Australia face record chase

LONDON: Australia were left needing to set a new world record if they were to win the second Test against England here at Lord’s on Saturday.

England, when rain forced an early close on third day, were 311-6, a lead of 521. Whether they declared on that total overnight, as seemed likely, or batted on, it meant Australia would have to set a new world record for the highest fourth innings total to win a Test, surpassing the 418-7 made by the West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2002/03.

Both totals were well in excess of the corresponding record for a Test at Lord’s, the 344-1 made by the West Indies against England in 1984. England, bidding for a first Test win over Australia at Lord’s in 75 years, were indebted to a stand of 86 off 74 between Paul Collingwood (54) and Matt Prior (60). Their innings had stalled during the second session but Prior, who faced 42 balls with nine fours, regained the initiative, and helped justify captain Andrew Strauss’s decision not to enforce the follow-on.

Collingwood, who’d batted for over six hours to help England secure a draw in last week’s series opener in Cardiff, posted his third fifty in four innings in a brisk 72 balls. They were contrasting innings but each ideally suited to England’s task at hand. He was eventually out for 54, having shared a stand of 51 in 50 balls with Andrew Flintoff (30 not out). Flintoff took England’s lead past 500 with an off-driven four off left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson, who at one stage completely lost all semblance of line and length.

Much of Australia’s fielding was unusually shoddy, with several fumbles, a dropped catch by captain Ricky Ponting no less and a scruffy display by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, who conceded 16 byes.

Neither Ravi Bopara nor Kevin Pietersen were at their best during a third-wicket stand of 73. Bopara’s scratchy innings of 27 finally came to an end when he turned off-spinner Nathan Hauritz straight to Simon Katich at short leg. Pietersen fell for 44.

Earlier, Graham Onions finised off the work started on Friday by James Anderson with two wickets as Australia, 156-8 overnight, were bowled out for 215, 11 runs shy of the follow-on avoidance target of 226, after England had made 425.