Melbourne: Jonathan Trott hit a masterful, unbeaten century to lead England to 444-5 at stumps and an emphatic 346-run lead after the second day of the fourth Ashes Test against Australia on Monday.
Trott will resume the third day on 141 with Matt Prior on 75, sharing a 158-run partnership. England will retain the Ashes with a win here.
Seam bowler Peter Siddle claimed three wickets and took two catches before tea to revive Australia's slim hopes, but could only go part-way towards making up for the home side's disastrous start to the match on Sunday when it was sent in to bat and bundled out for 98 — its lowest ever score against England at the MCG.
After a watchful start, Trott brought up his second century of the series and third overall against Australia when he cut a Ryan Harris ball through mid-wicket for four. His innings came off 278 balls with 13 boundaries.
Trott overcame an injury scare while on 76 when he edged a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery into his knee. He lay on the ground for several minutes and received attention from England medical staff before continuing without a runner.
Prior reached his 50 off 81 balls with six boundaries before going on to guide four more in a confident display during the third session.
After dismissing openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss to start the day, Siddle (3-58) trapped a dangerous-looking Kevin Pietersen for 51 after lunch. Pietersen brought up his half century an over earlier off 85 balls with seven boundaries.
Pietersen survived a brief scare while on 49 when Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin persuaded captain Ricky Ponting to call for a video review after an edged Harris delivery. The subsequent not out decision appeared to prompt an angry reaction from Ponting toward the on-field umpires.
Mitchell Johnson (2-103) maintained Australia's momentum by dismissing Paul Collingwood for 8, caught by Siddle at fine-leg. Johnson, who took 9 wickets in Australia's 267-run win at Perth in the third Test, has been far less effective in Melbourne, conceding 57 runs from 12 overs before his first dismissal.
Siddle took his second catch off Johnson's next over when he dived for a low chance at deep fine-leg to end Bell's innings at just 1 run.
Johnson appeared to have taken his third wicket shortly before tea when Prior was caught behind. Prior was on his way off the pitch as the Australians celebrated when he was called back by umpire Aleem Dar, who referred to the delivery to the TV umpire before calling a no ball.
Resuming on the overnight score of 157-0, England lost its first wicket of the Test when Cook edged a Siddle delivery to Shane Watson at first slip in the fifth over of the day. Cook's 82 included 11 boundaries in a 159-run opening partnership. The opener has now amassed a series leading 577 runs.
Siddle dismissed Strauss four overs later for 69 when he nicked a ball up to a leaping Michael Hussey, who caught him one-handed at backward-point.