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Pietersen having a ball

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Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen makes a potentially match-winning contribution with the ball by removing Michael Clarke, the last act of day four

Kevin Pietersen followed up his immense contribution with the bat by claiming a crucial wicket off the last ball of the day to ensure England remain on course for victory in the second Test.

Having hit a Test-best 227 in England’s mammoth 620 for five declared, Pietersen was among those frustrated by a combination of dogged Australian resistance and the weather as the tourists chased the win their dominance deserved in Adelaide.

Australia, charged with scoring 375 simply to make England bat again, were thankful their top order discovered the application so sorely missing in the first innings to shape a recovery that was aided by an hour-long stoppage due to rain.

Michael Clarke was central to that rearguard, but his dismissal for 80 in the final act of an absorbing day - caught at short-leg off bat and pad - served as a mortal blow to Australia’s hopes, and quite possibly their spirit, as they closed on 238 for four.

They therefore head into the final day trailing by a not inconsiderable 137, although England’s last-gasp delight will be tempered by an ominous weather forecast predicting more storms tomorrow, and a strained side muscle which limited Stuart Broad to three overs in the final two sessions.

While the new ball is due in four deliveries, off-spinner Graeme Swann promises to be the key figure tomorrow on a wearing surface offering occasionally outlandish turn.

He bowled 34 overs unchanged today until Pietersen replaced him late on, and deserved better than the close-of-play figures of 2-72 for a display high on skill but low on luck.

Captain Andrew Strauss finally called time on England's punishment of Australia with the bat 40 minutes into a morning session which began half an hour early to make up for the washed-out final session yesterday.

Paul Collingwood, Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior & Ricky Ponting

Ricky Ponting becomes Graeme Swann's second victim, caught by Paul Collingwood at slip playing for turn that never materialised

Resuming on 551 for four, England overcame Pietersen’s loss - he was caught at slip off Xavier Doherty attempting to repeat the slog-sweep that took him past his previous best - to plunder 69 runs in nine overs.

It was a long overdue wicket for the left-arm spinner, but added only a modicum of gloss to his eventual return of 1-158 off 27 overs.

Ian Bell was the chief beneficiary today, drilling Doherty for six over long-on as he added 27 to his overnight 41, sharing an unbroken stand of 52 in only 34 deliveries with the equally dashing Matt Prior, and carrying England to their highest total against Australia since 1938.

Australia made healthy progress themselves as they attempted to pull off the sort of escape England managed in Brisbane, though not without alarm.

Shane Watson, always keen to drive, kept the slips and gully entertained, and neither he nor Simon Katich, who was consigned to a hobble by an Achilles injury, looked particularly comfortable against Swann, finding immediate turn after being introduced into the attack in the 10th over.

Yet England had to wait until after lunch to end an opening stand worth 78 as Katich, lured forward by a delivery from Swann which drifted in from round the wicket before biting to take the outside edge, was caught behind for 43.

Ricky Ponting’s wicket brought them even greater joy. The Australia captain took 13 balls to get off the mark during a particularly disciplined spell from England that saw them bowl four straight maidens, and fell for nine when he played for turn from Swann that never came and edged low to Paul Collingwood at slip.

Clearly inconvenienced by a back problem in the first innings, Clarke’s eagerness to come down the pitch to Swann suggested no such problems second time round, while a couple of straight drives off Broad gave an early indication of his exemplary timing.

Michael Clarke

Clarke stalls England with a counter-attacking 80 of the highest order. He added 104 with Mike Hussey for the fourth wicket

Watson, on 45, saw Broad spill a tough return chance before he brought up a 125-ball half-century containing nine fours, but fell to a combination of Steven Finn and Strauss shortly after, lunging at a wonderful leg-cutter and locating the solitary slip.

Clarke’s refusal to be cowed by the situation - either side of the lengthy stoppage - was admirable, but his counter-attacking approach inevitably offered opportunities for England.

Having successfully reviewed a decision to give him out caught at slip off Swann - replays showed no sign of inside edge on to pad - Clarke flicked the same bowler into Alastair Cook’s knee at short-leg when he had made 71.

Mike Hussey matched Clarke’s fleetness of foot in making an unbeaten 44, although he too was fortunate to see a drive flash narrowly beyond James Anderson’s outstretched left hand at slip after Collingwood got one to spit out of the rough.

Their partnership had reached frustrating levels for England when Strauss turned to Pietersen in the 78th over.

He found sharp turn and bounce with his eighth delivery. Clarke attempted to turn it off his hip but succeeded only in diverting it on to his thigh pad via inside edge.

A diving Cook at short-leg did the rest, although England needed to review the decision after umpire Tony Hill - possibly misled by Clarke initially appearing to walk - turned down their appeal.

However it came about, the verdict was ultimately the correct one - vindication of the system if any was needed - and left England’s glee matched only by Clarke’s disappointment.

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