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Mixed fortunes for the tourists on day two.

QUESTION marks still hung over the position of Mitchell Johnson and Phillip Hughes as Australia endured mixed fortunes at Northampton.

The tourists closed day two of three on 139 for none in their second innings - a lead of 221 - having successfully jockeyed a position of qualified authority.

There was a much-needed half-century for out-of-form opener Hughes (65no), while Peter Siddle took three wickets in a home innings that featured handy contributions from Alex Wakely (62) and Riki Wessels (50).

The scoreboard told little of the full story, however. Would-be pace spearhead Johnson and Hughes were touted at the start of this Ashes summer as two of Australia's most lethal weapons. Yet, two matches in, and with their team trailing 1-0 in the series, unexpected vulnerabilities have been exposed in both.

So it was again today; Hughes' batting a fretful spectacle as he again mixed some fine if eccentric shots with an increasingly evident susceptibility to the short ball.

Johnson, meanwhile, could only reflect on a hapless spell of seven wicketless overs for 42 - harsh figures as he sought to rebuild confidence in time for next week's third Ashes Test.

Australia had subsided from their overnight 231 for three to 308 for eight on a sunny morning, their plans for quicker and easier runs derailed by two unlikely stumbling blocks.

After captain Mike Hussey chose to retire out on his overnight 75, David Lucas and debutant Jack Brooks each found movement through the air and off an easy-paced pitch.

Chief among those disappointed was surely the tourists' Test number six, Marcus North, whose position against England at Edgbaston is thought to be under threat from all-rounder Shane Watson. After Watson's 84 yesterday, North could have done with a half-century at least of his own. Instead, he had added only seven to his overnight 32 when he poked a one-handed drive off Lucas to a tumbling David Willey at cover-point.

Siddle and Nathan Hauritz man-ageto help the tourists past 300 before Hussey called time.

Siddle returned after tea with two bonus wickets, and after Nelson was very well-caught at midwicket by Simon Katich, Northamptonshire declared 82 behind.

What followed makes comfortable reading in the scorebook for Australia and Hughes, as he and stand-in opener McDonald (69no) put on an unbroken stand. McDonald looked largely assured in his new role as Hughes reached 50 giving him a shot at a therapeutic hundred tomorrow.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 26, 2009
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