Aussies pummel England

CARDIFF: Australia saw four of their batsmen score centuries in a Test innings against England for the first time as they took command of the Ashes series opener at Sophia Gardens here on Saturday.

A stand of 200 between Ashes debutants Marcus North (125 not out) and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin (121), which followed Friday’s efforts of 150 from captain Ricky Ponting and 122 from opener Simon Katich, saw Australia to a huge total of 674 for six declared before tea on the fourth day.

At stumps, England had collapsed to 20 for two — still needing a further 219

runs to make Australia bat again — after Alastair Cook was lbw to Mitchell Johnson and Ravi Bopara fell the same way to Ben Hilfenhaus, with both Essex batsmen playing across the line.

England, with captain Andrew Strauss six not out and Kevin Pietersen unbeaten on three, were then only spared further humiliation by

the rain which washed out Saturday’s final session and now looks like their best hope of saving the game.

This was the first time any side had scored four hundreds in a Test innings against England. All five of England’s frontline bowlers — James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Andrew Flintoff and Monty Panesar — conceded more than 100 runs each as Australia, on an admittedly good batting pitch, ruthlessly punished a lacklustre attack.

In the process Australia provided a masterclass in how to make a big score after three England batsmen — Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Matthew Prior — had got to fifty on the first day without getting to a hundred. North and Haddin became the 15th and 16th Australians to score centuries in their first Test innings against England and the first since Damien Martyn and Gilchrist both achieved the feat at Edgbaston in 2001.