second day of the first Ashes Test to have England in major crisis. The tourists having conceded a first innings total of 602 are under massive pressure at 53 for 3. Glenn McGrath had removed the two English Openers – Strauss and Cook in consecutive deliveries of his third over. With the bat, it was Ricky Ponting moving onto make 196 with the remaining batsmen also coming to the party.

Australians were already in a commanding position coming into the second day’s play. While it was inevitable that they would go onto post a huge score, England’s chances in surviving this match lasted in the hands of their batsmen. With already three down, the visitors would be hoping for a spectacular display from the likes of Pietersen and Flintoff in the third day’s play, otherwise the first Test is out of their hands pretty soon!

Having resumed the day’s play at 346 for 3, Ponting and Hussey pushed on the scoring. It took England more than 18 overs to find its first breakthrough of the day. It had come again from Skipper Flintoff who got his inswinger to drive past the bat pad gap of Hussey after bowling that from round the stumps. Hussey missed out on a century having got dismissed for 86. Ricky Ponting was the next to go and he fell just four runs short of his double century after he shuffled across his stumps and got rapped up on the pads by Matthew Hoggard. Ponting with his 196 had helped Australia to 467 for 5 with his runs coming from 319 balls with 23 fours. In the same over, Matthew Hoggard struck the pads again and was given an lbw decision in his favour by Steve Bucknor. It was Adam Gilchrist out for a three ball duck on a perfect batting strip.

England’s chances of wiping up the rest of the batting failed with Michael Clarke chipping in with a strokeful half century while the others also batted well. Stuart Clark coming in at no.10 had surprised everyone with his batting abilities as he smashed a 23-ball 39 which also had two sixes. Brett Lee who was his partner in the 50-run partnership for the 9th wicket remained unbeaten on 43. Having reached 600, Ricky Ponting declared the innings. Andrew Flintoff bowled with lots of heart for the second consecutive day; he ended up with 4 for 99 in 30 overs. Steve Harmison finally managed to pick a wicket but that wasn’t of much help to his side. Harmison and Anderson were terribly expensive going at more than 4.00 runs per over.

It was tough for the English batsmen to give a fitting reply to 602 as they were physically and mentally drained out having been on the field for 155 overs! The two openers – Strauss and Cook had to negotiate the hardest part of the innings that is when the new ball is being bowled by Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath. The start from both the left handers was a confident one but Strauss had messed it up by going for a needless hook shot off McGrath in the air. It was a miscued hit that was taken well by Michael Hussey running in from square leg to his left. Hussey held onto the catch despite colliding with Brett Lee who had come charging down from fine leg. Lee got hit by Hussey’s boot in the knee region but fortunately there wasn’t enough damage. The very next ball, Glenn McGrath struck again as he forced Cook to nick a delivery that had angled in and then straightened to the slips.

Two balls, two good catches and two wickets meant that the game changed in Australia’s favour by a big way. The icing on the cake was provided by one change bowler, Stuart Clark producing a typical McGrath delivery to find the edge of Collingwood’s blade. Kevin Pietersen who had to come out to bat towards the fag end of the day did well to see off the remaining six overs with Ian Bell. England at stumps on the second day are at 53 for 3 in 17 overs. Glenn McGrath had taken those two wickets in just 6 overs. It was a splendid show from the Australians with all their players looking charged up on the field. They now have good amount of time to finish off England and take a 1-0 lead.

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