Australia need Ashes miracle

Bresnan bowls England to within touching distance

England stand on the cusp of retaining the Ashes after Tim Bresnan ripped through the top order after tea at the MCG.

England had encountered predictably enhanced resistance as they began their attempt to bowl Australia out a second time in pursuit of the urn.

But Bresnan -- selected here for his first match of the series in place of leading wicket-taker Steven Finn -- shifted opener Shane Watson (54), an ultra-determined home captain Ricky Ponting and then Australia's banker Michael Hussey in a spell of three wickets for two runs in 18 balls.

Michael Clarke then followed for 13, caught in the slips off Graeme Swann, and before the close, Steve Smith's stubborn resistance was ended by James Anderson as he departed for 38.

With Ryan Harris having suffered a stress fracture of the foot, making him unlikely to bat again, the hosts were fast running out of options.

They ended the day on 169 for six, still 246 runs behind, as England closed their grip on an innings victory, a 2-1 lead and the Ashes.

It had taken them only two sessions to skittle their hosts for 98 in perfect seam-and-swing conditions on the first morning, before Jonathan Trott (168no) and others piled up 513 all out.

But openers Phil Hughes and Watson passed 50 at almost five-an-over second time round.

However, Watson's unwise call for a single to cover off Swann resulted in Hughes having to go, run out via a good throw from Trott and neat work from wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

Ponting, after his match fee fine for a spat with the umpires yesterday, strode out to boos from England's travelling support -- drowned out by cheers from his own public.

His form has suffered this winter, and he tried to eliminate all risk as he took 15 balls to get off nought.

Watson, meanwhile, reined himself back to necessary consolidation after his and Hughes' flying start, on his way to a 95-ball 50.

England were bowling well but seemed sure to have to prepare for a long haul - until Bresnan (three for 22), with highly skilled reverse-swing, had his say.

Watson was deceived sufficiently to shoulder arms at one that snaked back to win an lbw verdict from Tony Hill.

Swann should have had new batsman Clarke for two, but the previously impeccable Prior missed an obvious stumping chance.

That appeared to matter little, however, after Bresnan had Ponting chopping on to his stumps and Hussey poking a low catch to cover for a duck.

Clarke, having survived that early chance, did not last much longer, edging to Strauss in the slips.

Steven Smith then sent an inside edge on to his own stumps to go for 38, and put England another step closer.

Trott this morning maximised the misery for Australia's bowlers -- who nonetheless managed to take England's last five wickets for only 54 runs, Peter Siddle finishing with six for 75.

First, he broke Trott's sixth-wicket stand with Prior -- who chipped a catch to mid-on 15 runs short of a century.

Trott and Prior had put on 173, though before Siddle had Bresnan edging a routine catch behind.

Ryan Harris limped out of the attack, after injuring his ankle -- and it subsequently emerged that the fast bowler would need surgery on a stress fracture and may not be able to bat here.

But Ben Hilfenhaus finally had an overdue wicket when Brad Haddin took a fine catch above his head after Swann edged an attempted hook behind, and he doubled up for good measure by clean-bowling Chris Tremlett.

Anderson finally missed a Siddle half-volley to be last out.