Australians struggle as England close in on win

Nottingham, August 27:

Andrew Flintoff proved his all-round abilities again against Australia, taking two important wickets on Saturday as England closed in on a 2-1 lead in the Ashes series. Flintoff, who stroked his maiden Ashes hundred to guide England to 477 in the first innings, removed Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn in Australia’s second innings on day three of the fourth Test after Simon Jones’ 5-44 had helped skittle the tourists for 218. Forced to follow-on for the first time in 17 years, Australia was struggling on 222 for four at stumps, still needing 37 to ensure England has to bat again. Michael Clarke had a reprieve on 35 when Geraint Jones missed a stumping chance off Ashley Giles. He was unbeaten on 39 and Simon Katich was on 24 when stumps was called due to fading light.

Flintoff dismissed Hayden (26) to end a 50-run opening partnership and then almost got Justin Langer on 37, but Andrew Strauss put down a regulation chance at second slip. Langer added 24 more runs before he was out to a contentious bat-pad catch. Skipper Ricky Ponting was hoping to replicate his match-saving hundred from Manchester in the third Test but was run out in a terrible few overs for Australia. Martyn called for a single after pushing the first ball of Flintoff’s new spell in the 45th over into the covers, where substitute Gary Pratt’s direct hit at the striker’s end caught Ponting short of his ground. Ponting, on 48 after 89 balls, stormed off the field after reportedly checking the Pratt’s status with umpires. Pratt was on the field for Simon Jones, who bowled only four overs in the second innings before being taken to hospital for tests on his injured right ankle. The substitution was cleared by the umpires, meaning Ponting could be in trouble for challenging it. Martyn was out 13 balls later, edging Flintoff to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones as Australia slumped to 161 for four. Clarke and Katich added 61 for the fifth wicket.