Strauss, Cook hit tons, reignite contest

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Centuries from Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook have helped England take a 88-run lead over Australia after Day 4 of the 1st Test in Brisbane.

Updated: November 28, 2010 08:01 IST
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If Australia needed any convincing about England's resilience they were given a day-long example as Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook hit magnificent centuries to give the visitors a golden chance to save the opening Test in Brisbane.

The openers added 188 and when Strauss departed for 110, the challenge was taken up by Jonathan Trott, who helped Cook put on a further 121 for the second wicket. Cook ended unbeaten on 132 and England held a lead of 88 when bad light closed in.

While few expected England to fold in a heap - they rarely do these days - even fewer would have expected a stumps score of 1 for 309.

However, inspired by their captain the tourists set about showing they'd learnt the lessons from their poor first innings and gave Australia a day of toil in the field to match what England had suffered on Saturday.

There is still time for the home side to force something on the final day, but nothing in their bowling in this innings has suggested they have the firepower to succeed.

Strauss's 19th Test hundred, and fourth against Australia, arrived from 184 balls when he late cut Xavier Doherty and his aggression against spin was a key part of the innings.

He knew England couldn't block their way to safety, and often used his feet to advance and loft down the ground. Strauss's century celebration was unusually emotional; it hadn't been the easiest start to the series after his first-morning failure and this was another example of England's spirit.

The stage was set for him to make it a massive hundred, following Hussey's lead, but he was beaten in flight by Marcus North and couldn't regain his ground, stumped by Brad Haddin.

Cook reached his landmark with a rasping cut shortly after tea and this match has been an emphatic response from somebody who still had his fair share of doubters coming in to the tour.

Shortly afterwards he gave a tough chance to Peter Siddle at fine leg off a top-edged pull, but Siddle couldn't quite hold on as he dived forward.

Trott was also given a reprieve, on 34, when Michael Clarke's valiant attempt at point failed as the ball slipped out of his finger tips and this time Siddle was the bowler to suffer.

England's opening pair ticked off a few records along their way, including the visitors' highest stand at the Gabba and the best opening effort by any touring team in Brisbane.

They also became England's most prolific first-wicket duo in Test cricket, although the record was diluted somewhat as they have played more than twice as many innings as the Jack Hobbs-Herbert Sutcliffe pairing they overtook.

But that was a minor point in the bigger picture of England trying to claw their way back into the match, which they did with an impressively aggressive approach. The time-runs equation could be vital in the end.

Having survived a first-ball review yesterday evening, Strauss gave a commanding display, punctuated with his favourite cuts and drives.

However, he was given a significant let-off on 69 when Mitchell Johnson, in the midst of a torrid match, spilled a relatively simple chance at mid-off when Strauss tried to loft Doherty down the ground.

There was another moment of alarm when he misjudged a pull on 88 which looped over point then an edge flew between the slips to take him to 96, but Strauss will feel England were owed a little luck.

The clearest sign that Strauss's game was in top order came from his shots through cover, which were a hallmark of his dashing start to Test cricket back in 2004.

He latched on to Ben Hilfenhaus and Shane Watson when they over-pitched, while waiting on the back foot for anything short.

Though the ball was only 15 overs old when play resumed there was very little assistance for the quick bowlers and Johnson, who was the fourth option used by Ricky Ponting, resorted to trying a bouncer-attack at Strauss, but a slow pitch nullified the threat.

Cook showed the same application as he had in the first innings after an early alarm when he sliced a cut between third slip and gully.

Most of his other 10 boundaries came out of the middle and he even showed the cover drive, which is rarely seen from him these days. Initially, Cook outscored his captain but normal service was resumed as he dug in but he never became flustered and ticked the scoreboard over.

He hacked Doherty through midwicket then cut him for three to move to 97 but had to spend the tea interval sat two short of his hundred, although didn't have to wait long. It was the first time since 1938 that both England openers had hit Ashes hundreds in the same innings.

After Strauss's aggression towards spin brought his demise, Trott began in positive fashion, which meant the scoring didn't seize up.

He carried England into the lead with an elegant cover-drive off the struggling Johnson and he ensured two set batsmen were ready to face the second new ball when it came at the beginning of the final session.

Once again a crucial period loomed but Cook and Trott were equal to the challenge. Hilfenhaus found some swing and there were the two tough chances, yet it wasn't quite the threat everyone expected.

In a sign of desperation Ponting used up his last review when Trott padded up to Hilfenhaus, but the ball was easily missing off stump and Trott's fifty soon followed as he tucked into Johnson's wayward offerings.

This Test has had too many twists to think the final day will be plain sailing, but if England can hold their nerve it will be another in their recent history of incredible rearguards.

Smart Stats

* The 188-run stand between Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook is the seventh-highest partnership by an England opening pair in Australia. It is also the second-highest after the 203-run stand between Michael Atherton and Graham Gooch at Adelaide in 1991.
* Cook and Strauss became the most prolific opening pair for England in Tests, surpassing the aggregate of Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe.
* Strauss's century was his first in Australia. He made 247 runs in 10 innings on the previous tour.
* Cook's century was his second against Australia and 14th overall. His previous century came at Perth in 2006.
* Mitchell Johnson has picked up just 24 wickets in eight Tests since January 14, 2010 at an average of more than 41. At home, he has just one wicket in two Tests.
* The century stand between Cook and Jonathan Trott was the tenth for the second wicket for visiting teams in Australia since 2000. It was also the third century stand for the second wicket for England, the highest being 170 between Ian Bell and Cook at Perth in 2006.

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