After being written off by the media, the public and probably their mothers, Australia made England fight for every run on the second day of the Fourth Test. With the Ashes slipping out of sight it was all they could do, but it was not nearly enough to prevent the tourists building a first innings lead of 346.
Jonathan Trott scored his second hundred of the series, his third against Australia and his fifth in all Tests as he and Matt Prior, who made the utmost of a bizarre stroke of fortune, took the game away in the evening session with an unbroken fifth wicket partnership of 158.
The day was marked by an incident which showed how close Australia may be to breaking point as Ricky Ponting, Australia’s captain, was embroiled in a heated argument with both umpires after a crucial decision went against his team.
With Trott and Kevin Pietersen carefully enhancing England’s strong position by the over, Ryan Harris beat Pietersen with a searing delivery in the fourth over with the second new ball. It appeared to have gone between bat and body but the wicketkeeper insisted on calling for a review.
Replays showed that the ball appeared to have missed Pietersen’s bat by the narrowest of margins as the Hot Spot camera did not throw up the dreaded white spot. Pietersen, on 49, was given not out, but Ponting launched into a diatribe against umpire Aleem Dar, accompanied by the fast bowler, Peter Siddle.
After he had finished with Dar, Ponting walked down the pitch to have a word with Pietersen and then continued his discussion with the other umpire, Tony Hill. It appeared to be a classic case of dissent under the ICC code of conduct, article two.
Pietersen was out three overs later, leg before wicket, becoming Siddle's third wicket of the day after having removed both England’s openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook. Cook went first, caught at slip for 82, Strauss was the victim of a vicious lifter which he could only fend to gully.
When Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell were both out feebly hooking short balls from Mitchell Johnson, England’s innings were in a danger of petering out. But Matt Prior was given an odd life when having been caught behind off Johnson he was stopped by umpire Dar as he walked off.
The umpire indicated that he was unsure about the legality of the ball, replays showed that Johnson had overstepped the popping crease, no ball was signalled and Prior re-occupied the creased with his replacement Tim Bresnan already on the ground. It was a brave call by Dar, though Ponting might have disagreed.
Trott, who was in discomfort after being hit on the knee, ended the day on 141 not out, Prior on 75 not out and England on the verge of history.