Openers lead England revival
Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook led from the front with magnificent centuries as England overhauled their first-innings deficit and forged ahead on the fourth day of the opening Ashes Test.
Having resumed on 19 without loss, the duo took their partnership to 188 before Strauss - who had been dropped by Mitchell Johnson off Xavier Doherty when he had 69 to his name - eventually departed to Marcus North for 110 midway through the afternoon session.
Cook, who finished the day unbeaten on 132, then shared an unbroken stand of 121 with Jonathan Trott, who made 54 not out, as the tourists moved to 309 for one at stumps.
It is the first time England’s openers have each made centuries in an Ashes Test since Charlie Barnett and Len Hutton accomplished the feat at Trent Bridge in 1938 and the tourists now have a real chance of salvaging at least a draw from a match they appeared likely to lose just 24 hours earlier.
Strauss will take particular satisfaction from his hundred after falling to a third-ball duck in the first innings, while Cook followed up his 67 on day one with an even more impressive knock - silencing any doubts over his ability to score runs in Australia.
England batted positively from the outset this morning, which began 12 minutes early to make up for time lost yesterday, as they looked to wipe out their arrears.
Cook was fortunate to see a thick outside edge off Peter Siddle fly through the vacant fourth slip region for four early on, but he then picked up two with a push into the covers to reach 10,000 runs in first-class cricket.
A more convincing boundary followed as Cook deposited Siddle to the point boundary with a forceful back-foot drive, while Strauss picked up his first four with a similar shot off Shane Watson.
Both men continued to find the fence with regularity as the morning progressed and Strauss reached fifty with a swept single off Doherty, having driven the previous ball for four.
The Middlesex opener took England’s score to 100 with another crashing shot through the covers off Siddle.
Australia’s first innings bowling hero responded superbly and was desperately unfortunate to see an inside edge from Strauss miss the stumps and fly to the fine-leg boundary.
England’s captain survived a huge scare shortly before lunch as Johnson spilled a relatively straightforward chance at mid-off after Strauss had skipped down the wicket to Doherty.
A brief lull in proceedings followed as Australia turned to spin at both ends in the shape of Doherty and North.
Cook then brought up his half-century in the penultimate over of the session to round off a wonderful morning for the tourists.
Strauss looked in great touch after the interval, stroking Ben Hilfenhaus through the covers for four before picking up another boundary with a lofted straight drive off Doherty.
There were a couple of brief scares for the skipper as he closed in on three figures.
An attempted pull off Hilfenhaus looped high over gully and Doherty saw a strong appeal for leg before correctly turned down by umpire Aleem Dar.
Strauss made it to a hundred in Doherty’s next over - from 184 balls and with 15 fours - with a late cut to the third man boundary.
But he was then removed by North, who had earlier induced an edge from Cook that fell short of Michael Clarke at slip.
The part-time off-spinner tempted Strauss down the pitch with a beautifully flighted delivery which turned sharply past the bat to give Brad Haddin the simplest of stumpings.
Trott picked up his first boundary with a glove to fine-leg off Siddle before Cook brought up England’s 200 with a cut through point off North.
Australia were unable to build any pressure as they searched for a second breakthrough, with Johnson coming in for particular punishment.
Trott cracked the left-armer through the covers for four - in an over that was taken for 11 - to move England into the lead.
Cook then collected boundaries in successive Doherty overs to move to 94, but had to wait for the opportunity to bring up his century as tea was taken soon after.
The milestone was reached in the second over of the evening session as the left-hander cut Siddle through point for his ninth four.
Australia took the new ball at the earliest opportunity and almost gained an immediate reward as Cook was dropped by a diving Siddle at fine-leg after top-edging an attempted hook off Hilfenhaus.
Trott increased Siddle’s misery by whipping the seamer through midwicket for four in his next over.
And there was further frustration for the Victorian when England’s number three picked out a diving Clarke at backward point, only for the ball to squirm out of the fielder’s left hand as he landed.
Trott had another close shave when a fierce lbw appeal from Hilfenhaus was turned down by umpire Dar. The hosts used their second review in an attempt to overturn the decision, but replays suggested the ball would have missed off stump.
Cook brought up the 100 partnership with yet another boundary off Johnson before Trott survived a second leg before shout, this time from Watson.
The Warwickshire batsman went to his fifty soon after, from 105 balls, and he and Cook continued to make serene progress against a tiring attack before bad light ended play with eight overs outstanding.