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Australia let England off hook

By Will Swanton 02/01/2003 07:47:42 PM Comments (0)

A late wicket from Brett Lee only partially compensated for a trio of missed chances by Australia as England was let off the hook on day one of the fifth Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Australia's bowling attack missing spearheads Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne needed everything to go right but instead Mark Butcher and Nasser Hussain took advantage of the fielding lapses as England reached 5-264 at stumps.

After an early reprieve and a lucky umpiring decision in the 90s, Butcher went on to score a solid 124, combining with captain Hussain (75) in a crucial 166-run partnership that helped England maintain the momentum from the final days of the fourth Test in Melbourne.

It was England's highest third-wicket stand at the SCG, eclipsing the 129 by Walter Hammond and Maurice Leyland in 1936-37.

Butcher was finally dismissed by Lee late in the day, with England finishing with Alec Stewart on 20 and John Crawley on six.

For an Australian team seeking a 5-0 whitewash in the series there were uncharacteristic errors in the field.

Damien Martyn spilled a tough chance but Stuart MacGill and Adam Gilchrist should have swallowed theirs.

With England - having won the toss - a treacherous 2-33 and Butcher still finding his feet on 13, Andy Bichel found a thick edge that flew to Martyn at gully.

He dived low to his left but the ball eluded his grasp.

At 2-63, with Hussain on six, the skipper gave MacGill a relatively straightforward return catch which the leg spinner snatched at and dropped.

Then at 2-88, with Butcher on 43 and starting to look dangerous, Jason Gillespie enticed a regulation edge that should have resulted in a regulation catch.

But wicketkeeper Gilchrist was slow to get moving, diving to his left and muffing a one-handed attempt from a ball so close to him that it would have flown to the right of Martin Love at first slip.

Having taken a flying one-handed catch to get rid of opener Marcus Trescothick (19) off Andy Bichel, Gilchrist lay on his back for a few moments, staring at the sky, wondering why it had all suddenly gone wrong.

England supporters cheered when he gloved the next ball cleanly.

Butcher was only five runs shy of a century when he attempted to sweep MacGill, getting a bottom edge onto his front pad, with the ball popping in the air for Matthew Hayden to catch at silly point.

Instead of raising his finger, umpire Dave Orchard shook his head and England stayed on 2-198 and the Surrey left-hander went on to score his sixth Test century.

Lee's first two perfect overs indicated he was ready and willing to step into the big shoes of McGrath.

Sharing the new ball with Gillespie, Lee's first 12 deliveries were immaculate: big outswingers, pin-point yorkers, dangerous short balls at speed.

He didn't concede a run in his opening two-over salvo and dismissed England dangerman Michael Vaughan for a duck.

Vaughan flayed at an outswinger and gave an edge to Gilchrist, who made no mistake with that one.

There were suggestions Vaughan didn't hit it, that substantial movement through the air and off the pitch gave the false impression of a deflection.

Lee bowled well all day, reaching a top speed of 155.6km/h with his second last ball before tea.

He bowled Butcher shortly before stumps to finish with 2-66 from 20 overs.

Bichel dislocated the index finger of his left hand in the middle session trying to field a drive from Hussain off his own bowling.

He remained on the field after having it put back in place and strapped by team physiotherapist Errol Alcott.

Bichel took 1-58 from 14 overs.

MacGill took 0-81 from 31, while Gillespie didn't have much luck in his 21 overs (1-48).

His victim was Hussain, caught behind.

The last time Butcher scored a century against Australia was the last time Hussain's team scored an Ashes Test victory, at Headingley in 1999 when he made 173no.

England's promising effort was completed by Alec Stewart hitting the final two balls of the day from Lee to the boundary.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

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