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Bad light call casts shadow over Aus's Ashes defence

Aussie openers put their team on track, but may have derailed their run chase by going off because of bad light.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2005 17:49 IST

Australia's openers put their team on track to overhaul England's first-innings total, but may have derailed their run chase by going off because of bad light.

Justin Langer scored an unbeaten 75 to take the Australians to 112 without loss at tea on day two of the fifth and deciding Ashes Test. He was well supported Friday by Matthew Hayden, who was 32 not out.

On the stroke of tea, however, the dark clouds that had been forecast for late Friday and Saturday closed in over The Oval. Umpires Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden offered the batsmen the chance to stay off because of bad light, which they took.

The players were off the field for 80 minutes before rain came and prevented any play in the final session. Australia trailed England by 261 runs at stumps.

Had the Australians batted on, they may have lost wickets if it was difficult to see the ball. But their decision to stay off for so long without trying could cost valuable time.

Australia must win the match to level the series at 2-2 and retain the Ashes it has held since 1989, while England needs only a draw to win the urn for the first time since 1986-87.

The tourists began building a considerable challenge when Langer and Hayden passed Australia's highest opening partnership of the series of 58, set in the third Test at Old Trafford.

Langer smacked two sixes and eight fours in his 106-ball innings, which would have been cut short at 53 had Marcus Trescothick held a one-handed catch high to his right off the bowling of Paul Collingwood.

Australia's highest first innings score of the series so far was 308 in the second Test at Edgbaston.

Veteran legspinner Shane Warne wrapped up the England innings with his sixth wicket when he had Ashley Giles out leg-before for 32. Steve Harmison was the not out batsman with 20.

Warne took five wickets on the opening day, sending the host to stumps at 319 for seven. Geraint Jones added just four to his overnight score before he was bowled by Brett Lee for 25 with Friday's ninth ball, leaving England struggling at 325-8 on a good batting surface.

England could have been in bigger trouble when its score was 342-8. Matthew Hoggard edged Glenn McGrath toward the slips, but Ricky Ponting -- diving to his left -- dropped the catch.

In the same over, Giles survived a confident appeal for caught behind and TV replays suggested he was out.

Hoggard made just two runs from 36 balls before he was dismissed, caught at mid-off by Damien Martyn off the bowling of McGrath.

Warne finished with 6-122 from 37.3 overs, while McGrath took 2-72 off 27 overs.

First Published: Sep 10, 2005 17:49 IST