The Ashes 2013/14: England indebted to Kevin Pietersen after gruelling opening day at MCG
Kevin Pietersen made a gritty 67 not out as England ended the opening day of the fourth Ashes Test on 226-6 at the MCG.
Last Updated: 27/12/13 12:29am
A becalmed Pietersen made the most of being dropped twice to reach the close on 67 not out, his highest score of the series to date, after seeing several of his team-mates fail to kick on after making solid starts.
Ian Bell was one of those to get out when well set; the Warwickshire batsman helped add 67 for the fourth wicket before becoming the second of two victims for the excellent Ryan Harris.
Alastair Cook (27), Michael Carberry (38) and Joe Root (24) also gave it away when well set, meaning Australia's decision to stick their opponents in was just about vindicated.
Home captain Michael Clarke had rather reluctantly decided to put his bowlers to work in the morning, a choice he admitted at the toss wasn't easy to make having batted first in convincing wins in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
England - without the now retired Graeme Swann and the axed Matt Prior as they sought to win back some pride now the Ashes are out of their grasp - were perhaps grateful the option of what to do was taken out of their hands.
Skipper Cook (27) helped put on 48 for the first wicket before falling in rather disappointing fashion, prodding indeterminately at a wide delivery from Peter Siddle to provide his opposite number with a simple catch at second slip.
Opening partner Carberry could have gone too in the first session, Steve Smith unable to cling on to a tough chance diving to his right at third slip. He was also extremely fortunate to survive an lbw appeal when he padded up to a delivery from the excellent Ryan Harris.
However the left-handed batsman did not learn his lesson, shouldering arms to Shane Watson in the afternoon and seeing his off stump pegged back. Once again he had fallen when seemingly well set.
Root found life a lot tougher in his 88-ball knock; he suffered a nasty blow to the shoulder early on and played-and-missed at a number of deliveries, suggesting it was only a matter of time until he was caught behind the wicket.
Sure enough, the Yorkshireman pushed forward outside off stump to edge Harris through to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, leaving the score then at 106-3.
Pietersen enjoyed his first reprieve not long after when on six, substitute Nathan Coulter-Nile catching a pull shot at long leg only to then step back over the boundary rope. George Bailey also put him down when he had 41 to his name, though his opportunity was a much tougher one at mid-wicket.
Bell was not so fortunate when he nibbled outside off stump to Harris, providing a simple catch to Haddin just as the second new ball was looming large and the scoring rate was almost at a standstill.
Ben Stokes (14) and Jonny Bairstow (10) both perished before stumps, the latter cleaned up on his return to Test cricket having been named as one of two changes to the XI that lost at the WACA, the other being the recall of Monty Panesar to win his 50th Test cap.
Tim Bresnan, who finished up one not out, kept Pietersen company through to the close, meaning England survived the late onslaught but once again found themselves reeling on the ropes.