Ashes 2013-2014: England fight back against Australia
|Fourth Test, Melbourne (day two)|
|Close: England 255 lead Australia 164-9 by 91 runs|
England produced their best bowling display of the series to reduce Australia to 164-9, still 91 runs behind, on a dramatic second day at the MCG.
Aided by a succession of wasteful shots from the Australian top six, England fought back superbly to at last give their beleaguered travelling support something to celebrate.
Only Brad Haddin, who once again counter-attacked with aggression for an invaluable 43 not out, and the stodgy Chris Rogers (61) were able to flourish against tight, accurate bowling.
In front of another huge crowd at the MCG of more than 78,000, Mitchell Johnson had earlier taken his third five-wicket haul of the series to help dismiss England for just 255.
But James Anderson and Stuart Broad first slowed the Australian reply and then stopped it in its tracks, taking three wickets apiece.
Not since the opening day at the Gabba have Alastair Cook's men enjoyed such success, and with Australia having to bat last on this pitch England now have their best opportunity of the series to salvage a win from this unhappy tour.
The tourists' own innings had subsided in dismal fashion, the remaining four wickets adding just 29 more runs to the overnight 226-6 as Johnson once again smashed through the tail in a mere 50 minutes.
The left-armer had Tim Bresnan caught at short leg from his first ball of the day and then took the prize wicket of Kevin Pietersen, clean bowled to a horrible slog for a stuttering 71.
Pietersen had played with exaggerated caution on the first day, but abandoned that approach for something improbably ambitious despite having Broad at the other end and two further wickets with which to bat.
Johnson, however, was in relentless form. He took his 28th wicket of the series when he had Broad trapped lbw for seven with a full inswinger, meaning his five wickets had come in 42 balls for the cost of just 14 runs.
Monty Panesar shouldered arms to Nathan Lyon for two to leave Anderson unbeaten on 11, and at that stage Australia appeared to have a tight grip on the match.
But they then threw away that advantage with a series of rash strokes that began with the relentlessly aggressive David Warner, who aimed a needless hoick at Anderson to give Jonny Bairstow his first catch as a Test wicketkeeper.
With the score on 36 Shane Watson followed suit with a characteristic strong-armed drive at Ben Stokes that took the inside edge to Bairstow, and suddenly England sensed an opportunity.
Just as Australia's bowlers had throttled England's scoring rate on Boxing Day, so England's tight attack cut out Rogers' and Michael Clarke's scoring opportunities.
The Aussie captain averages only 12 against England on this ground and he went for two runs fewer this time, misjudging a delivery from Anderson that clipped the top of his off stump as he held his bat high out of the way.
Rogers was then clattered on the helmet by Broad before digging in with his usual diligence as the scoring rate dropped close to a run an over.
His half-century took almost three hours but it took Australia past 100 before Steve Smith tried to break free of the shackles with an injudicious cut at Broad to be caught by new second slip Ian Bell for 19.
It seemed to disturb Rogers' equanimity, for just two runs later he tried to hoist Bresnan down the ground and holed out to Pietersen at mid off for 61.
Australia were in trouble at 112-5 and the tourniquet tightened as George Bailey was given nothing in his favourite scoring area on the leg side.
After 19 balls without a run he tried to force Anderson away off the back foot outside off stump and, despite initially being given not out by Aleem Dar, third umpire Billy Bowden heard a thin edge and reversed the decision.
It brought together Haddin and Johnson, who had rescued their side from a near-identical position on the very first day of the series, and the wicketkeeper immediately went on the attack, launching a huge six off Stokes to break the world record for the number of sixes hit in a Test series.
On 35 he was given out lbw to Panesar, only to be reprieved on a curious ball-tracking review.
Johnson too had a life on two when Anderson dropped a sitter at cover off Bresnan, but the same combination did for him in the same fashion two overs later without him adding another run.
As the shadows lengthened in the Melbourne evening, Broad then had Harris caught fending a short ball to short-leg for six and Peter Siddle miscuing to cover for a five-ball duck.
Despite that poor first hour it made it England's best day of the series, and while the Ashes are long gone the much-feared 5-0 whitewash may yet be avoided.