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England hold slender lead going into final day

Written by: Staff
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ADELAIDE, Dec 4 (Reuters) Matthew Hoggard captured seven wickets as England took a 97-run lead over Australia with nine second-innings wickets in hand heading into the final day of the second Ashes test.

Hoggard claimed 7-109, the best figures by an Englishman at Adelaide Oval since Jack White took 8-126 in 1928/29, to help dismiss Australia for 513 and earn his team a 38-run advantage on the first innings.

England extended their lead to 97 by the end of day four but lost Alastair Cook for nine along the way to reach stumps on 59 for one on a lifeless pitch still offering little assistance to the bowlers.

Andrew Strauss posted his best score of the series to remain unbeaten on 31 with Ian Bell not out 18 and a draw looming as the most likely result, barring a dramatic batting collapse on the final day.

Australia briefly looked as though they might sneak past England's massive first innings total of 551-6 declared when Michael Clarke (124) posted his first test hundred in two years and Adam Gilchrist (64) made a timely return to form.

But England picked up the last four wickets for just 11 runs, with Hoggard adding three to the four he claimed on Sunday, to restrict the Australians to 513 as they attempt to retain the Ashes they won at home last year.

HOGGARD SALVO Hoggard picked up three of the last four wickets to complete his seventh five-wicket haul in test cricket and finish with seven after picking up all four Australia wickets that fell on Sunday.

Ashley Giles and James Anderson also collected their first wickets of the match after Andrew Flintoff had got one on Saturday, leaving Steve Harmison as the only mainstream English bowler not to take a wicket.

Australia had started the day on 312-5, needing 40 more to avoid the follow-on, but any real hopes of a result faded once they passed the follow-on point in the first hour and both teams resorted to go-slow tactics.

Gilchrist briefly threatened to go on the rampage, racing to his half-century off just 70 balls, but threw his wicket away with the total on 384 when he swept Giles straight to Bell in the deep.

Clarke, once regarded as the golden boy of Australian cricket after making 151 on debut in India then 141 in his first test at home against New Zealand, pressed his claims for a permament recall with a flawless hundred.

The 25-year-old was only included in the side after all-rounder Shane Watson tore his hamstring before the first test but has enhanced his prospects of holding his spot after two impressive innings.

He batted 319 minutes, faced 224 balls and struck 10 boundaries before falling after tea when he was caught at mid-on off Hoggard in his first full over after tea.

Hoggard, 29, had trapped Shane Warne lbw with the last ball before tea and then bowled Stuart Clark for a duck before Anderson polished off the innings by dismissing Glenn McGrath for one.

England suffered an early setback in their second innings when Cook was caught behind off Clark with the total on 31 but Strauss and Bell safely saw them through to stumps.

REUTERS PM PM1402

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