Sunday, February 20, 2011

England moves in on the Ashes after bowlers humiliate Australia

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England's Kevin Pietersen (left), James Anderson (center) and Matt Prior celebrate Michael Hussey's dismissal during the first day of the fourth Ashes cricket Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

MELBOURNE - England was closing in on the Ashes after routing Australia for 98 and cruising to a 59-run first-innings lead on the opening day of the fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

England skittled Australia for its lowest total in 133 years of Ashes Tests at the MCG and rubbed further salt into the wounds by skating to 157 without loss by stumps.

Australian cricket's Boxing Day showpiece turned into a horror show before 84,345 fans as England's bowlers had the Australians all at sea on a seaming MCG drop-in wicket to bowl them out off just 42.5 overs.

James Anderson (4-44) and Chris Tremlett (4-26) did the damage, while wicketkeeper Matt Prior took six catches as all the Australian wickets fell to catches off edges behind the wicket.

Australia slumped to its lowest MCG total in all 54 Ashes Tests played at the famous ground over 133 years.

At stumps, England was taking it easy against a toothless Australian attack in easier pitch conditions, with skipper Andrew Strauss unbeaten on 64 and Alastair Cook on 80.

England capitalized on winning the pivotal toss to consign Australia to defend on a lively green-tinged pitch and leave Ricky Ponting's team in a shambles.

Only five batsmen reached double figures as the English pacemen revelled in the swinging conditions to destroy the Australian innings.

Australia endured another one of its familiar top-order batting collapses, succumbing to 77 for six in 34 overs, but this time there was no fighting rear guard as in the other Tests of the series.

Australia was 143 for five in its first innings in Brisbane and went on to make 481; 156 for five before reaching 245 in the first innings in Adelaide and 69 for five on the way to 268 in the first innings in Perth.

Ponting's wretched Ashes series continued with another cheap dismissal for 10, while Mike Hussey suffered his first batting failure of the series with eight.

Australia was always on the back foot from the loss of the toss as England picked up the wickets of both openers Shane Watson (5) and Phillip Hughes (16) along with Ponting and Hussey to seize the early advantage by lunch at 58 for four in the crucial match of the series, which is locked at 1-1.

England only need to win one of the remaining two Tests to retain the Ashes.

Ponting has struggled for runs in the series with six modest scores and just one half-century in seven innings.

The skipper, playing with a fractured left little finger, this time edged a Tremlett outswinger to Graeme Swann at second slip.

England snared the big wicket of Hussey, caught behind off Anderson and the Australians crumbled after lunch, losing six wickets for 40 in 18.2 overs.

(Agence France-Presse)

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