Australians put lowly England on the rack

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The Independent Online

Australia maintained England's opening Test battering at the Gabba today by establishing an overwhelming 626-run lead after electing not to enforce the follow-on.

After dismissing the tourists for a lowly 157 to secure a daunting 445-run first innings advantage, Australia had enough of a lead to bowl again at England and progress towards an overwhelming victory.

But captain Ricky Ponting instead opted to bat again, perhaps wishing to undermine England further by condemning them to 40 further overs in the field.

And by the close of the third day Australia had extended their lead to 626 by reaching a commanding 181 for one.

England, who resumed 549 runs adrift and 350 runs away from saving the follow-on on 53 for three, were humiliated with Glenn McGrath claiming six for 50 to dismiss them for a lowly total.

Andrew Flintoff's men knew they would need an exceptional batting display to salvage anything from the Test - but few in the capacity 40,000 crowd could have predicted such a lame surrender.

Overnight batting pair Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen successfully frustrated Australia for 11 overs, but once their stand was broken England capitulated quickly with their last five wickets falling for 31 runs.

McGrath, one of their chief tormentors in recent years, answered any doubts about his ability to perform at this level at the age of 36 by claiming the 29th five-wicket haul of his Test career and his 10th against England.

He superbly exploited the cracks in the wicket to make the first breakthrough of the day when Pietersen, who had progressed to 16 after over an hour at the crease, shouldered arms and was deceived when the ball nipped back and hit him on the pads.

Television replays were inconclusive about whether the ball had hit Pietersen in line, but umpire Billy Bowden had no hesitation in ending his defiant innings.

Five balls later England plunged into further trouble with captain Flintoff pushing forward defensively and edging a Brett Lee outswinger behind to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.

It was the start of England's demise and but for Bell's determined 50 - which spanned nearly four hours - they may have slipped to an even lower total.

Bell, who averaged just 17 in the 2005 series, found a willing ally in Geraint Jones and they ensured England suffered no further setbacks for 21 overs during a determined 47-run stand.

But just four overs after lunch, however, Jones was trapped leg before by a full-length McGrath delivery which nipped back and hit back in his crease.

McGrath almost claimed his fifth wicket of the innings three balls later with new batsman Ashley Giles fending off a short delivery. Ponting took a diving catch at second slip only for the ball to escape when he landed.

It took a change of bowling for Australia to finally end Bell's resistance with Stuart Clark introduced as a replacement for Lee - with his second delivery he tempted Bell into edging to Ponting at second slip.

Clark quickly removed Matthew Hoggard to a catch behind two overs later and Steve Harmison continued an unhappy Test by earning McGrath his fifth wicket by also edging behind.

England's miserable demise was completed when Giles top-edged an attempted slog off McGrath and Matthew Hayden ran back from gully to take the catch.

Just to underline their dominance, Justin Langer finished the day unbeaten on 89 while Ponting had reached 51, the pair sharing an unbroken 113-run partnership.

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