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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Fourth Test: Johnson's late wickets thrill record crowd at MCG

Fourth Test: Johnson's late wickets thrill record crowd at MCG

December 26, 2013 13:22 IST

Mitchell Johnson electrified a world record Test crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with a searing new ball spell to capture two late wickets and leave England a rocky 226 for six at the close of the opening day of the fourth Test on Thursday.

- Scorecard 

Mitchell JohnsonRoared on by a heaving crowd of 91,092, the aggressive paceman steamed in to remove number six Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow in quick succession to put Australia on top after Kevin Pietersen threatened to win the day for England.

The under-fire Pietersen was reprieved on six and 41, but quelled his attacking instincts to compile a defiant, if theatrical, 67 not out at stumps, with Tim Bresnan hanging on desperately with one run.

- Photos

Seamer Ryan Harris captured his second wicket when he had Ian Bell caught behind by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for 27 at the drinks break after tea.

The late wickets were a relief for Australia captain Michael Clarke who opted to field after winning his fourth successive toss of the series.

Bell and Pietersen had dug in for a defiant 67-run stand to frustrate the massive MCG crowd before the lionhearted Harris unleashed a sublime delivery that jagged away off the seam and had Bell feathering an edge.

Following Clarke, Bell became the second batsman to surpass 1,000 runs in Tests for the year.

Harris was unlucky not to have his third wicket in his next over, when Pietersen smacked a pull-shot to midwicket where George Bailey put down a tough chance with the South Africa-born batsman on 41.

Pietersen drew jeers from the crowd by calling for a drink and slumping to his knees after the escape, but smacked the next ball for a four to the long-on boundary.

More jeers followed as Pietersen called for the team physio, holding up play for another few minutes.

A miserly Australian attack left England 135 for three at tea but suffered a blow when all-rounder Shane Watson limped off the ground with a groin injury.

Watson bowled opener Michael Carberry for 38 but pulled up from his run-up in his seventh over and after a short exchange with Clarke, trudged off the ground.

Pietersen was caught for six at deep backward square by Nathan Coulter-Nile but the substitute fielder overbalanced and jogged over the boundary rope to grant the South Africa-born batsman a life shortly before tea.

HADDIN MILESTONE

A flat-footed Joe Root was caught behind by Haddin off the bowling of Harris for 24, the revitalised wicketkeeper notching his 50th catch in a year in which he has also amassed more than 500 runs with the bat.

Clarke's decision to attack appeared foolhardy early as the MCG's drop-in pitch offered little help for his seamers.

The pace battery compensated, however, with impressive spells of line and length that saw England's run-rate dip to one run per over in a 10-over period before tea.

The paucity of scoring prompted jeers from the sections of the crowd and Pietersen raised ironic cheers on the few occasions he executed scoring shots.

Siddle had earlier continued Alastair Cook's forgettable series by dismissing the England captain for 27 in the morning, breaking a promising 48-run opening partnership with Carberry.

Australia were rewarded for a sustained period of pressure after the morning's drinks break, when Cook, apparently flustered by a near run-out four balls earlier, was out nicking to Clarke in the slips from a ball he could have left alone.

Harris was unlucky not to take the match's first wicket, when he had Carberry nick behind when on two runs, but a diving Steven Smith put down a difficult chance that he might better have left for second slip Clarke.

England, who have already lost the five-Test series 3-0 to surrender the coveted urn, dropped wicketkeeper vice captain Matt Prior, who paid the price for a poor campaign with the bat and behind the stumps.

Yorkshire's Bairstow replaced Prior, with spinner Monty Panesar coming in for Graeme Swann, who retired from England and first-class cricket during the week.

Image: Mitchell Johnson of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of Ben Stokes of England during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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