England are in danger of making a horribly familiar start to an Ashes series after another dose of Australian domination at Sophia Gardens. Two more centuries followed by two big wickets left Andrew Strauss's team needing to bat throughout today to avoid losing the First Test.
They will resume on 20 for two, having surrendered a first-innings lead of 239, with Strauss and Kevin Pietersen in the firing line. Rain spared them from having to negotiate the final session but it arrived 20 minutes too late to save Alastair Cook or Ravi Bopara. Cook played across a straight ball from Mitchell Johnson but Bopara was the victim of a bad lbw decision by umpire Billy Doctrove.
England were in serious bother long before Doctrove raised his finger, however. Having failed to score enough runs themselves, they produced an increasingly listless performance in the field as Australia soared to 674 for 6 declared. Ashes newcomers Marcus North and Brad Haddin gave Australia four hundred-makers in a Test against England for the first time.
"The last couple of days have been tough but I guess that is what the Ashes is all about," said England's Paul Collingwood. "But we've got an opportunity to respond to that as a team by batting out three sessions. The batsmen have to take responsibility as individuals and not leave it to anyone else. We all got starts in the first innings but didn't go on. Now it is all about putting your hand up and being the man. It's a long series but it is a very important day for us. We want to be going into the next Test level and we believe we have the players to see the day through."
England, having picked two spinners and won the toss, hoped batting last at Sophia Gardens would be tricky. The problem is, they are the team having to do it, and Australia's much-maligned off-break bowler, Nathan Hauritz, could emerge as the main man. "There was a lot of talk about how English spin was going to cause us problems so to combat that is pretty pleasing," said North. "To wrap that up with a win, on a ground where a lot of people fancied England's chances, would be a great confidence boost."
Australia have won the first Test in eight of the last 10 Ashes series.