Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff have given England a lift with an impressive finish to the second day of their three-day tour match with New South Wales.
England slipped to 100 for three at tea after the home side declared on 355 for nine following a rain-marred morning at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
But Pietersen (80 not out) and Flintoff (48 not out) hit some thrilling shots during the final session to help England to 256 for four at stumps and give the tourists a boost after a disappointing start to their Ashes tour.
There were other positives for England, with Alastair Cook making 59 while opener Andrew Strauss followed up his 67 in Friday’s 166-run defeat by a Prime Minister’s XI with a well-crafted 50.
Australian Test star Glenn McGrath gave England a sign of what might be to come from the very first ball of their innings with an inswinging delivery that cut straight through Marcus Trescothick.
Brett Lee also started dangerously with a similar delivery to Strauss, two balls after hitting the opener in the chest with a short delivery, and in Lee’s next over Trescothick (8) played onto his own stumps.
Cook and Strauss then settled into their stride to see off Lee and McGrath’s opening spells before Stuart Clark dropped Strauss on 32 off Nathan Bracken after the change of bowlers.
Strauss took full advantage, reaching 50 off 54 balls with his eighth four, but Clark made amends for his earlier error, taking a fine one-handed reflex catch to dismiss Strauss caught and bowled.
Warwickshire's Ian Bell (0) was next in but from his second ball got an outside edge to wicketkeeper Daniel Smith, giving Clark figures of two for 18 off seven overs at tea.
Lee returned for Clark after the interval and kept the pressure on, Cook almost playing on for the second time with an inside edge, but the runs gradually began to flow.
Cook hit Bracken off his pads for four through mid-wicket and brought up his half-century shortly afterwards.
Pietersen got lucky when he top-edged a hook shot off Lee into space at backward square leg, but he then smashed Moises Henriques for six over the mid-wicket boundary.
Pietersen continued to torment the young all-rounder, hitting three fours off the 37th over, but then McGrath broke the fourth-wicket stand, bowling around the wicket to trap left-hander Cook lbw.
Pietersen brought up his 50 by lofting McGrath over mid-on for four, before Flintoff got in on the act, hitting spinner Beau Casson for three boundaries in quick succession.
Earlier, Steve Harmison improved on his bowling performance from the first day to finish with three for 95 from 20 overs, while Jimmy Anderson took the final New South Wales wicket with his only ball of the day for figures of two for 45 from 15.1 overs.
The hosts resumed on 325 for five at the start of the day and although there were only 4.1 overs in the morning session, that was enough time for Harmison to trap Henriques (29) lbw with an inswinging delivery.
That left the Blues on 334 for six during the rain break and they declared shortly after lunch after losing three wickets for 12 runs.
Smith (45) edged Harmison behind to Geraint Jones, before Matthew Hoggard got a deserved wicket, claiming Nathan Hauritz for five, and the hosts declared after Bracken (8) gave Trescothick his third catch of the innings at first slip.