SYDNEY, Dec 27 (IANS): An unbeaten century by Jonathan Trott Monday put England a commanding 346 runs ahead of Australia on the second day of the fourth Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
The tourists recovered from a shaky start to post 5 for 444 at stumps and put a miracle recovery by the home team further out of reach.
The Australians, all out for just 98 on the first day, were buoyed when English openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss added just 7 runs to their overnight total before being dismissed by in-form bowler Peter Siddle (3 for 58) in the space of four overs.
Siddle played a part in all the dismissals, removing Kevin Pietersen leg-before-wicket for 51 and taking outfield catches off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson to send Paul Collingwood (8) and Ian Bell (1) back to the dressing room.
In an ugly scene likely to earn him a reprimand from the match umpire, beleaguered Australian captain Ricky Ponting had words with field umpire Aleem Dar over an unsuccessful referral.
The heroics were from Trott, whose 141 at stumps, alongside Matthew Prior on 75, steadied the middle order.
Trott's partnerships, with Pietersen and then Prior, left Australia with the prospect of losing the Melbourne Test to put England 2-1 up in the series.
The Brisbane match was drawn and England lost to Ponting's side in Perth.
The final Test, in Sydney, could only give Australia a consolation victory because England only needed to draw the five-match series to retain the Ashes trophy.
England are brimming with confidence. The last time a team won a Test match after scoring less than 100 in its first innings was back in 1907.
"We have no excuses," Australian vice captain Michael Clarke said of his team's lowest first-inning score against England in 133 years.
"The positive is that we will get another bat and another opportunity in the second innings."
Clarke is favourite to supplant 36-year-old Ponting, who has scored just 93 runs in this Ashes series, averaging a tad over 15 runs.
"When he bats, the ball just seems to get to him quicker now; that happens when you are 36," cricket commentator Robert Craddock said of Ponting, who seems destined to lose three of the four Ashes series in which he has captained Australia.