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Johnson, Lyon destroy England

After firing England out for 136, Australia reaches 65 without loss in second innings to extend overall advantage to 224

Australia roared back into contention on Day Two of the Brisbane Test, with Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Johnson foremost in a post-lunch session of carnage that destroyed England.

After bowling out England for 136 after tea in the first Test on Friday (November 22), Chris Rogers and David Warner took Australia to a dominant position by stumps, reaching 65 without loss to stretch Australia’s overall advantage to 224. Six English wickets fell for just nine runs in a frantic 10 overs in the tropical afternoon gloom, as fans from both sides failed to believe what they were seeing, and the increasingly jubilant cauldron of the Gabba reverberated with each dismissal.

In the euphoria-soaked aftermath, Australia had somehow emerged with a 159-run lead on the first innings, after looking like its own collapse had batted itself out of the match. Continuing its first innings on Friday morning, Brad Haddin’s commendable 94 steered Australia to an eventual total of 295, but it looked well below par on a good batting wicket.

Haddin was last man out, batting 7.1 overs in the morning session after having gone to stumps unbeaten on 78. As he sprinted off after being run out, no one could have guessed that Australia would be back at the batting crease not long after tea.

It all started promisingly enough for England, its first session a mirror image of Australia’s. One opener was dismissed cheaply – Alastair Cook well set up by Ryan Harris to be caught behind – but the other looked very much in control of his game. Michael Carberry started brightly, striking several boundaries around an organised defence and a disciplined leaving game.

But Jonathan Trott was uncomfortable against Johnson, who after a typically leg-side start, directed his left-arm line at Trott’s ribcage. Trott’s movement to off proved his undoing. Like Shane Watson, England’s No. 3 was out in the over before lunch, shuffling and gloving a short ball down leg.

The milestone of a century might have eluded Haddin, but more substantial ones did not. In his 50th Test, Trott was Haddin’s 200th dismissal, making him the second-fastest to reach the mark after Adam Gilchrist. 

For a time England was steady, with Kevin Pietersen making his way to 18 after Peter Siddle dropped a tough return catch. In his 100th Test, there was the feeling that Pietersen might make Australia pay. But he never looked right, going too hard at the bowling, while Australia put maidens and dot balls together to build the pressure.

Eventually, with the score at 82 for 2, Pietersen whipped a leg-stump half volley toward midwicket, only to see George Bailey lean sideways to pluck a remarkable catch. Six choking overs followed, with Lyon bowling three for two runs, and Johnson finally clicking together pace, line and length to trouble Carberry outside off stump. The pressure told; despite Carberry being well set on 40, an angled ball struck high on the bat and flew to Watson at slip.

Ian Bell was the man to rescue England from its various crises during the last Ashes, but the very next over, Lyon got one to bounce substantially, clipping the batsman’s inside edge before rebounding to Steve Smith at short leg. Prior went the same way very next ball, though it took an Australian review after he turned the ball to Smith off the face, not the edge. Lyon didn’t appeal, but Smith was insistent that his team challenge, and was proved right.

The hat-trick ball produced nothing, but Joe Root was gone the next over, a fast Johnson delivery eliciting a foolish drive and giving Smith at slip a third catch. Two overs later, it was short leg again, with Johnson having Swann taken by Bailey. 82 for 2 had become 91 for 8, and England was shredded.

Stuart Broad provided some resistance, putting on 19 with Chris Tremlett and 26 with Jimmy Anderson to get his team past three figures and the tea break. But it was very slim pickings, and it looked immediately slimmer when Broad holed out for 32, and a cheery Warner arrived at the crease to strike a boundary from Anderson’s first over.

Big collapses often prompt a few wickets from the opposition, spooked by how easily those before them have been dismissed. But Warner was a picture of confidence, collecting runs in controlled style while still launching the odd big shot when the occasion insisted. He cruised to 45 from 55 balls by stumps, with Rogers quietly batting through those 22 overs with him to register 15 from 77.

The upshot leaves Australia 224 runs ahead with all 10 wickets in hand, and an entire third day ahead of it to come out and extend that lead. For all its batting frailties, it has to believe that the ability to produce a match-winning lead is within its powers. 

For now, though, Australia can relish one of its best days of cricket in several years. The prodigal Johnson was half of the key partnership when his side batted, and took four big wickets when they bowled. Harris took three, Lyon two and Siddle one. Deflation on Thursday has turned into elation. As for England, its planning will revolve around how to create something similar.

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