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Australia prosper in front of bumper crowd

By Matthew Sherry

Australia chipped away at England on an attritional opening day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, although Kevin Pietersen dug in with 67 not out.

Already 3-0 down having relinquished the Ashes at Perth, the tourists were asked to bat on a day when a world-record cricket crowd of 91,092 watched.

They initially acquitted themselves well yet, frustratingly, neither Alastair Cook nor Michael Carberry were able to build on starts.

Kevin Pietersen produces a patient 67 not out that steadied England to 226 for six at stumps after being put in at the MCG

Cook reached 27 before edging Peter Siddle to second slip when playing away from his body with an angled bat off the back foot and Carberry left a beauty from Shane Watson that nipped back from around the wicket and clipped off stump.

Joe Root and Ian Bell endured struggles alongside Pietersen, both feathering Ryan Harris behind having moved into the 20s.

Pietersen, though, battled valiantly and advanced beyond 50 amid Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow falling to Mitchell Johnson, his 67 not out ensuring England closed on 226 for six. In the process Pietersen overtook Geoffrey Boycott to become England's fourth-highest Test scorer.

Bairstow replaced Matt Prior as England's wicketkeeper and Monty Panesar came in for the retired Graeme Swann while Stuart Broad was passed fit. Australia were again unchanged.

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Evening Session

Watch highlights of the evening session from the MCG

7.05am - STUMPS! England 226/6; Pietersen 67, Bresnan 1 - Pietersen ends with a run rush as an edged boundary is followed by a stunning straight one, both off Peter Siddle. He will be aiming to get a big 'un tomorrow. Join me then to find out if he is successful.

6.51am - Pietersen works Johnson to midwicket for a single that takes him ahead of Geoffrey Boycott as England's fourth-highest Test-scorer on 8,115 runs.

6.42am - WICKET! Bairstow b Johnson 10; England 216/6 - What a response to that aforementioned six. Johnson nips a beauty back that uproots Jonny Bairstow's off stump and leaves Australia in command.

6.21am - WICKET! Stokes c Watson b Johnson 14; England 202/5 - The new ball bring immediate rewards for Australia as Stokes edges the fiery Mitchell Johnson straight to first slip.

6.16am - Ben Stokes, who of course struck that stunning 120 at the WACA, cuts Lyon for four through cover before moving down the pitch and effortlessly driving a straight six next ball.

6.04am - FIFTY! Pietersen (119b 2x4 1x6) - A whipped two brings up Pietersen's half-century. It's been a struggle at times on a difficult pitch but he remains - which is the most important thing.

5.54am - MISSED CHANCE! - Big drop as George Bailey shells a tricky chance to remove Pietersen, who pulled powerfully, at midwicket. Off the next ball, he plays the same shot - this time hammering it over mid-on for four. Either side of that shot, he chats to the team doctor when looking a little unwell. It's been a brave innings thus far.

5.43am - WICKET! Bell c Haddin b Harris 27; England 173/4 - The pressure pays off! Ryan Harris gets one to nip away from Bell, who gets the faintest of outside edges through to the wicketkeeper.

5.30am - Australia are really strangling England, who have been scoring at less than two runs per over in the last few...

5.18am - This is making for compelling viewing once more as Australia bowl tightly to batsmen who are showing signs of wanting to up the ante.

4.45am - Cracking shot from Ian Bell, who pulls Nathan Lyon to the fence. He and Kevin Pietersen have plenty of hard yakka ahead.

Afternoon Session

Watch highlights of the afternoon session from the MCG

4.12am - TEA! England 135/3; Pietersen 20, Bell 11 - A cracking session for the hosts is brought to an end with a fine Nathan Lyon over, featuring the off-spinner cutting Pietersen in half with a beauty.

3.46am - Ah, what a shame. With Watson battling with Pietersen and Ian Bell, the medium pacer is forced off with a groin injury.

3.20am - WICKET! Root c Haddin b Harris 24; England 106/3 - Another breakthrough for Australia as Root, who has enjoyed some moments of fortune today, feathers behind.

3.02am - Battles aplenty here with Johnson bowling quickly at Root and Kevin Pietersen fighting hard against nemesis Peter Siddle. Engrossing.

2.38am - WICKET! Carberry b Watson 38; England 96/2 - Carberry has failed to make full use of a start once more, bowled when shouldering arms to a Watson in-dipper from around the wicket.

2.31am - Stunning! Mitchell Johnson is too short and too wide, so Michael Carberry unfurls a powerful cut to the rope.

2.19am - We're back under way and Joe Root is back into his work, driving Shane Watson for a straight four.

Morning Session 

Watch highlights of the morning session from the MCG

1.30am - LUNCH! England 71/1; Carberry 26, Root 11 - A competitive session comes to an end on the back of Shane Watson and Harris causing problems. The latter's final over brings a review but umpire Aleem Dar's not-out verdict, following an lbw appeal, is upheld as the ball was only just clipping Carberry's off stump.

1.17am - The only thing more annoying than potential rain? Well, of course, it's the swarms of flies hovering on everybody's clothes. There are thousands of them!

1.13am - There's not too much happening at the MCG as Australia bowl tightly. There are some dark clouds hovering and signs of a little rain, however. 

12.42am - WICKET! Cook c Clarke b Siddle 27; England 48/1 - A solid start for England comes to an end as Cook, playing with an angled bat away from his body off the back foot, edges to Michael Clarke at second slip.

12.28am - More runs for Carberry, who cuts Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle, the latter more a slash over the slips, for boundaries.

12.19am - Cracking stroke from Carberry. The opener drives confidently down the ground for four. Australia, though, are causing problems.

11.57am - Another couple of boundaries for the skipper, who drives and fortuitously toe-ends to the fence. They all count...

11.45am - Cracking stroke from Alastair Cook. Mitchell Johnson sends down a short-and-wide delivery that he cuts to the fence.

11.37am - Ryan Harris gets the action under way with a fairly non-descript opening over that features just a leg-bye.

Pre-Play News 

11.24am - The national anthems are about to be sung, which means we're almost ready for one of the great cricketing occasions.

11.03am - AUSTRALIA WIN TOSS & BAT - Everything is on time after all and, just like clock-work, Alastair Cook has called incorrectly at the toss once again. England will bat first in overcast conditions.

10.48am - Maybe it won't after all... It's raining in Melbourne.

10.45am - Hello and a belated Merry Christmas to all. I realise you're all likely a little bloated but we're just 45 minutes away from the fourth Ashes Test beginning. The toss will take place first of all, at 11pm.

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