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August 8, 2009

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Aussies seize control of test

AUSTRALIA seized control of the fourth Ashes test when the visitors raced to 69 for one at tea in reply to England's 102, its lowest total at Headingley, Leeds, in 100 years.

Seamers Peter Siddle and Stuart Clark sliced through the England batting order before Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting went on the attack in an unbroken partnership of 55 which gave the tourists the perfect start in their bid to level the series.

England captain Andrew Strauss won the toss and watched as his top order collapsed in perfect conditions for swing bowling. Strauss survived a huge shout for LBW to the first ball of the match from Ben Hilfenhaus but, on three, he edged Siddle to third slip where Marcus North took a brilliant one-handed catch.

Ravi Bopara made one before he tamely prodded Hilfenhaus to Michael Hussey at gully and Ian Bell, on eight, failed to avoid a short ball from Mitchell Johnson and gave wicketkeeper Brad Haddin a simple catch. The situation called for one of Paul Collingwood's trademark gritty knocks but he edged a vintage Clark outswinger straight to Ponting at second slip for a duck.

Alastair Cook battled to 30 but his resistance ended just before lunch when he edged Clark to Michael Clarke at first slip and Stuart Broad was caught at short mid-wicket by Simon Katich off Clark for three to leave England, 1-0 up in the five-match series and seeking to reclaim the Ashes, reeling at 72 for six.

The procession continued in the afternoon as Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison, James Anderson and Graham Onions fell in quick succession to Siddle, who finished with test-best figures of five for 21 - including a spell of 4-3 in 14 balls after lunch. Clark took three for 18 from 10 overs in his first test in nine months after having undergone elbow surgery.

Watson smashed the first two balls of Australia's innings for four but the touring side lost Katich for nought when he fended a rising Harmison delivery to Bopara at leg gully.

Ponting batted aggressively from the start, pulling Onions's first ball for six and taking 17 off his opening over. The Australian captain could have been run out for 32 but he survived and he and Watson completed the first 50 partnership of the match off only 69 deliveries.

Ponting was unbeaten on 39 at tea with Watson on 24.

Earlier, England's preparations were hit by a series of mishaps when the players were evacuated early in the morning from their hotel due to a fire alarm. Also, allrounder Andrew Flintoff was ruled out of the match and replaced by Harmison.


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