SYDNEY, Jan 5 (Reuters) - England’s tail wagged hard as Australia dropped catches to allow the tourists to amass 346 in their first innings before they were dismissed to bring up lunch on the second day of the fifth and final Ashes test on Friday.
Tom Curran, playing his second test, hit a confident 39 and Stuart Broad smashed a 31 featuring two sixes as they drove their side to a competitive score in the face of some fearsome pace bowling on a sunny morning at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
England had been rocked by two late wickets at the end of day one and resumed on 233 for five, looking to inflate their score as much as possible as they seek a consolation victory after relinquishing the urn.
Dawid Malan lasted less than half an hour before departing for 62, quick Mitchell Starc eliciting an outside edge which Steve Smith caught brilliantly with a dive from second slip.
While the Australia captain appeared to have returned to his usual reliability after dropping three catches in the series, his team mates proceeded to produce a couple of shocking spills.
Pat Cummins dropped Curran on 21 off Nathan Lyon and in the next over, his fellow fast bowler Josh Hazlewood let Moeen Ali off the hook when he allowed the ball to slip through his hands with the all-rounder on 22.
Moeen, looking out-of-sorts as he has all series, departed exactly an hour after Malan when he gloved a snorting bouncer from Cummins through to the wicketkeeper for 30.
Curran was the next to depart half an hour later when he backed up to another Cummins fizzer and the ball flew off the top of his bat to Cameron Bancroft at short leg.
Broad continued to brave the short bowling for another 15 minutes before spinner Lyon claimed his first victim of the match, Smith back-pedalling to claim the top edge.
The innings ended in a mix-up between James Anderson, who failed to score, and Mason Crane, who was run-out for four in his maiden test innings.
Cummins finished with figures of 4-80, while Hazlewood and Starc took two wickets apiece.
Australia hold an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series after victories in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth before the sides battled to a draw in Melbourne. (Editing by John O‘Brien)