Australia on brink of victory in second test

IAN RANSOM
Last updated 21:11 08/12/2013

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A disciplined Australia ended a rare display of defiance by England's middle order batsmen to push to the brink of victory in the second Ashes test in Adelaide at the close of day four on Sunday.

Staring down the barrel of a second straight defeat, Joe Root struck a defiant half-century to raise a glimmer of hope for the tourists, but his dismissal for 87 snuffed it out quickly and England were 247-6 at the close, needing a further 284 runs to win or to bat through Monday to save the test.

Following Root's dismissal, test debutant Ben Stokes followed for 28, leaving wicketkeeper Matt Prior (31 not out) and Stuart Broad (22 not out) with the task of an improbable rescue mission on a fifth day wicket.

Forced to anchor a middle order that has proved hopelessly brittle so far in the series, the cherubic-faced Root resumed after tea on 66 but lasted scarcely more than half an hour before spinner Nathan Lyon had him caught by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Extracting some sharp turn from the pitch, Lyon coaxed an edge that deflected off Root's pad and popped up for Haddin to dive in next to the stumps and clinch his 200th catch in tests.

The 22-year-old Yorkshireman was given a warm ovation as he trudged off after a stubborn four-and-a-half hour knock which may settle the debate about the number three spot in Jonathan Trott's absence.

Stokes and Prior dug in for more than an hour after Root's dismissal but the new ball proved too hot for the New Zealand-born all-rounder.

Paceman Mitchell Johnson exchanged some fiery words with him, prompting umpire Kumar Dharmasena to step in, and he was out the next over, nicking a catch off seamer Ryan Harris straight to Australia captain Michael Clarke at second slip.

FINE CATCH

Australia set England a victory target of 531 after declaring before the start of play and the tourists chase started disastrously, with openers Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry losing their wickets cheaply to rash shots before the first drinks break.

Johnson, who tore through England's first innings with a spell of 7-40, struck with his third ball of the day to remove England captain Cook for one run.

Having beaten Cook for pace in the first innings with a searing delivery that crashed into his stumps, Johnson flung in a short ball that the England skipper hooked poorly, the top edge flying high and allowing Harris to lumber in from long leg for a fine catch taken low and to his right.

Carberry, who scored a fighting 60 in the first innings, followed soon after when he pulled Siddle to the same position where Lyon took another excellent catch to dismiss the opener for 14.

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Australia paceman Peter Siddle then captured the breakthrough wicket of Kevin Pietersen (53) to end a stubborn 111-run partnership with Root.

Part-time spinner Steven Smith struck soon after to remove Ian Bell for six when he threw up a full toss to leave the tourists on 143-4 at tea.

Bell, who was a rock in England's insipid first innings of 172, drove it to mid-on where Johnson took a sharp, low catch.

- Reuters

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