England stand their ground to close in on Ashes victory
Jonathan Trott has posted his third century in five Ashes Tests to propel England closer to a historic series victory in the fourth Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The South African-born right-hander helped swell the lead to 346 runs after the tourists batted out the entire second day to take full advantage of Australia's record lowest total of 98 in 133 years of Ashes Tests at the famous ground.
Trott, who hit 119 on his debut in last year's fifth Ashes Test at The Oval, has proved to be a thorn for Australia in this series with an unbeaten 135 in the first Brisbane Test. Today's hundred came despite a painful blow to the knee.
At the close, England were 444 for five with Trott defiant on 141 and Matt Prior on 75 in a ground record unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 158 to kill off the Australians' hopes of salvaging the Test.
"It's an important Test match and it's one that I will definitely savour," Trott said. "The Boxing Day Test has all the hype around it and the crowd and the support of the English fans put it right up there.
"I work hard on my game and it's good to be able to contribute to put the team in a good position."
The pair eclipsed the previous English record wicket partnership at the MCG of 140 between "Patsy" Hendren and Maurice Leyland in 1928-29.
Andrew Strauss's team need to win only one of the remaining two Tests to retain the Ashes and capture their first series Down Under in 23 years.
Trott, who has now amassed 418 runs for the series at 104.5, had some luck along the way and needed a referral to avoid a tight run-out decision on 46, just beating home Ricky Ponting's throw from the deep.
The number three recharged the England innings after fast bowler Peter Siddle had revived Australian hopes with three wickets and two catches.
The big-hearted paceman single-handedly had kept the Australians in the contest with the wickets of Alastair Cook, Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, before taking two great catches at fine leg off Mitchell Johnson's bouncers.
Siddle had Cook caught at first slip by Shane Watson for 82 to end an English opening stand of 159, then had Strauss brilliantly caught one-handed by a leaping Michael Hussey in the gully for 69.
"It was a tough day, starting so far behind it was always going to be tough work," Siddle said.
"We knuckled in today and we only got five wickets but we contained them for most of the day and let them get away a little bit towards the end.
"The boys are still upbeat, there is still a lot of Test match cricket to be played here."
Danger batsman Pietersen was trapped lbw to Siddle for 51 after raising his 21st Test half-century.
Pietersen was given out and conferred with batting partner Trott about whether to seek an umpire's review, but walked from the wicket after a few words.
Pietersen was the subject of an Australian referral for caught behind off Ryan Harris on 49 after wicketkeeper Brad Haddin persuaded skipper Ponting to seek a review.
But "hot spot" replays showed no edge and Pietersen stayed, much to the annoyance of Ponting, who argued heatedly with both umpires and had sharp words with Pietersen about the decision, believing he had made contact with the ball.
Paul Collingwood's woes continued when he fell for eight off a poor hook shot straight to Siddle in Johnson's first over of a new spell.
Collingwood has scored just 70 in five innings in the series, putting pressure on his place for next week's final Sydney Test.
Siddle was on the spot again to snap up a low diving catch at fine leg to dismiss Ian Bell for one off Johnson.
Prior also had a major slice of luck when he was called back by umpire Aleem Dar when he walked after being caught in the slips when on five.
Dar consulted with the third umpire and it was proved that Johnson had over-stepped for a no-ball, giving the England wicketkeeper a reprieve.
Published: December 27, 2010 04:00 AM