From Sam Collins in Sydney
Close: fifth Test, day two, Sydney
Match score: England 167-3 (Cook 61*, Anderson 1*) Australia 280 (Johnson 53)
Session score: England 94-3 Australia win
Session in six words: Australia fight back as Pietersen falls
But for another front foot no-ball, this day could have ended a lot better for Australia, and for Michael Beer. They still managed three wickets in the final session, with Beer catching Kevin Pietersen, but with Alastair Cook still there at the close for England there was a sense of what might have been.
Cook was 46 when he skied Beer to mid-on, but replays revealed that Billy Bowden was right to send the decision upstairs as he had clearly overstepped. The only query was why Bowden needed to refer the decision in the first place, such was Cook looked sheepish for a few overs afterwards but he shouldn’t have, earlier in the session he had gone past 600 runs for the series, and when he reached 59 he passed 5000 runs in Test cricket at the age of just 26 and 10 days, the second youngest person to the milestone after Sachin Tendulkar.
He was at the other end while Australia threatened to turn this match around – Hilfenhaus ending an excellent attacking innings from Strauss with a ripping off-cutter and Trott dragging on a wide one from Johnson, incredibly his first duck in his 30th international innings. It could have been worse – Pietersen almost played on while trying to leave alone before Cook’s reprieve a few overs later.
Pietersen’s double century at Adelaide has done him some favours on this tour – his scores aside from that read 43, 0, 3, 51 and 36 and there has been a sense of skittishness about his batting, never more than when he humped a Johnson bouncer down Beer’s throat at fine leg.
Australia were better with the ball after tea, Johnson finding pace, swing and snarl, if not the cutting edge of Perth. Given the way the England tail folded in Melbourne, they will be confident that a first-innings lead is in sight with a couple of early wickets tomorrow.
Tea: fifth Test, day two, Sydney
Match score: England 73-0 (Strauss 49*, Cook 19*) Australia 280 (Johnson 53)
Session score: England 73-0, Australia 50-2 England win
Session in six words: Johnson hits but Strauss hits harder
For 45 minutes after lunch we were back in first-innings Perth, as the Australian tail swung merrily and England lost line, length and all control. In adding 93 for the last two wickets Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Michael Beer went beyond nuisance value into genuine irritation, Tim Bresnan quickest to lose his rag, and damaging the reputation for parsimony he had built up over the last week.
Yet a genuine sense of home anticipation was gone within a few overs of England’s reply. Andrew Strauss careered to 36 from 26 balls, if it was a deliberate ploy it was a strong move from the captain, but such was the profligacy of Australia’s bowling it was difficult to tell. He has history of setting the tone – his 50 at better than a run a ball in Durban last winter coming after Dale Steyn had assaulted England’s bowling. Although such attacking batting was at odds with his overly defensive strategies in the field after lunch, it was fun to watch him compensate.
Australia’s bowlers won’t enjoy the tea break. They were loose, struggled to find movement when there has been evidence of swing and seam all match. England were afforded far too many run-scoring opportunities, and they weren’t in the mood to pass them up. Australia will remember that England were 78-0 in Perth and 187 all out, but it will have to be quite a turn around for that to happen here.
From Sam Collins in Sydney
Lunch: fifth Test, day two, Sydney
Match score: Australia 230-8 (Johnson 30* Hilfenhaus 14*)
Session score: Australia 96-4 England win
Session in six words: Anderson strikes then Aussie tail wags
The old cliché is that you can’t judge a pitch until both sides have batted on it. It means we have a fascinating afternoon ahead. Do we expect another Perth, where England made a seemingly below par Australia score look ample, or Melbourne, where they nearly doubled it without losing a wicket?
It does swing at Sydney, and now Mitchell Johnson’s got some first-innings runs they might be a little wary. He followed 96* against South Africa in 2009 with 4-25, 62 against England in Perth with 6 for 38 and 47 against India in Mohali in October 2010 with 5 for 68.
Australia needed Johnson’s runs after Brad Haddin abdicated any vice-captain’s responsibility with one of the worst shots seen in this series in the day’s fourth over. Steve Smith again was callow and careless against Jimmy Anderson, and when Paul Collingwood bowled Mike Hussey we had seen everything. But Johnson found an unlikely ally in Hilfenhaus and thanks to some oddly defensive field settings from Andrew Strauss was able to gradually wriggle out of the England’s bowlers stranglehold.
England had been excellent until that point, alert in the field and merciless with their accuracy. It was rare balls to hit that did for Haddin and Clarke. Yet bad habits began to creep in as Hilfenhaus and Johnson took their partnership to 41, and must end it quickly after lunch.