England facing defeat in first Ashes test

England head into the final day of play in the first Ashes test knowing that they need to bounce back quickly to avoid defeat against an Australia side displaying the trademark ruthlessness of its illustrious predecessors.

The tourists looked set to push for victory this afternoon before rain interrupted play and gave Andrew Strauss and his team the opportunity to regroup. Australia started the day on 479 for 5 before Marcus North and Brad Haddin both racked up centuries to leave Ricky Ponting's men on 674 for six.

While England's bowlers were in lacklustre form, Strauss' decision not to use his spinners on the worn pitch until the 14th over of the day made life much easier for Haddin and North. But ultimately the home side had no answer for the aggression, control and tenacity shown by Australia's batters with North finishing his innings on 125 not out.

Although they needed a good start, England wilted early under Australian pressure dropping two early wickets, with both Alistair Cook and Ravi Bopara given out for lbw. Just when it seemed that England were set for defeat rain interrupted play to give the home side a glimmer of hope.

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