Mitchell Johnson made the most of the second new ball, taking two late wickets in front of a world record crowd Thursday to leave England on a precarious 226-6 at stumps on the opening day of the fourth Ashes test against Australia.
Kevin Pietersen had two big reprieves to bring up a half century and anchor a dour England batting performance before Johnson (2-59) struck shortly before the close of play to remove Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow. He was unbeaten on 67 at the close of play.
Ryan Harris (2-32) claimed the important wicket of Ian Bell (27) earlier in the evening session to add to his dismissal of Joe Root after lunch.“I think it's just our day,” Harris said. “I think we'll take honors, but it's a pretty close day.”
A crowd of 91,092 _ a record for a single day of test cricket —attended the opening day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, surpassing the 90,800 also set at the MCG in 1961.
“Australia were very good and they bowled well in partnerships again as they have all series,'' said Bell, who joined Michael Clarke with more than 1,000 runs for 2013 before he was dismissed. “The runs weren't the easiest, but you have to earn the right to score runs. Hopefully Kev's done a lot of hard work today and he can push on tomorrow.”
After successive top-order collapses this series, England maintained a cautious approach on a MCG wicket that offered as much to the batsmen as the bowlers.
Luck with KP
Pietersen, who has been widely criticized for several cheap dismissals this series, stifled his usual expansive style and was helped by more than a little luck.
The big-hitting South African-born batsman had a reprieve shortly before tea, escaping on six when substitute fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile stepped over the boundary rope as he held a catch at deep backward square off Harris' bowling. The result was six runs for England instead of a wicket for Australia.
“It's one of those things where obviously just misjudged where the rope was,” Harris said. “He took a good catch, he just couldn't make it stick.”
Pietersen got a second life after tea when George Bailey dropped a difficult chance at midwicket, again off Harris' bowling.
Michael Clarke's sent England in to bat for the first time after winning every toss this series. It was only the sixth time he's opted not to bat first