Steady start for England at MCG

Blackpool Citizen: Jonny Bairstow, left, has been selected as England's wicketkeeper-batsman for the fourth Ashes Test Jonny Bairstow, left, has been selected as England's wicketkeeper-batsman for the fourth Ashes Test

England had to work especially hard for their teatime 135 for three against Australia's disciplined seamers on day one of the fourth Test at the MCG.

The tourists, engaged only in damage limitation here having lost the Ashes before Christmas, had to scrap for every run as the Australia attack continued close to the top of their game.

Captain Alastair Cook was gone - for 27 - before lunch, after his opposite number Michael Clarke won the toss on a showery morning. Then as the skies cleared, Michael Carberry (38) and Joe Root (24) were also unable to make a substantial contribution - leaving Kevin Pietersen (20 not out) and Ian Bell (11no) to keep Australia at bay.

The scoring rate ground to a near halt for long periods of the afternoon, as a four-man seam attack - including all-rounder Shane Watson, until he limped out mid-over with an apparent recurrence of hamstring or groin issues - gave the batsmen precious little to feed off.

A green-tinged pitch doubtless influenced Clarke's decision to bowl, but did not misbehave as Cook made the most of some loose deliveries in Mitchell Johnson's two-over burst with the new ball.

After Cook's early domination of the scoring, Carberry claimed a near fair share of their opening stand until the captain departed to a poor shot - drawn into playing at some extra bounce and edging to Clarke at second slip.

Two setbacks for the tourists either side of afternoon drinks preceded a near stalemate with Pietersen and Bell in situ. Carberry had dealt admirably with everything until, as at least twice previously in the series, a change of angle brought his downfall. The left-hander survived one ball from Watson, round the wicket, but was gone to the next when he judged he could leave only to lose his off bail thanks to a deviation off the pitch.

Root dug in and shrugged aside some plays and misses, but it was all to no avail when he got a thin edge behind to a teasing Harris outswinger with the first ball of a new spell.

Bell and Pietersen then chose survival over counter-attack, the latter's cross-bat smash over midwicket off Siddle his only scoring shot from the first 38 balls he faced.

When Pietersen did decide a big shot was in order at last, 10 minutes before tea, he had a huge slice of luck on seven - hooking Harris to long leg, where substitute fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile initially took the catch only to carry the ball over the boundary for a six.

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