Ashes 5th Test, Day 2: Collapse hits England hopes of avoiding whitewash

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The Independent Online

England's bid to avoid an Ashes whitewash was again undermined by a lower-order collapse which allowed Australia to stay in the hunt in the final Test.

Having resumed the second day on a promising 234 for four, England had a major first-innings total within their sights as they attempt to avoid a 5-0 whitewash.

But the loss of six wickets for 45 runs - they were dismissed for a lowly 291 - meant England lost their momentum and despite an impressive rally from their seamers, Australia finished another rain-affected day trailing by just 103 runs on 188 for four.

England had survived for the first nine overs of the day despite Australia taking the new ball overnight until Durham batsman Paul Collingwood edged Glenn McGrath behind after adding only two to his overnight total of 25.

Three overs later Brett Lee, who had consistently beaten the bat with late swing all morning, claimed his first victim of the day by tempting new batsman Chris Read into chasing a wide delivery and also edging behind.

Lee remained on course for a hat-trick by dismissing Sajid Mahmood with his next ball, a short delivery which the Lancashire seamer attempted to fend off his hip but got a leading edge to Matthew Hayden in the gully.

Australia's fastest bowler had to wait until the start of his next over to see if he could claim a hat-trick but sent his next delivery wide of off-stump and enabled captain Andrew Flintoff to watch it fly harmlessly through to the wicketkeeper.

Harmison contributed two to a 24-run stand with Flintoff until he was given leg before to a toe-crushing yorker from seamer Stuart Clark after the England captain had taken a single off the fifth ball of the over.

Monty Panesar was equally defiant but with Flintoff running out of partners, he attempted to reach his century quickly and edged behind to give Gilchrist his fifth catch of the match after falling 11 short of three figures - his best innings since scoring a century in the Trent Bridge Test of 2005.

Panesar, dropped before he had scored by Langer off Clark, failed to register a run before being trapped lbw by Shane Warne five overs later to become only the second bowler in history to claim 1,000 international victims.

Australia's reply had been given a flying start with Justin Langer, playing his final Test, hitting 26 off 27 balls including four boundaries before he was caught off his glove down the leg-side off James Anderson.

That seemed only a minor setback with Australia enjoying a 66-run stand spanning only 16 overs which took them to within sight of the tea interval when Harmison struck to claim his first victim.

Opener Matthew Hayden, attempting to guide the ball through the gully area, only succeeded in edging a lifting delivery straight to Collingwood as second slip only three overs before the interval.

The key wicket, though, was the scalp of Australian captain Ricky Pointing five runs short of his half-century four overs after the interval when Anderson was rewarded for some sharp fielding.

Ponting pushed left-arm spinner Panesar to mid-on and set off for a quick single, but fell around a foot short at the non-striker's end when Anderson's throw on the bounce crashed into the stumps.

Harmison made further inroads into Australia's powerful line-up when he persuaded Michael Clarke to chase a short and wide delivery and edge behind.

With rain immediately halting play, Australia were able to regroup and added 79 crucial more runs in the 11 overs remaining before the close.

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