SYDNEY - Australia were closing in on a 5-0 Ashes sweep after demolishing England's batting and pushing their lead to 311 runs after just two days of the final Sydney Ashes Test on Saturday. The relentless Australians blasted out the hapless tourists for 155 -- the fifth time England had been dismissed for less than 200 in the series -- and set their sights on batting them out of the game with three days to play.
At second day stumps Australia were 140 for four with Chris Rogers compiling his fourth half-century in five innings on 73 and George Bailey not out 20. The home side in the process lost the wickets of David Warner (16), Shane Watson (9), skipper Michael Clarke (6) and Steve Smith (7) as England tried to restrict Australia's mushrooming lead on a flattening Sydney Cricket Ground pitch.
"Day two, 300 plus lead's a pretty good position to be in," Australia paceman Ryan Harris said. "It's obviously not a done thing yet, we've got to make sure we bat well in the morning and get some more (runs) and bowl like we did today to bowl them out again. We figure they are going to fire at some stage, we hope they don’t but they're going to have to. I don't think the wicket's getting any easier. If we bowl like we did today, I think we'll go alright."
Australia's pace trio of Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle earlier took three wickets apiece as England narrowly avoided the follow-on in response to Australia's first innings score of 326. The tourists never recovered from a disastrous morning session when they crashed to 23 for five despite the efforts of young guns Ben Stokes, Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow to repel the hostile home attack.
"It was pretty disappointing today, but 326 is way over par on this pitch in my opinion," England batting coach Graham Gooch said. "So once that score's on the board it's always going to be difficult and once we lost those early wickets (it's) going to be tough from this position." Stokes eked out a dogged 47 off 101 balls after his six-wicket haul in the Australian first innings.But he showed an error of judgement that cost his wicket when he offered no shot and was bowled off-stump by Siddle just three short of his half-century.
It was Siddle's second wicket of his 12th over after having wicketkeeper Bairstow caught by Bailey, purposefully positioned at short mid-on, for 18, ending a 49-run stand with Stokes.
Debutant Ballance earlier went in the second over after lunch for 18, caught behind off spinner Nathan Lyon. Ballance showed plenty of fight coming to wicket with his team in dire trouble at 17-4. He took a Mitchell Johnson bouncer flush on the helmet and needed replacement headgear. Stuart Broad finished with an unbeaten 30 off 22 balls. England suffered yet another demoralising top-order collapse in the morning session against the dominant Australians.
At one stage the beleaguered tourists looked in danger of falling short of their record low score of 45 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, set in 1887, but Zimbabwe-born Ballance and Stokes helped stop the rot to leave England 61-5 at lunch. Alastair Cook (7) was out to the second ball of the day when the skipper was trapped leg before wicket by Harris without offering a shot.
Ian Bell was dropped by Watson off the next ball but nightwatchman Anderson, who needed treatment after taking a jarring blow on his right bowling hand fending off a rearing Johnson delivery, did not last long. He edged Johnson to Clarke at second slip for seven, leaving the tourists 14-3 in the 10th over. Johnson now has 34 wickets for the series as he bids to become only the fourth Australian bowler to take 40 wickets or more in an Ashes series along with Terry Alderman (twice), Rodney Hogg and Shane Warne.
The Australians, looking to claim only the third 5-0 series whitewash in Ashes history, followed up with the wicket of Kevin Pietersen (3), snapped up in the slips by Watson off Harris, to leave the tourists 17-4. Bell was then out for two, caught behind by Brad Haddin off Siddle to make it 23-5.
AUSTRALIA 1ST INNINGS: 326
ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:
Alastair Cook lbw b Harris 7
Michael Carberry c Lyon b Johnson 0
James Anderson c Clarke b Johnson 7
Ian Bell c Haddin b Siddle 2
Kevin Pietersen c Watson b Harris 3
Gary Ballance c Haddin b Lyon 18
Ben Stokes b Siddle 47
Jonny Bairstow c Bailey b Siddle 18
Scott Borthwick c Smith b Harris 1
Stuart Broad not out 30
Boyd Rankin b Johnson 13
EXTRAS: (lb1, w5, nb3) 9
TOTAL: (all out; 58.5 overs) 155
FOW: 1-6, 2-8, 3-14, 4-17, 5-23, 6-62, 7-111, 8-112, 9-125, 10-155
BOWLING: Harris 14-5-36-3, Johnson 13.5-3-33-3, Siddle 13-4-23-3, Watson 3-1-5-0, Lyon 15-3-57-1
AUSTRALIA 2ND INNINGS:
Chris Rogers not out 73
David Warner lbw b Anderson 16
Shane Watson c Bairstow b Anderson 9
Michael Clarke c Bairstow b Broad 6
Steve Smith c Cook b Stokes 7
George Bailey not out 20
EXTRAS: (lb9) 9
TOTAL: (4 wkts; 30 overs) 140
FOW: 1-27, 2-47, 3-72, 4-91
BOWLING: Anderson 10-4-36-2, Broad 7-1-26-1, Rankin 6-0-25-0, Stokes 5-0-36-1, Borthwick 2-0-8-0
UMPIRES: Aleem Dar (PAK), Marais Erasmus (RSA)
TV UMPIRE: Tony Hill (NZL)
MATCH REFEREE: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)