England excel in Gabba stalemate
England will take valuable momentum into the second Ashes Test in Adelaide after dominating the final day of a drawn series-opener in Brisbane.
Alastair Cook recorded a magnificent unbeaten double century and Jonathan Trott scored his second hundred in as many Tests against Australia as the tourists declared their second innings on a mammoth 517 for one - their highest total at the Gabba - to set the hosts a notional 297 for victory.
Cook’s 235 represented the largest individual score at the ground, beating the previous record of Don Bradman, while Trott had taken his score to 135 by the time skipper Andrew Strauss called a halt to proceedings 40 minutes before tea.
The second-wicket partnership yielded an astonishing 329 runs, a record stand for England in Australia, and ensured the home side had to face a testing examination with the ball before the close.
Stuart Broad raised brief hopes of an unlikely England victory when he had Simon Katich caught by Strauss at first slip in the sixth over of Australia’s innings, but Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting steadied the ship thereafter and took the score on to 107 for one before the captains shook hands on a draw.
Watson finished unbeaten on 41, having been dropped by Paul Collingwood off Graeme Swann when he had 17 to his name, and Ponting looked in excellent touch as he raced to 51 not out on an increasingly benign wicket.
But the late rally will have done little to temper England’s delight after they hauled themselves back into the match in impressive fashion on days four and five.
Australia were unfortunate to see a number of edges land safely this morning, but as the day progressed they were forced to endure an utterly torrid time in the field.
Resuming on 309 for one with Cook on 132 and Trott 54, the duo overcame some early scares at the hands of Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus to take England’s score past 350.
The Warwickshire batsman received a huge let-off on 65 as a lazy cut off Watson picked out Michael Clarke at first slip, but Australia’s vice-captain was unable to hold on to the simplest of chances, much to the frustration of the bowler.
Cook slashed Mitchell Johnson through point for four in the next over and Australia’s misery deepened as the seamer sent a horrendous delivery way down the leg side for five wides.
Back-to-back boundaries from Cook, the latter a glorious cover drive, took him past his previous highest Test score - 173 against Bangladesh in Chittagong earlier this year.
Xavier Doherty was then despatched to the fence on two occasions by Trott and the 200 partnership arrived in the next over.
With Australia now on the ropes, Cook lofted Doherty high over midwicket for his 19th boundary before seeing consecutive deliveries turn sharply past wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for four byes.
Cook soon moved to 200 - from 361 balls - with a quick single off Doherty.
And there was still time for Trott to reach his century from the penultimate ball of the session, ensuring England’s top three batsmen reached three figures in the same innings for only the second time in Tests, with Sir Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Frank Woolley having accomplished the feat against South Africa at Lord’s in 1924.
Runs continued to flow after the interval, with the erratic Johnson coming in for the heaviest punishment.
The left-armer was unable to display any consistency in a dismal spell which saw boundaries conceded on either side of the wicket.
Cook survived a scare on 209 as he clipped Doherty to Ponting at short midwicket. Australia’s captain thought he had taken a clear catch, but the batsman survived as replays failed to conclusively prove whether the ball had carried.
Doherty was hammered down the ground by the left-hander in his next over and Trott repeated the trick as the partnership neared 300.
Cook had another let-off when Ponting spilled a tricky chance at slip off Watson.
By this stage, England had adopted a hugely aggressive approach, typified by a sensational lofted straight drive from Trott off Watson that flew to the boundary.
And when Cook spanked Doherty over mid-on for yet another four, he and Trott had overtaken the record partnership in Tests at the Gabba, set by Mike Hussey and Haddin earlier in this match.
Strauss decided he had seen enough soon after and Australia's bowlers were probably grateful.
James Anderson and Broad were given the task of making a breakthrough before tea and the latter worried Katich with a beautiful delivery that swung past the outside edge.
It was a similar ball that accounted for the left-hander soon after and Anderson was unfortunate not to pick up Watson in the final over of the session as a length ball seamed away from the right hander’s defensive prod.
Watson picked up back-to-back fours off Anderson shortly after tea, prompting the duo to exchange verbal pleasantries for the remainder of the over.
Ponting greeted the introduction of Swann with an on-drive to the boundary.
The off-spinner thought he had removed Watson later in the over, only for Collingwood to spill a regulation chance at slip after a straighter delivery had taken the shoulder of the bat.
Ponting took the attack to England as the end approached, cracking Steven Finn for consecutive boundaries and collecting a huge six over wide long-on in Swann’s first over.
There was just enough time for the Tasmanian to bring up a 56th Test fifty, from just 41 balls, as Australia ended a chastening day on a high note.