MELBOURNE, December 27 – Jonathan Trott posted his third century in five Ashes Tests to propel England closer to a series victory in the fourth Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday.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 and Monday’s hundred despite taking 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.
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 quirky number three recharged the England innings after fast bowler Peter Siddle had revived Australian hopes alive 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 bowling.
Siddle had Cook caught at first slip by Shane Watson for 82 to end an English opening stand of 159 and then had Strauss brilliantly caught one-handed by a leaping Michael Hussey in the gully for 69.
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 series 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 some good fortune 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.