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Fourth-wicket stand to England's rescue

A CENTURY stand by Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood helped England fight back from losing three early wickets as it reached 194 for three at tea on day one of the first Ashes test against Australia in Cardiff, Wales, yesterday.

England got through the afternoon session without losing a wicket as batting conditions became easier than in the morning, when the pitch was quicker and bouncier. Pietersen was 52 not out and Collingwood was on 50.

The duo batted patiently after the loss of Alastair Cook for 10, Andrew Strauss (30) and Ravi Bopara (35) before lunch when England had slumped to 90 for three. Collingwood required 125 balls to reach his half-century.

This was evident in the way Collingwood's cut for four against off-spinner Nathan Hauritz was the team's first boundary for 20 overs, as they had instead ran regular ones and twos. Their stand was worth 104 at the interval.

Pietersen appeared to temper his natural aggressive play and his off-drive for four 20 minutes before tea was his first boundary for 24 overs. He reached his half-century from 95 balls.

Earlier, Ben Hilfenhaus struck the first blow when a short delivery wide of off-stump was steered by Cook towards the gully, where Mike Hussey hung on to a catch after diving to his right. The score was then 21 for one.

Next over, Bopara was given an aggressive introduction to Ashes play when struck on the grille of his helmet with his second ball, from a Peter Siddle bouncer. He was hit again on the shoulder later in his innings.

Australia's short-pitched tactics paid off when a Mitchell Johnson bouncer to captain Strauss was gloved to first slip. Bopara was then defeated by a Johnson slower ball that he mishit to point.

Australia is seeking to retain the Ashes after thrashing England 5-0 in the 2006-07 series, following England's 2-1 win in 2005.

Earlier, Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins preceded the first Ashes test staged outside England and Australia with the Welsh anthem "Land of my Fathers".

The Cardiff stadium is the world's 100th test venue, the ninth in Britain and the first in Wales.


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