Australia on the brink despite Cook ton

 

Cricket:Australia moved closer to regaining the Ashes with two late wickets from Glenn McGrath putting them in sight of a comfortable victory after four days of the third Test.

McGrath struck twice in three balls just two overs before the close to remove centurion Alastair Cook and nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard to leave England struggling on 265 for five at the close.

Until McGrath's late breakthroughs, the tourists had dominated most of the day with Cook hitting a defiant 116 and sharing in a crucial 170-run partnership with Ian Bell and a 76-run stand with Kevin Pietersen.

Their efforts had England followers dreaming of a great Test victory with the tourists having begun their innings the previous evening 556 runs adrift aiming to become the first side in history to successfully chase such a target.

West Indies' 418 for seven recorded against Australia at Antigua three years ago is the current record, but for long periods England looked capable of setting up a position where they could chase the record on the final day.

Warwickshire batsman Bell, dropped on 73 by wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist off Brett Lee, fell just 13 runs short of his maiden Ashes century when he was out-witted in the flight by Shane Warne and drove straight to short extra cover.

But 21-year-old Essex batsman Cook, who was also missed on 83 when Matthew Hayden dropped him at slip off all-rounder Andrew Symonds' off-spin, went on to score the fourth century of his fledgling Test career.

Cook battled for over six hours at the crease, hitting only nine fours

Only 10 minutes before the close, however, Cook pushed forward to McGrath and edged behind and two balls later Hoggard's off stump was sent flying out of the ground with a superb yorker.

Captain Andrew Flintoff survived the final few overs with Pietersen, who finished unbeaten on 37, but England's focus will now be on survival and trying to avoid surrendering the Ashes to Australia on the final day.