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England struggling to avoid heavy defeat
December 28, 2006 10:48 IST
England were struggling to avoid another heavy defeat in the fourth Ashes Test against Australia after crashing to 90 for four in their second innings on the third day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.
The tourists lost Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood in quick succession to limp to tea needing another 170 runs just to make the Australians bat again.
Australia, who won the first three Tests to regain the Ashes, led by 260 on the first innings after being bowled out for 419 before lunch with Shane Warne smacking an unbeaten 40 and England wicketkeeper Chris Read taking a record-equalling six catches.
England's seamers polished off the Australian tail in the first hour of play after they had resumed on 372-7, only to see their top-order batsmen fail again as Australia moved in for the kill.
Cook and Andrew Strauss had survived through to lunch and put on 41 for the opening wicket before the wickets started tumbling in the middle session.
Cook fell for 20 when he dragged a ball from Stuart Clark back on to his stumps then Bell departed for two when Glenn McGrath trapped him lbw and South African umpire Rudi Koertzen raised his finger.
Pietersen was promoted up the order from five to four after being left batting with the tail in the previous Tests but the move failed when he was bowled by Clark for one.
Collingwood made 16 before he drove Brett Lee straight to Justin Langer at short cover, leaving Strauss and Andrew Flintoff to hang on grimly until tea.
Strauss, who made 50 in the first innings before becoming Warne's 700th Test victim, was unbeaten on 31 with Flintoff not out 11 after surviving a confident lbw appeal from Warne off the last ball before the interval.
Read joined Jack Russell and Alec Stewart as the only English keepers to take six catches in an Ashes innings when he caught Andrew Symonds and Clark before lunch after taking four catches the previous day.
But Read, who was called into the England side for the first time in the series after Geraint Jones was dropped, missed out on matching the world record of seven when last man McGrath was caught by Ian Bell at gully off Sajid Mahmood, who finished with 4-100.
Symonds added just two runs to his overnight score of 154 when he nicked paceman Steve Harmison behind with the total on 383.
Clark and Warne then added 34 for the ninth wicket before Mahmood had Clark caught by Read then McGrath caught by Bell for a duck to finish off the innings.
Warne, who is retiring from international cricket after next week's final Ashes Test in Sydney, slammed six boundaries in his quick-fire innings to complete a fine double after taking 5-39 in England's first innings of 159.