Australia storms back into 2009 Ashes battle

England’s top order have been routed twice in two days as Australia has strengthened its stranglehold on the fourth Ashes Test.

England limped to stumps on just the second day at five for 78 in its second innings, still 265 runs behind Australia’s first innings total. Australia has three full days to dismiss the English a second time and level the series at 1-1 with one to come.

Starting day two already 94 runs ahead on the first innings at four for 196 in reply to England’s 102, Michael Clarke and Marcus North took up where they left off the previous evening, dominating a rather poor English bowling attack. The run rate scooted along at the merry old clip of four per over for the morning session, with the two batsmen adding a further 107 to a 152-run fifth-wicket partnership before Clarke (93) played around a straight ball from Graham Onions and was out LBW.

Brad Haddin (14) went soon after lunch, caught by Bell at square leg awkwardly fending off a Steve Harmison bouncer aimed at his sore finger, but Mitchell Johnson (27) and then Stuart Clark (32) provided enough support for North (110) to reach his century and Australia to push its first-innings lead to 343. Clark in particular provided the crowd with plenty of entertainment, hitting some huge sixes.

Stuart Broad collected the last four wickets, as Peter Siddle had done in the previous innings, to finish with his best Test figures of six for 91.

Australia’s bowlers could not extract much in the way of swing or cut to start with, and England’s openers dug in for a long stay. It was Andrew Strauss (32) who was the first to go, though, missing an inswinger from Ben Hilfenhaus to be caught plumb LBW. On the very next ball Ravi Bopara, said by some to be playing for his Test spot, was also caught in front and umpire Asad Rauf once again raised the finger, though replays showed Bopara had got an inside edge on the ball.

Ian Bell (3) came and went, caught at second slip by Ricky Ponting from a regulation Mitchell Johnson seamer. Johnson then produced a surprise in-swinger of his own to Paul Collingwood (4), trapping him LBW, and had Alastair Cook (30) out nicking behind to Haddin off a similar delivery swinging away from the left hander. Off the last ball of the day Matt Prior (4 not out) was dropped by North off Johnson, but that should be a mere trifle in the story of this game.