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England pushed to the brink

Adelaide, Nov. 23 (AFP): England face a desperate battle to avoid going two down in the Ashes series after Australia gave them a roasting at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday.

The Australians, who won the opening Brisbane Test by 384 runs inside four days, looked poised for another massive win here after declaring with a massive first innings lead of 210 runs on Saturday, the third day.

Australia called a halt to their run spree at 552 for nine and then had the tourists on the run in the 12 remaining overs.

At stumps, England were on the ropes at 36 for three with captain Nasser Hussain bowled by Andy Bichel four balls from the end of the dayís play. First innings centurion Michael Vaughan was 17 not out.

Australia batted themselves into an impregnable position on a baking day with Ponting scoring 154, his fifth century in his last seven Tests. He shared a record third-wicket stand of 242 runs with Damien Martyn (95) to establish the platform for some lusty hitting by Adam Gilchrist and Andy Bichel.

Bichel crashed 48 off 56 balls and Gilchrist smacked 54 off 67 deliveries with four fours and two sixes. Their eighth-wicket partnership yielded 77 runs in 61 minutes.

Gilchrist was throwing his bat at everything when he was caught behind signalling an innings closure by Steve Waugh in order to have a crack at the weary Englishman.

There was instant reward for Australia with Jason Gillespie trapping Marcus Trescothick leg before for a duck and Mark Butcher (4) lasted four balls before he fell in similar fashion to Glenn McGrath in the third over leaving England at 17 for two.

Just when England looked like they could negotiate to stumps without further loss Bichel came on for his first over and with his second ball clean bowled Hussain.

Englandís calamities were in sharp contrast to Australiaís turn at the crease with Ponting and Martyn steadily accumulating runs up until the 36th over of the day when Martyn fell five runs short of his sixth Test hundred.

His stand with Ponting eclipsed the previous highest by an Australian pair in Adelaide ó 189 by Arthur Morris and Lindsay Hassett against England in 1946-47.

When Martyn departed at 356 for three, Australia were 14 runs ahead but the objective was to grind England out of the Test and the runs kept ticking over against an under-manned English bowling attack.

Pace spearhead Andy Caddick left the field with back problems and didnít return for the afternoon session leaving Hussain with just four bowlers to rotate in the stifling heat. England had some moments, grabbing three wickets for 67 in the hour before tea.

Pontingís unusually-restrained innings came to an end when he top-edged a pull shot off Craig White to be caught by Richard Dawson. He batted for 349 minutes, faced 269 balls with nine fours for his 14th Test century.

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