Aussies maul England: Ashes

Skipper Ponting plundered the English attack for the ninth century in his last 12 Tests to make an emphatic statement of Australia’s intent to wrest the Ashes back off England with a thumping first-day total of 346 for three.

It recalled Australia’s savaging of the English attack on the first day of the last Ashes Test here four years ago when they scored 364 for two at stumps after being sent into bat.

At the close of a deflating day for England, Ponting, in the richest form of his career, was unconquered on 137 off 206 balls with Mike Hussey not out 63 in an unbroken partnership of 148.

Ponting, leading from the front in his 106th Test, made it a day of personal milestones as he equalled Waugh’s record of 32 Test hundreds and moved to fourth all-time in Tests, the 31 year old also leap-frogged Englishman Graham Gooch and Pakistan’s Javed Miandad to become the sixth all-time leading Test scorer.

Before a ground Test record of 39,288, Ponting also raised 5,000 Test runs in Australia and his fourth century at the Gabba ground.

‘Psychological mauling’

It was a psychological mauling for Andrew Flintoff’s tourists, who struggled throughout a drawn-out day, with pace spearhead Steve Harmison virtually anonymous, to restrict the Australian scoring as the home team hummed along at more than four runs an over.

The tone was set in a rollicking morning session with the Australians going to lunch at 109 for only the loss of Matthew Hayden (21).

It was 217 for three at tea and Ponting and Hussey thwarted England’s attempts for another breakthrough and batted all through the extended evening to stumps.

Flintoff was England’s best bowler with 2-48, snaring the wickets of Hayden and Justin Langer (82), while spinner Ashley Giles removed Damien Martyn (29).

Langer was out 20 minutes after lunch when he cut straight to Kevin Pietersen at point off Flintoff.

It was a huge relief for Pietersen, who had the ignominy of dropping six catches during last year’s series win.

But Pietersen later needed treatment after his left knee was locked in a divot while fielding.

England’s bowlers were wasteful with the new ball in the morning session on a green-tinged wicket with some wayward deliveries.

Harmison began the Test with a skewed wide to Langer, the ball zinging through to Flintoff at second slip to the roar of the capacity crowd.

Harmison was particularly disappointing and was hauled out of the attack after two overs after conceding 17 runs. He returned to finish the day with 0-52 off 12 overs. He wasn’t called on to bowl after tea.

Langer was looking set for his 23rd Test century but a lapse in concentration ended his 138-minute stay, sprinkled with 13 boundaries.

During his innings Langer, who celebrated his 36th birthday on Tuesday, passed David Boon (7,422) as the sixth all-time Australian run-scorer in Tests with 7,475 runs.

Giles, preferred to fellow left-armer Monty Panesar for the spinner’s role, claimed the wicket of Martyn, who cut to Paul Collingwood at slip for 29.

Australia raced along in the opening session before Flintoff produced the breakthrough, dismissing Hayden in the 14th over.

The England skipper moved one off the pitch and found an outside edge off Hayden’s bat to Collingwood at second slip. Flintoff claimed Hayden’s wicket four times in last year’s series.