Warne to the fore
Shane Warne claimed a four-wicket haul to undermine England’s spirited resistance as Australia moved closer to victory in the opening Ashes Test.
The legendary leg-spinner finished wicketless as Australia’s seamers dismissed the tourists for a lowly 157 in the first innings, but made a more telling contribution as England battled for survival on the fourth day in Brisbane.
Warne took 4-108 as England finished the day on 293 for five, still trailing by 354, with Kevin Pietersen unbeaten on 92 while Paul Collingwood fell just four runs short of a maiden Ashes century.
The Durham all-rounder, promoted to number four in the order for this series following Marcus Trescothick’s return home, delivered a defiant innings to thwart Australia in their bid to seal a four-day win.
Collingwood battled for three and a half hours, hitting two sixes and 13 fours, and shared a 153-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Pietersen before becoming Warne’s third victim.
That tally soon became four, Warne profiting from a mistimed pull from Andrew Flintoff as Australia ended the day on a high.
Collingwood and Pietersen were largely responsible for England’s brave fightback.
They were in a perilous position at the start of play when Australia resumed their innings 626 ahead on 181 for one.
Captain Ricky Ponting chose to continue for 25 minutes, sufficient time to allow Justin Langer to claim his 23rd Test century before the declaration came at 202 for one.
And, after a steady start by England, with openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook forging a 29-run opening stand, England’s position was undermined by the loss of two wickets before lunch.
Led by Adam Gilchrist as Ponting was off the field receiving treatment for a back strain, Australia made the breakthrough in the 11th over of the reply when Strauss hooked Stuart Clark to substitute fielder Ryan Broad, 20 yards in from the fence at fine leg.
Three overs later Warne made his first real impression on the Test by winning an lbw decision against Ian Bell, who scored a defiant first-innings half-century but was late on a delivery which straightened slightly and hurried through.
Warne increased the pressure on the tourists 11 overs after the interval when Cook, pushing forward, was caught at short leg via bat and pad just seven runs short of a half-century.
Collingwood showed similar application to Cook, batting with commendable spirit and a healthy dose of common sense to help keep Australia at bay until tea.
He and Pietersen emerged from the interval emboldened, each unfurling a dazzling array of shots as Australia - hampered by Glenn McGrath’s troublesome heel and the absence of Ponting - struggled to stem the flow of runs.
But Collingwood’s demise - stumped as he went in search of the boundary that would have taken him to three figures - and that of Flintoff, who slapped a long hop to Langer at deep mid-on, served as mortal blows to England's hopes.