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June 24, 2017

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Australia on brink of Ashes whitewash

SYDNEY--Australia were closing in on a 5-0 Ashes sweep after demolishing England's batting and pushing their lead to 311 runs after just two days of the final Sydney Ashes Test on Saturday.

The relentless Australians blasted out the hapless tourists for 155 — the fifth time England had been dismissed for less than 200 in the series — and set their sights on batting them out of the game with three days to play.

At second day stumps Australia were 140 for four with Chris Rogers compiling his fourth half-century in five innings on 73 and George Bailey not out 20.

The home side in the process lost the wickets of David Warner (16), Shane Watson (9), skipper Michael Clarke (6) and Steve Smith (7) as England tried to restrict Australia's mushrooming lead on a flattening Sydney Cricket Ground pitch.

"Day two, 300 plus lead's a pretty good position to be in," Australia paceman Ryan Harris said.

"It's obviously not a done thing yet, we've got to make sure we bat well in the morning and get some more (runs) and bowl like we did today to bowl them out again."

"We figure they are going to fire at some stage, we hope they don't but they're going to have to.

"I don't think the wicket's getting any easier. If we bowl like we did today, I think we'll go alright."

Australia's pace trio of Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle earlier took three wickets apiece as England narrowly avoided the follow-on in response to Australia's first innings score of 326.

The tourists never recovered from a disastrous morning session when they crashed to 23 for five despite the efforts of young guns Ben Stokes, Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow to repel the hostile home attack.

"It was pretty disappointing today, but 326 is way over par on this pitch in my opinion," England batting coach Graham Gooch said.

"So once that score's on the board it's always going to be difficult and once we lost those early wickets (it's) going to be tough from this position."

Stokes eked out a dogged 47 off 101 balls after his six-wicket haul in the Australian first innings.

But he showed an error of judgment that cost his wicket when he offered no shot and was bowled off-stump by Siddle just three short of his half-century.

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