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Australia seize initiative

Adelaide: Australia seized control of the second Ashes Test on Friday when England’s batting crumbled for the second time in the series and their fielders once again failed to take their chances.

England began the day in a strong position at 295 for four but ended it in trouble with Australia just 95 runs behind with eight first innings wickets in hand. When stumps were drawn, Australia were cruising at 247 for two with Ricky Ponting not out on 83, Damien Martyn unbeaten on 48 and another big total on the horizon.

England had collapsed to 342 all out before lunch with fast bowler Jason Gillespie and leg spinner Shane Warne capturing four wickets each. Michael Vaughan’s heroic 177 from the first day counted for little as the last seven wickets fell for just 47 runs, mirroring the team’s collapse in the Brisbane Test. Typically, the Australians were quick to make them pay for their missed opportunity.

Flying start

Openers Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer gave Australia a flying start with a century partnership in 18.1 overs before Ponting and Martyn took over. England again let themselves down with their poor fielding, dropping Hayden and Martyn twice each.

Hayden was dropped twice in the space of five balls, first by Mark Butcher then by Andy Caddick, while England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart missed two relatively simple chances off Martyn, the first when he was on 18, off spinner Richard Dawson, the second on 37, off paceman Steve Harmison.

Hayden helped give Australia the start they needed, only to throw his wicket away on 46 when he skied a ball from all-rounder Craig White and Caddick safely held the catch in the outfield.

Langer followed soon after for 48 with the total on 106 when he was adjudged out caught by Stewart off Dawson, although television replays suggested he was unlucky. Any hope England might have had of bowling the Australians out cheaply on an Adelaide Oval pitch still perfectly suited to batting, ended quickly as Ponting and Martyn continued the run-spree with an unbroken 133-run stand.

Ponting reached his half-century off 94 balls when he drove Dawson through the covers for four and finished the day 17 runs shy of a fifth hundred from his last seven Tests. Martyn was less convincing and lucky to survive after Stewart’s missed chances but still managed to hit four boundaries and reach the close two runs from a second successive half-century.

Australia had dropped five catches to allow the English to steal the honours on the opening day but they were quick to regain the initiative on Friday morning with Gillespie and Warne mopping up the middle and lower order in less than two hours.

Familiar collapse

Gillespie triggered the all-too-familiar collapse when he removed Butcher in the third over of the day. The Surrey left-hander, who failed to add to his overnight score of 22, edged a catch to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist and the rest followed.

Gillespie, who took four for 10 on the second day, captured his second wicket when White hooked a catch to Andy Bichel at fine leg for one as England’s batsmen began to show signs of panic.

Dawson was trapped leg before by Warne for six, then Caddick departed for a duck when Warne bowled him round his legs. This allowed the Australian to overtake Harbhajan Singh as the world’s leading wicket-taker for 2002. Warne now has 61 wickets to Harbhajan’s 58.

Stewart made a patient 29 in 109 minutes before his resistance came to an end when Gillespie had him leg before. Four balls later, Gillespie had Matthew Hoggard caught behind for six.

England suffered a scare before the start of play when Vaughan was taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays on his injured right shoulder. He was eventually cleared of any serious problems but did not field at all during the day. (Reuters)

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