McGrath helps Aussies take charge

Brisbane, November 24:

Glenn McGrath hit back at his ageist critics with two wickets in two balls to have England on the rack after the second day of the first Ashes Test at the Gabba here on Friday.

The 13-year Test paceman, who turns 37 next February, removed openers Andrew Strauss (12) and Alastair Cook (11) with successive deliveries to send a shiver through the tourists after they had sweltered for 11-1/2 hours in the field in Australia’s massive 602 for nine declared.

It was Australia’s highest score against England in Australia for 60 years, since Don Bradman’s team scored 645 in 1946. Australia had 17 overs at the weary Englishmen and got their rewards to have the tourists at 53/3 in reply and 350 runs from the follow-on target with three days of predicted fine weather left to play. Ian Bell was not out 13, with big batting hope Kevin Pietersen on six.

McGrath, Test cricket’s third-greatest wicket-taker, took his tally to 544 victims to put the early skids under England, who have endured a nightmare start to the defence of the Ashes they took off the Australians in England last year.

Strauss played a dreadful pull shot and skied to deep backward square, where Mike Hussey avoided colliding with Brett Lee to take a great running catch. But Lee caught Hussey’s spikes, cutting his left knee, leaving blood on his creams and he left the ground for treatment, which didn’t require stitches.

Cook, promoted to opener following the departure of Marcus Trescothick, was out next ball when he edged to Shane Warne at first slip to leave the tourists reeling at 28 for two in the sixth over. Stuart Clark took the third wicket, having Paul Collingwood caught behind for five in the 11th over.

Ricky Ponting was out four runs short of his fifth Test double-century as Australia batted on relentlessly to just beyond 600 before he called a halt to have a crack at the England top order. The Australian skipper was trapped leg before wicket off seamer Matthew Hoggard for 196. He faced 319 balls in 463 minutes, with 24 boundaries. It was Ponting’s highest score against England, bettering his 156 in last year’s third Old Trafford Test. Ponting is now the sixth highest run-getter in Test cricket with 8,988 runs at 59.13 in his 106th Test.

Michael Clarke reached 56 before he was out in the last over before tea but England still found it difficult to extinguish the Australian tail.

The Australians added 102 runs for the last two wickets. Lee hit an unbeaten 43, Stuart Clark 39, with three fours and two sixes, and Warne, 17.


AUSTRALIA — 1st inngs (Overnight 346-3)

R Ponting lbw b Hoggard 196

M Hussey b Flintoff 86

M Clarke c Strauss b Anderson 56

A Gilchrist lbw b Hoggard 0

S Warne c Jones b Harmison 17

B Lee not out 43

S Clark b Flintoff 39

G McGrath not out 8

Extras: 25 (b2, lb8, w8, nb7)

Total: 602/9 (declared)

FoW: 1-79, 2-141, 3-198, 4-407, 5-467, 6-467, 7-500, 8-528, 9-578

England bowling: Harmison 30-4-123-1, Hoggard 31-5-98-2, Anderson 29-6-141-1, Flintoff 30-4-99-4, Giles 25-2-91-1, Bell 1-0-12-0, Pietersen 9-1-28-0

ENGLAND — 1st innings

A Strauss c Hussey b McGrath 12

A Cook c Warne b McGrath 11

I Bell not out 13

P Collingwood c Gilchrist b Clark 5

K Pietersen not out 6

Extras: 6 (lb4, nb2)

Total: 53/3

FoW: 1-28, 2-28, 3-42

Australia bowling: Lee 4-1-13-0, McGrath 6-0-25-2, Clark 6-2-9-1, Warne 1-0-2-0