Cool Aussies take control

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Australia demonstrated their ruthless intent to learn from the mistakes of 2005 with two of the survivors of that Ashes defeat leading an impressive fightback to establish a strong position in the opening npower Test.

Having surrendered the initiative to England on the second morning in Cardiff, allowing their tail-enders to add a crucial 99 runs, the momentum shift in the match appeared to have turned away from Australia.



But captain Ricky Ponting and opener Simon Katich, who both featured in the shock Ashes defeat four years ago, delivered defiant centuries to guide Australia into a strong position with outstanding displays of resilience and composure.



Their unbroken 189-run stand guided Australia to an imposing 249 for one by the close, trailing England by just 186 runs, and signalled their great desire to secure a firm grip on the series at an early stage.



While three of England's batsmen - Paul Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior - passed 50 but were unable to translate that into a major innings, neither Ponting or Katich looked likely to be distracted from their objective.



It was a stunning turnaround in fortunes from the start of the second day when England resumed on 336 for seven with low expectations of withstanding Australia's attack for long with a new ball only 10 overs old.



The prospect of England reaching 400 looked even more bleak with budding all-rounder Stuart Broad being bowled off his thigh pad in only the fourth over by left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson.



Instead of capitulate, however, England demonstrated their resilience with Graeme Swann leading a defiant counter-attack, hitting an unbeaten 47 off 40 balls and dominating a 68-run stand off only 53 balls with nightwatchman James Anderson.



Swann, undaunted by the odd glimpse of extravagant turn from Australian off-spinner Nathan Hauritz, launched the same bowler for three fours in his first over after he had been brought into the attack to try and stem England's scoring rate.



The partnership was broken when Anderson picked out mid-on attempting to hit Hauritz over the top and last man Monty Panesar was caught at slip off the same bowler to dismiss England for 435 but provide enough hope their two spinners could earn similar success when Australia began their reply.



Facing a potentially testing seven overs before lunch, aggressive opener Phillip Hughes set the tone by racing to an unbeaten 28 off 30 balls after England strayed in their line and length and allowed him to demonstrate his strength through the off-side.



England slowed up his progress after the interval by introducing all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who delivered a hostile six-over spell which could have dismissed both openers and perhaps deserved more than just Hughes' scalp.



Katich had progressed to 10 when he attempted to drive Flintoff back down the pitch in his third over and the Lancashire all-rounder stuck out his right hand instinctively in his follow through only for the ball to bounce out.



Flintoff's luck changed in his next over when Hughes, who had cut him earlier in the over for four, attempted the same shot two balls later but instead got a bottom edge behind to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.



The arrival of Australian captain Ponting gave England the chance to ruffle his composure by combining Flintoff and Broad, but neither appeared to unsettle his determination to make his mark in the first Test of the series.



Broad's active duty came to a premature end when he left the field shortly after tea to receive treatment on a right calf problem and although he returned to the field he did not re-enter the attack for the remaining 28 overs in the day.



Neither Flintoff nor swing bowler Anderson could make much of an impression and with Broad seemingly ruled out of the possible options, captain Andrew Strauss had little option but to turn to spin pair Swann and Panesar to determine whether they could extract as much turn as Hauritz had earlier in the day.



Ponting looked comfortable throughout his trial by spin and reached 40 by pulling Swann for two to become only the fourth batsman in history - behind Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Allan Border - to reach 11,000 Test runs.



The Australian captain briefly acknowledged the applause of the crowd after his achievement was announced, but he remained focused on establishing a strong position alongside the patient innings of Katich.



Converted to an opener in the last year after several years of under-achievement as a middle order batsman, Katich continued his remarkable success in his new role that has earned him an average of 53.42 from the last 15 Tests.



His only reprieve was on 56 when he survived a strong lbw appeal from Swann to a delivery which hit him high on the back leg and provided enough of an element of doubt for umpire Billy Doctrove to remain unconvinced.



It was the luck he needed to go on and claim his eighth Test century - and his first Ashes hundred - with two overs remaining by pulling Flintoff for the single he required to reach three figures in over four hours at the crease.



Pointing followed him to the milestone off the penultimate delivery of the day, pushing Flintoff to cover to leave him only 115 short of eclipsing Border's tally of 11,174 to become Australia's leading Test run-scorer.

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