Trott to the fore for dominant England
Jonathan Trott’s fifth Test century helped England re-assert their dominance on day two of the fourth Ashes Test at the MCG after Peter Siddle had inspired an Australia fightback on his home ground.
Siddle struck twice in an impressive opening spell this morning, removing Alastair Cook for 81 and Andrew Strauss for 69, and he returned after lunch to dismiss Kevin Pietersen for 51.
The tourists also saw Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell fall cheaply to Mitchell Johnson - Siddle taking the catch on each occasion - yet they soon returned to a position of total supremacy as Trott and Matt Prior shared an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 158.
Trott finished the day unbeaten on 141, having barely offered a chance to the bowlers during a hugely assured 279-ball stay at the crease, while Prior, who was caught behind off a Johnson no-ball on five, reached stumps on 75.
After dismissing their hosts for a paltry 98 yesterday, England now appear almost certain to secure the victory that would see them retain the Ashes with a match to spare, although team director Andy Flower will be keen to guard against complacency given the topsy-turvy nature of the series.
An engrossing day was marred by an unpleasant exchange that saw Ricky Ponting engage in a furious row with the umpires after a review had correctly gone in Pietersen’s favour.
The Australia captain's unneccessary outburst betrayed his frustration at the match situation, although his side had threatened to come back into the contest this morning.
Siddle was easily the pick of the home bowlers on day one and the Victorian wasted little time in making two important breakthroughs today.
A length delivery seamed away from Cook, who had resumed on 80, as he looked to play defensively and the resulting edge just about carried to Shane Watson at first slip.
Strauss, who began the day on 64, was then surprised by some extra bounce as he looked to turn the ball into the leg side and a leading edge was taken one-handed by a leaping Mike Hussey at backward point.
Pietersen survived an early scare at the hands of the impressive Siddle as an outside edge fell short of second slip.
But England’s number four settled into his stride thereafter and punished the same bowler with back-to-back boundaries down the ground and through midwicket.
A lull in proceedings followed as the batsmen sensibly eschewed risk in favour of steady accumulation.
However, Pietersen was stirred into life shortly before lunch by the introduction of Steven Smith.
The young leg-spinner’s fourth delivery disappeared to the boundary as Pietersen marched down the wicket before driving through wide long-on.
That particular stroke was not entirely convincing, but there was little encouragement for the bowler two balls later as he was lofted over mid-off in disdainful fashion.
The new ball almost brought immediate reward for Australia after the interval as Trott drove loosely at a length ball from Ryan Harris and saw an inside edge fly past the stumps for four.
Trott was also beaten by a superb rising delivery in Harris’ next over, before Pietersen picked up four more with another sumptuous straight drive.
Unsavoury scenes followed as Australia failed in an attempt to overturn a caught behind decision that went in Pietersen’s favour.
Replays showed that the batsman had not hit the ball, but Ponting reacted angrily to the verdict and both he and Siddle spent several minutes arguing with Aleem Dar - and his colleague Tony Hill.
Pietersen subsequently moved to 50 - from 85 balls - but added just one more before being trapped lbw by a Siddle delivery that nipped back off the seam.
Trott was almost run out soon after as he took on a risky third run, but the Warwickshire batsman soon recovered his composure and brought up his half-century.
England did lose a fourth wicket when Collingwood, on eight, pulled a Johnson long-hop straight to Siddle at fine-leg.
Bell made just one before falling in similar fashion, Siddle running in from the fence on this occasion to take a top-edge.
Johnson thought he had picked up a third scalp before tea when Prior feathered a regulation edge through to fellow wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, but the batsman was given a reprieve as umpire Dar called for a replay, which showed the seamer had overstepped.
Prior benefited from more good fortune in the evening session as two top-edged hooks landed safely, while Trott required treatment from the physio after playing a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery onto his own knee.
Bell was put on standby to act as a runner, but Trott appeared to have few problems as he eased Harris down the ground for his fifth boundary.
A flashing cut from an increasingly positive Prior brought up the fifty partnership and Trott soon reached his hundred with a trademark clip through midwicket off Harris.
Runs flowed freely for the remainder of the day, with Prior making the most of his early let-off to become the fifth England batsman to post a half-century.
Australia appeared to have run out of ideas by the close and England will look to pile on the agony when play resumes tomorrow.