England enjoyed their best day of the 2013-14 Ashes tour on Friday, establishing a lead of 91 runs in the fourth Test with just one Australian first-innings wicket still to take.
Having begun the morning in disappointing fashion, losing two wickets in the opening over, England responded well with the ball to reduce Australia to 164-9 having been all out for 255 in the morning session.
Michael Johnson was once more the star turn for those in Baggy Green caps, taking three quick-fire wickets to blast through the England tail.
|A Cook||c Clarke b Siddle||27||70||47|
|M Carberry||B Watson||38||145||103|
|J Root||c Haddin b Harris||24||115||82|
|K Pietersen||b Johnson||71||251||152|
|I Bell||c Haddin b Harris||27||120||98|
|B Stokes||c Watson b Johnson||14||33||23|
|J Bairstow||b Johnson||10||16||17|
|T Bresnan||c Bailey b Johnson||1||24||13|
|S Broad||lbw Johnson||11||22||16|
|J Anderson||not out||11||40||24|
|M Panesar||b Lyon||2||21||16|
|Extras||1nb 1w 10b 7lb||19|
|C Rogers||c Pietersen b Bresnan||61||218||171|
|D Warner||c Bairstow b Anderson||9||27||14|
|S Watson||c Bairstow b Stokes||10||20||15|
|M Clarke||b Anderson||10||57||34|
|S Smith||c Bell b Broad||19||92||77|
|G Bailey||c Bairstow b Anderson||0||37||19|
|B Haddin||not out||43||100||49|
|M Johnson||c Anderson b Bresnan||2||39||30|
|R Harris||c Root b Broad||6||24||27|
|P Siddle||c Bresnan b Broad||0||6||5|
|Extras||0nb 0w 0b 4lb||4|
Friday also saw a welcome return to form for James Anderson, with the England strike bowler claiming figures of 3-50 including the wickets of David Warner and Michael Clarke.
Play started brilliantly for the hosts as they quickly secured the final four English wickets without the tourists adding significantly to the overnight score.
Tim Bresnan was the first to go with the opening ball of the day before Johnson repeated the trick just three deliveries later as he bowled Kevin Pietersen, with the batsman attempting to launch the ball into the stand.
Stuart Broad soon followed, with Johnson pinning him in front of the stumps before Monty Panesar became the second England player to be bowled while attempting to leave a straight delivery, this time from Nathan Lyon.
Australia began their response in typically confident style, with Warner looking to score at every opportunity while partner Chris Rogers grafted at the other end.
Warner, though, would be punished for his somewhat dismissive attitude to the England bowling when he skied an attempted pull from Anderson straight to wicket keeper Jonny Bairstow.
It would get better for England ahead of lunch as all-rounder Ben Stokes reduced Australia to 36-2 ahead of the lunch interval, with Bairstow again involved in catching a thin edge from No. 3 Shane Watson.
Stokes played an important role for England in the late morning, reducing the innings to a crawl as Rogers and captain Clarke sought to forge a recovery.
The pair stuck around for almost an hour at the crease but failed to wrestle the initiative from England as Anderson removed Clarke for just 10 shortly before tea.
It was during the interval that supporters were treated to the spectacle of television personality Piers Morgan facing up to an over from former pace bowler Brett Lee in the nets at the MCG.
Morgan had insisted via Twitter that he could manage better than the England batsmen, but failed to lay bat on ball in the six balls he faced:
Steve Smith briefly showed Morgan how it should be done in scoring 19 but his dismissal shortly after the tea interval brought about a flurry of wickets, with the obstinate Rogers falling two runs later for a score of 62 after Pietersen took a well-judged catch off the bowling of Bresnan.
An umpire's review removed George Bailey for a 19-ball duck off the bowling of Anderson half an hour later, with "snicko" revealing the thinnest of edges missed by umpire Aleem Dar. Bailey was not impressed.
Johnson was the next man in and offered up a chance to Anderson who dropped the simplest of catches at mid-off. However, his blushes would be spared as he snaffled a repeat chance off the bowling of Bresnan.
Ryan Harris followed soon after, misjudging a short ball from Broad and finding Joe Root at short leg, bringing Peter Siddle to the crease with just 10 minutes of play remaining.
Broad, Anderson, Stokes and Bresnan have put in a shift there today and Eng are on top— Dean Wilson (@CricketMirror) December 27, 2013
Siddle fell in the last over before stumps, though, playing a tame shot off Broad into the hands of Bresnan at cover to leave Australia nine wickets down at the close.
England will hope to wrap up the first innings quickly in the morning of Day 3 before extending their lead with the bat.
After a nightmare series, it will be a great relief to all involved in the English ranks if they can secure a lead at the halfway stage for the first time in the four Test matches.