Strauss gets England off to sound start in Ashes climax

Strauss gets England off to sound start in Ashes climax

England's Paul Collingwood reacts after taking a swing at a ball from the bowling of Australia's Peter Siddle on the first day of the fifth cricket Test match between England and Australia at The Oval cricket ground in London on Thursday, . AP PhotoStrauss, England's best batsman this series, was 50 not out and Ian Bell 41 not out in a match the hosts had to win to regain the Ashes.

England were in trouble at 12 for one when Alastair Cook fell cheaply after fellow left-handed opener Strauss had won the toss and chosen to bat.

But this time there was no repeat of the first morning collapse at Headingley which sent Australia on their way to an innings and 80 run fourth Test win that levelled the series at 1-1.

Strauss, batting in the composed, "emotionless", fashion which he said on Wednesday would be vital to his team's chances of success, completed an 89-ball fifty featuring 10 fours but without taking any undue risks.

At the interval, his stand with Bell was worth 96 in 128 balls.

Bell, promoted to No 3 after Ravi Bopara was dropped, was himself under pressure after twice falling to left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson for a total of 11 runs at Headingley.

England began cautiously against Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle before Cook struck the day's first four, an off-drive off Hilfenhaus, in the third over.

He also pulled Siddle for another boundary but Cook, a 95 in England's second Test win at Lord's apart, had a lean series.

And Siddle had his revenge when he squared up Cook, static on the crease, and had him caught at second slip by Australia captain Ricky Ponting for 10 to leave England 12 for one in the sixth over.

Bell, often criticised for an inability to make runs when England need them most, struck Siddle for three fours in six balls.

Second change Johnson had a huge appeal for caught behind against Bell correctly rejected by Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf, the ball brushing the batsman's shirt.

While Bell left that delivery alone, it was a different story with Johnson's third ball, a rearing bouncer which flew off the splice but, fortunately for Bell, landed away from a fielder.

Strauss though on-drove Johnson for four to bring up England's fifty in the 14th over.
And Bell's boundary off Stuart Clark saw England's second-wicket duo post a fifty stand of their own in 70 balls.

However, the Warwickshire batsman kept both short leg and short backward square interested as Johnson tested him with rising leg-stump deliveries.

Bell cover-drove Hilfenhaus for four, a stylish shot but then squatted down, seemingly suffering with cramp and required on-field treatment before resuming his innings on 29.
Strauss, who several times struck his trademark square-cut for four was equally strong off his pads when Australia's four-man pace attack strayed off line on a typically good Oval pitch for batting.

Australia need only a draw to retain the Ashes.

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