Strauss stands firm as Australia recover

LONDON : England captain Andrew Strauss made a superb unbeaten century but a top-order collapse saw the hosts squander their advantage against Australia on the first day of the second Ashes Test.

England, at stumps on Lord's here on Thursday, were 364 for six with Strauss 161 not out after batting the whole day in an innings of more than six hours.

But they were in a commanding position at 196 without loss after a record-breaking first-wicket stand between Strauss, who won the toss, and fellow left-hander Alastair Cook (95).

Strauss's hundred was his third against Australia and his highest, surpassing the 129 he made at the The Oval in 2005.

It was also the fourth of his 18 Test centuries the Middlesex batsman had made at his Lord's home ground.

"There was more in this wicket than in (the first Test) Cardiff. It was hard work when it was swinging," said Strauss.

"But it's a good wicket to bat on. We'd have liked to be in a better position but to have 360-odd on the board is not a bad place to be."

Australia, who bowled badly before lunch, spent most of the day without one of their four frontline bowlers after off-spinner Nathan Hauritz sustained a finger injury.

But England still lost six wickets for 137 runs as the rest of the top-order failed to build on a fine opening stand.

Wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, one of several Australia players appearing in their first Test at Lord's, struggled early on and he admitted playing at the 'home of cricket' may have affected the team.

"Maybe the occasion got to us, I know I personally I tensed up but late in the day we got into a rhythm and relaxed more into our work. It was pleasing to to get those six wickets."

England, at tea, were still well-placed at 255 for two.

Strauss was exactly 100 not out and Kevin Pietersen unbeaten on 22.

Although Pietersen struck Peter Siddle for a couple of forceful boundaries after tea, he rarely looked settled and the pace bowler had his revenge when the South Africa-born batsman, on 32, edged him to Haddin.

Paul Collingwood, who batted for nearly six hours to help England secure a draw in last week's series opener in Cardiff, gave his wicket away when he chipped occasional left-arm spinner Michael Clarke to Siddle at mid-on.

Wicket-keeper Matt Prior was bowled by an inswinger from left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson, whose largely wayward 19 overs cost an expensive 107 runs.

Prior's exit brought in all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, cheered all the way to the wicket the day after announcing he would retire from Test cricket at the end of this series.

Sadly for England fans, they were soon clapping him in again after the all-rounder was out for four, having edged a fine delivery from Ben Hilfenhaus straight to Australia captain Ricky Ponting at second slip.

England, just as they'd done in Cardiff, were letting slip a promising position - something they could ill afford if they were to beat Australia in a Lord's Test for the first time in 75 years.

They resumed after lunch in a dominant position of 126 without loss following a seventh century stand by their openers but first against Australia.

Strauss was 47 not out and Cook, batting with rare panache, 67 not out with 56 of his runs in the first session.

Off-spinner Hauritz was twice slog-swept for four in three balls by Cook.

Worse followed when Hauritz had to leave the field midway through his ninth over after dislocating the middle finger of his right, bowling hand when he failed to hold a tough return chance off a low, hard-hit Strauss drive.

Ashes holders Australia, normally so sharp in the field, looked ragged with Haddin conceding several byes.

When Strauss and Cook took their stand past 182 they'd surpassed England's first-wicket partnership record against Australia at Lord's set by Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe back in 1926.

But there was to be no 10th Test century for Cook, lbw to an unusually straight Johnson delivery that kept low, having faced 147 balls with 18 fours.