England 159 Australia 372-7: Diamond Symonds deals out a new dose of misery to England

Great teams modify their strategy according to the set of circumstances placed in front of them. They are capable of playing different styles of cricket, as Australia continue to show England in this one-sided series.

The aim of Ricky Ponting's side is to play a dynamic, attacking brand of cricket that demoralises and defeats the opposition. Yet when an opponent digs in and becomes a nuisance they possess the nous and ability to metamorphose into niggardly, attritional killjoys, whose plan is to frustrate the foe to the point where they break.

Australia have played both styles on the opening two days of the fourth Test here in Melbourne and it is why they are set to take a 4-0 lead. England have had opportunities here to take control but have lacked the mental strength and skill to nail Ponting's side. It has been the same throughout the series.

After being bowled out for 159 on Boxing Day, England were in desperate need of resuscitation yesterday and it came in the form of Andrew Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison.

The triumvirate bowled superbly on another cold, overcast morning and reduced Australia to 84 for 5. There were an energy and belief about England that had been absent on the first day and it rocked the hosts: Ponting, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke came and went in eight overs.

Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds are two naturally attacking batsmen and, with the Ashes already won, they would have loved to have stood in the middle of the MCG and smashed the ball to all parts. They ultimately did, but not before putting in a lot of hard yakka and taking the sting out of England's fight.

The pair recognised that their opponents were bowling with discipline and fire so they knuckled down and scrapped. Hayden showed surprising patience and it took Symonds nearly 30 minutes to score his first run. While England were in control the aim was simple - see off Flintoff, Hoggard and Harmison.

The strategy worked. After lunch England lost their intensity, the bowling deteriorated, the fielding became sloppy and runs became easier to collect. The pair put on 279, the sixth highest sixth-wicket stand in Test cricket. The partnership would not have been quite so galling had England not buckled when placed in a similar position on the opening day.

Hayden posted his 27th Test hundred when he clubbed Monty Panesar over mid-on for four but the day was a triumph for Symonds. When he walked out to bat few would have fancied the all-rounder's chances of making it to lunch, let alone the close. With a Test average of 18 and a highest score of 72 it seemed only a matter of time before Adam Gilchrist made his way to the crease.

But Symonds showed he is not just a one-day biffer. At the start of his innings he looked ugly but he grew in confidence with every ball, hitting thunderously when the bowlers erred.

There are members of the England touring party who would like to exaggerate the importance of the leak that exposed the team's bowling plans. England need to stop taking themselves so seriously. The tactics are hardly a national secret and it would be encouraging if a couple of the bowlers showed the skill to carry them out.

Australia were helped by England's tactics after lunch. Panesar was brought on to bowl but the field was set deep. England were still 48 runs ahead yet three players were positioned on the boundary. The move sent out the wrong message. Hayden and Symonds are forceful batsmen but the approach smelt of fear.

The Queenslanders took the singles that were on offer and the initiative turned Aussie green. Hoggard replaced Panesar after three overs but the damage had been done. Symonds hacked the seamer over mid-off for two fours and the pony had been transformed into a thoroughbred.

Hayden brought his hundred up just before tea. Like Shane Warne he seems to enjoy the big occasion. It was his fifth at this ground, a venue where he now averages more than 75.

The tone of the final session was set when Symonds cut the first ball for four. His previous highest score was passed but he was fortunate to survive aleg before appeal from Panesar. The umpire Rudi Koertzen turned down another strong appeal when Hayden padded up. Koertzen has not had a good game but Panesar needs to be careful. His enthusiastic appealing may be innocent but it will soon be viewed as dissent.

With the field spread and the bowlers tiring, Symonds had the option of reaching his hundred by pushing singles, yet he chose to rely on his instincts. A vicious pull at Panesar took him to 96, and the finest moment of his career came when he chipped Paul Collingwood effortlessly in to the Members' stand for six.

As more than 75,000 spectators rose to their feet Symonds roared like a lion. His team-mates came to the side of the pitch to applaud and Hayden gave him a fearsome bear hug. Symonds still has some way to go before he convinces people that he is a Test player, but this was a good start.

The fun ended when Sajid Mahmood dismissed Hayden on 153 with the second new ball. The delivery bounced and left the batsman but, with the deficit greater than 200, it was not the sort of action England's batsmen wanted to see. Gilchrist sliced Mahmood into the hands of Collingwood at second slip, leaving Symonds and Warne to see out the final four overs.

Warne allowed Symonds to leave the arena alone and take the applause his innings so richly deserved. He knows that he will receive an even greater reception over the next couple of days.

Second Day ratings

England

Matthew Hoggard 6

Started well but faded as the day wore on.

Andrew Flintoff 6

Bowled with vigour but captaincy limitations exposed.

Stephen Harmison 6

Keeps improving - but it's too late.

Sajid Mahmood 5

Inconsistent, but benefited from a decent bowl.

Monty Panesar 3

He's good, but he ain't no Shane Warne.

Australia

Matthew Hayden 10

Steadied the ship before taking the game away from England.

Ricky Ponting 1

Poor shot from a great player.

Michael Hussey 1

A rare failure.

Michael Clarke 2

Could do little about the ball that defeated him.

Andrew Symonds 10

Is it the start of a long Test career?

Shot of the day

You're four runs away from a maiden Test century. What do you do? Andrew Symonds nonchalantly chipped Paul Collingwood into the members' stand for six. Effortless and brilliant, and the perfect way to reach three figures.

Ball of the day

Now and then a batsman has to accept that a bowler has defeated him. Michael Clarke must have felt that way when Stephen Harmison dismissed him for five. The ball bounced, left him and grazed the outside edge of his bat.

Moment of the day

Andrew Symonds is a one-day legend but, before yesterday, the step up to Test cricket had proved beyond him. The roar that greeted the six that took him to a first Test century was primeval. The unbridled joy that followed made it a very special moment.

Debate of the day

Why can't England finish Australia off when they have them down? There are two reasons. Despite the 2005 Ashes win, England do not truly believe they can beat Australia in Australia. The hosts continue to cope with the pivotal moments far better than their opponents.

Scoreboard

England won toss

Second day

England - First Innings 159 (A J Strauss 50; S K Warne 5-39).

Australia - First Innings

(Overnight: 48 for 2)

J L Langer c Read b Flintoff 27

45 min, 29 balls, 3 fours

M L Hayden c Read b Mahmood 153

421 min, 265 balls, 13 fours, 2 sixes

B Lee c Read b Flintoff 0

2 min, 1 ball

*R T Ponting c Cook b Flintoff 7

37 min, 28 balls

M E K Hussey b Hoggard 6

36 min, 20 balls

M J Clarke c Read b Harmison 5

7 min, 5 balls

A Symonds not out 154

316 min, 215 balls, 15 fours, 1 six

ÝA C Gilchrist c Collingwood b Mahmood 1

10 min, 8 balls

S K Warne not out 4

15 min, 14 balls, 1 four

Extras (lb6 nb9) 15

Total (for 7, 448 min, 96 overs) 372

Fall: 1-44 (Langer), 2-44 (Lee), 3-62 (Ponting), 4-79 (Hussey), 5-84 (Clarke), 6-363 (Hayden), 7-365 (Gilchrist).

To bat: S R Clark, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Hoggard 21-6-82-1 (nb1) (15-6-47-1; 4-0-25-0; 2-0-10-0); Flintoff 22-1-77-3 (nb8) (12-1-44-3; 5-0-16-0; 5-0-17-0); Harmison 22-5-55-1 (10-3-26-1; 6-1-17-0; 2-0-7-0; 4-1-5-0); Mahmood 15-1-67-2 (3-1-8-0; 2-0-11-0; 2-0-10-0; 4-0-27-0; 4-0-11-2); Panesar 12-1-52-0 (3-0-13-0; 4-0-23-0; 5-1-16-0); Collingwood 3-0-20-0; Pietersen 1-0-13-0 (one spell each).

Progress: First day close: 48-2 (Hayden 17, Ponting 0) 11 overs. Second day: 50: 58 min, 11.4 overs. 100: 153 min, 29.5 overs. Lunch: 111-5 (Hayden 52, Symonds 4) 35 overs. 150: 223 min, 46 overs. 200: 268 min, 54.1 overs. Tea: 226-5 (Hayden 109, Symonds 61) 62 overs. 250: 315 min, 65.5 overs. 300: 352 min, 75.2 overs. New ball taken after 80 overs at 322-5. 350: 402 min, 86.1 overs.

Hayden's 50: 173 min, 101 balls, 6 fours. 100: 276 min, 170 balls, 11 fours, 1 six. 150: 388 min, 251 balls, 13 fours, 2 sixes. Symonds' 50: 127 min, 79 balls, 6 fours. 100: 220 min, 151 balls, 9 fours, 1 six. 150: 287 min, 205 balls, 15 fours, 1 six.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and R E Koertzen (SA).

TV replay umpire: R L Parry

Match referee: R S Madugalle.

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