Another Australian dose of reality cricket has all but put England out of the first Ashes Test after only two days.

Unlike Thursday when the home side competed with the ball but not the bat, it was the other way round yesterday with Kevin Pietersen and tail-enders Simon Jones and Steve Harmison whacking 63 from 12 overs and limiting the Australian lead to 35.

When Justin Langer allowed Pietersen to run him out in the sixth over at 18 for one, England were well in the game on a pitch which might have been still a touch up and down, but had certainly not deteriorated from the first day. England needed to bowl with the same disciplined aggression as in the first innings and they needed to catch everything on offer.

They did neither until too late in the day when they took four wickets for 24 in the last 45 minutes, but that looks certain to be too little, too late.

Except for Harmison, they put on a ragged bowling performance further diminished by Pietersen dropping his third catch of the match. Add a missed run-out from a few yards which went for four overthrows and the debutant could end the match with a net minus, despite a dazzling 57 earlier in the day.

The home bowlers helped push their captain into a tangle which produced some odd field placings particularly for Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard. Australia scored at nearly five runs an over in their first innings because of a mixture of arrogance and reckless shots, but they still managed more than four runs an over second time around because of the gifts on offer.

Just before Michael Clarke robbed himself of what would have been a dazzling hundred and Damien Martyn was plumb lbw next ball, the combined cost of 35 wicketless overs from Andrew Flint-off, Giles and Simon Jones was 164. Vaughan was thus denied any control from three of his main bowlers .

England now know that anything less than their best with bat and ball will enable Australia to run away with the series.

The day started well for another 30,000 crowd with the last three wickets adding 63 priceless runs in only 12 overs, with Glenn McGrath?s five overs costing 32 - 16 in one over to Pietersen who hit him for 4-6-4 off successive balls. All credit to the new boy, he surprised several pundits - including your correspondent - by switching to one-day mode against the best attack in world cricket.

After Hoggard was brilliantly caught at slip by Matthew Hayden off Shane Warne, Pietersen went through the gears so success-fully that he hit 29 of the 30 runs added to the overnight total of 92 for seven before Hampshire beat Hampshire, thanks to a wonderful catch by Martyn.

Pietersen swung one mighty six off Warne into the Grandstand and immediately went for another. He didn?t quite middle it but it looked a certain four until Martyn sprinted 20 yards and dived full length, just like a rugby wing three-quarter diving over just inside the corner flag. It was brilliant twice over - firstly to dive full length, and then to hold on as he belly-flopped into the hard turf.

The England fast bowlers can all bat in their own way, as Jones and Harmison showed by hitting 33 good runs for the tenth wicket in five overs. Brett Lee went for 13 runs in one over, before switching to the Pavilion end to get Harmison caught driving for 11, with Jones finishing with an unbeaten 20.

A deficit of 35 was to be England?s best position of the day, if only because Australia showed that wickets would have to be earned, rather than tossed away as in the first innings. Langer was the exception, pushing to Pietersen in the covers and was run out by a foot. Hayden and Ricky Ponting had the odd anxious moment, but were never put under any real pressure until the opener mishooked into his stumps against Flintoff.

That was 54 for two, and Ponting became the eighth Australian to reach 7,000 Test runs (Martyn was later to top 4,000) before he uppercut one from Hoggard to Somerset substitute James Hildreth at point.

At 100 for three, the balance of the game was swinging Australia?s way and a brilliant innings from the hitherto out-of-form Michael Clarke drove home the advantage. He was dropped by Pietersen in the covers when 21, but went to 91, thanks to England losing the plot for the next hour and a half.

Only if England retain some sort of control throughout a day in the field, can they hope to make the series competitive, but to leak 100 runs in the first 18 overs after tea was awful. Giles holds one of the keys to the series, because only long economical spells from him can allow Vaughan to rotate his strike bowlers properly.

The Warwickshire man started over the wicket, but was milked so regularly he switched to round, only for Vaughan to give him a field of 7-2 off side. That made Giles bowl wide of the stumps and he was soon forced to switch back to over the wicket, but his nine overs cost 46 and it was that wasteful session which set Clarke going.

Giles knew that he would be targeted by the left-handers, but it was disappointing for two right-handers to do it so easily.

Hoggard had an even more bizarre field setting - also 7-2 off side with no slip. The Yorkshireman deliberately bowled two feet outside off stump.

But it did work, with a frustrated Clarke dragging one on to end a fourth wicket partnership of 155 in 35 overs - almost a one-day run-rate.

Martyn immediately followed him, lbw next ball to Harmison for a well crafted 65, and the late flurry of wickets continued when Flint-off forced Adam Gilchrist to drag on, again from round the wicket where the left-hander appears to have a problem.

Warne vainly tried to fend off a throat ball from Harmison off the last ball of the day, but an overall lead of 314 seems almost conclusive, with power to add this morning through Simon Katich and the three fast bowlers.