England are heading for a humiliating defeat in the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley after crumbling to 82 for five wickets in their second innings by the close of the second day.
Marcus North made his second century of the Ashes series and shared a 152-run stand with vice-captain Michael Clarke as Australia took a first innings lead of 343 and then turned the screw in the final session. England openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook were comfortable enough in taking them to 58 without loss until Ben Hilfenhaus started the rout with two wickets in two balls. He trapped Strauss leg before wicket for 22 and then repeated the dose as Ravi Bopara went first ball, TV replays showing him to have been unfortunate with a clear nick on to his pad. England were in disarray and Ian Bell was caught behind for three as Mitchell Johnson gained his first reward of an impeccable spell of left-arm swing bowling. Paul Collingwood was trapped leg before to a vicious inswinging yorker and Cook went shortly before the close as he edged to Brad Haddin behind the wicket for 30. Matt Prior was dropped by Marcus North to the last ball of the day bowled by Johnson, who had taken three wickets for 21, but the end will surely not be long coming on the third day. Victory will see Australia level the series at 1-1 and with the momentum going into the final Test at The Oval. As holders of the Ashes, Australia would need only a draw to retain the coveted urn, but on the evidence of the first two days at Headingley will be strong favorites to force a series-winning victory. England made a disastrous 102 all out in their first innings and were looking to wrap up Australia’s innings quickly on Saturday as the tourists resumed on 196 for four wickets. But Michael Clarke, who was dismissed seven short of his century by Graham Onions just before lunch, and the in-form North combined as they had done in the drawn Test at Edgbaston to frustrate England.
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England had to wait until the second new ball four overs after lunch before they finally began to make inroads, with Steve Harmison removing wicketkeeper Haddin. Stuart Broad then worked his way through the tail, but a late blast from Stuart Clark, who hammered three sixes and a four, really rubbed it in. North also upped his scoring rate, reaching his century with a six off Graeme Swann and finally becoming the last man to go as he holed out in the deep to Broad who finished with his Test best figures of six for 91. It left England captain Strauss and opening partner Cook with the daunting task of batting out to the end of the second day, but after a solid opening their collapse closely mirrored the first innings.
With key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff ruled out due to his ongoing knee problems before the start of the match, England have been on the backfoot from the start of the match. England hope to have talisman Flintoff, who bowled them to victory at Lord’s, back for the likely decider which will be his final Test match after announcing his retirement from five-day cricket before the series began.