Adelaide:Alastair Cook's colossal series continued on the second day in Adelaide, where he and his batting colleagues ground Australia into submission and delivered complete control to England. At the end of a stiflingly hot 37-degree day, Ricky Ponting's men were sapped not only of energy, but also of virtually any hope of winning the Test, the ghosts of the Adelaide Ashes Test from four years ago notwithstanding.
Australia knew their first-innings total of 245 was a long way below par, but the optimists in the team might have hoped it could become competitive if a few early wickets fell their way. Any such dreams were dashed by Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, all of whom made batting on the placid surface look like a net session, and by stumps England were 72 in front, with only two wickets down.
A few more hours of batting from England, and they will be in a terrific position from which to push for victory. And what's a few more hours to Cook? Since the start of his second innings at the Gabba, Cook has batted for 17 hours without being dismissed, a display of supreme concentration and physical durability. Add in his first innings in Brisbane, and he has made 438 runs in nearly 1400 minutes of batting.
Australian fans fondly remember Steve Waugh's efforts in the 1989 Ashes, when he was almost impossible to dismiss. It took him four Tests to score as many runs as Cook has made in one and a half. He registered his top score, an unbeaten 235, in Brisbane and there is no reason he can't match that effort in Adelaide, where he closed the second day on 136 not out.
Pietersen was with him, on 85, which was an equally ominous sign for the Australians, who knew Cook and Trott were in form but hoped they could exploit Pietersen's supposed weakness against left-arm spin. Pietersen had one nervy moment early against Xavier Doherty, when he advanced and tried to drive aggressively down the ground, only to see his thick edge lob safely wide of point.
Apart from that, he looked every bit the confident, dominant batsman who plundered 158 at the venue four years ago. He used his feet and placed the ball superbly against the spinners and had little trouble against the fast men, cruising to his half-century from his 77th delivery with a whip through midwicket for four off Peter Siddle. It's 18 months since Pietersen has scored a Test hundred, but it would be a brave person to bet against him breaking that stretch on Sunday.
The Cook-Pietersen partnership had blown out to 141 by stumps, with Pietersen rapidly gaining ground on his partner. Cook reached his 15th Test century from his 171st delivery, which was expertly cut forward of point for a boundary off Doherty, who had felt the brunt of Cook's power square of the wicket earlier in the day.
Cook had cut three consecutive fours in almost the same place, just forward of point, showing the Australians once again that while he was generally patient enough to leave fuller balls tempting him to drive, anything short would be treated harshly. Cook's innings was impressive not only for his fine judgment, but for being chanceless throughout the day.
On the one occasion that Australia won a decision against Cook from the umpire Marais Erasmus it was overturned on review; the caught-behind verdict off Siddle's bowling was shown on replay to have come off Cook's arm. Not that Australia had anyone to blame but themselves for failing to make more than two breakthroughs throughout the day, as they gave Trott three lives before he was eventually caught for 78 flicking Ryan Harris to Michael Clarke at midwicket.
Doherty missed an opportunity to run out Trott on 6, when his throw from square leg flew a metre wide of the stumps. Trott had enjoyed a direct hit from an almost identical position on the first morning to remove Simon Katich, which sparked Australia's top-order collapse. The side-on chance for Doherty was tough, but Michael Hussey had no such excuse.
Trott was on 10 when his edge flew low to gully, where Hussey dropped a catch he would normally have swallowed. Australian shoulders slumped, and it allowed Trott and Cook to build a 173-run stand that should have ended a fraction earlier, when Brad Haddin dropped a reasonably simple chance down leg side off Harris when Trott was on 76.
The runs had been flowing freely earlier in the day, when Australia's fast men fed Trott's leg-side habit with alarming generosity. Trott was in a positive frame of mind, fresh from his century at the Gabba, and he drove and flicked boundaries through the on-side with ease. During the middle of the first session England were moving at a limited-overs run-rate, adding 44 in a six-over period that sapped much of the positive vibe they'd enjoyed by removing Andrew Strauss in the first over.
In his first over of an Ashes Test, Doug Bollinger attacked the top of off stump and Strauss was bowled not offering a shot. It was the high-point of Australia's day, and it came from the third ball of the morning.