The new ball was immediately taken at the start of play by the Australians, and with just nine runs added to their overnight score England lost their first wicket of the day when Paul Collingwood edged a Glenn McGrath delivery into the waiting gloves of Adam Gilchrist to be out for 27.

 

England captain Andrew Flintoff continued his return to form with the bat as he struck his highest score of the series so far with an impressive 89 before trying to accelerate the scoring as he ran out of batting partners, and getting a thick edge off Stuart Clark to be caught behind.

 

The England tail offered little assistance to their captain, with the bottom five contributing a total of four runs, with two each to Chris Read and Stephen Harmison, and ducks to Sajid Mahmood and Monty Panesar, with Jimmy Anderson left not out on 0.

 

The three-pronged pace attack of New South Welshmen McGrath, Lee and Clark picked up three wickets apiece while the indomitable Shane Warne took the tenth to give him 1,000 international wickets, Tests and One-dayers combined.

 

England bowlers finally fire

 

Australian batsman Michael Hussey will resume
on 37  [AFP]
Australia's reply took on a similar pattern to England's innings with all batsmen getting starts, but none going on with it as the England bowlers showed some long awaited fight to put the home side on the back foot.

 

Big quick Harmison bowled with venom, Anderson showed a return to form, with good support from Panesar and Mahmood, while the captain used himself sparingly raising concerns over a possible injury to the in-form bowler.

 

Justin Langer, playing in his last Test, rocketed to 26 from 27 balls, but was then caught down leg-side by Read off Anderson with the score on 34.

 

Australian captain Ricky Ponting joined Matthew Hayden in a 66 run partnership before the opener was caught out cutting by Collingwood at second slip off Harmison for 33 to make it 100 for 2.

 

Ponting looked to be in fine touch, striking six boundaries in his 45 before needlessly attempting a quick single, only to run himself out by Anderson coming in from mid-on with a direct hit at the bowler's end.

 

Average Aussie batting

 

Averaging 84.35 in 11 Tests at the SCG, Ponting would be livid with himself after being set for his fifth Test fifty and possibly sixth century in Sydney, but a poor call and brilliant fielding by Anderson ended those hopes.

 

Meanwhile, Michael Clarke's meagre Test average at the SCG took another blow when he tried to cut a rising Harmison delivery that was too close to his body, presenting Read with an easy catch to be out for 11.

 

Late in the day Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds survived a rain interrupted last hour and will resume on 37 and 22 respectively as they chase down England’s first innings total.

 

An early start on day three and more favourable weather conditions expected for the rest of the week should set the match and series up for a thrilling finale.