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England battles Australian barrage

Australia needs four more wickets to win the second Ashes Test after England batted throughout the fourth day in Adelaide.

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The Ashes opener at the Gabba boiled over at its climax and the tension between Australia and England has not abated as the host closes in on victory in the second Test at the Adelaide Oval.

Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson was involved in a physical confrontation with England's Ben Stokes and then had a heated run-in with Stuart Broad as they walked off the ground on Sunday.

A demolition job on England in Adelaide led by the reborn Johnson will reach its inevitable conclusion on Monday, with only the emergence of the most unlikely of Faf du Plessis clones or a wildcard from the weather standing between Michael Clarke's side and a 2-0 series lead.

Mitchell Johnson celebrates dismissing England captain Alastair Cook. Click for more photos

Second Ashes Test, Day Four

Mitchell Johnson celebrates dismissing England captain Alastair Cook. Photo: Getty Images

Rain is forecast on Monday and England - set 531 to win or survive two days with the bat to draw - will need plenty of it. Without assistance from above it has as much chance of holding on as there is of Johnson having a shave in the next month.

There were indications in Brisbane - when Clarke was fined for his ''broken arm'' outburst at James Anderson - that relations between the teams could degenerate to the extent that something really ugly takes place on the ground this summer. And the signs are still pointing ominously in that direction after a strained last 30 minutes on Sunday.

As a result of the heavy mid-pitch contact between Johnson and debutant Stokes, an umpire - not for the first time in the series - had to step in to separate players.

Australia's Mitchell Johnson (left) and England's Ben Stokes collide.

Australia's Mitchell Johnson (left) and England's Ben Stokes collide. Photo: Reuters

Stokes objected when he clattered into Johnson while taking a run, believing the bowler had deliberately changed his line to trigger a collision.

The pair exchanged heated words - forcing intervention from umpires - and there was further spice as the fourth day wound down when Clarke and England wicketkeeper Matt Prior traded barbs.

In another unpleasant scene, Johnson and Broad engaged in a slanging match as they walked off the ground, with Broad veering towards Johnson.

Minutes earlier, a Johnson thunderbolt had clipped Broad's bat and crashed into his bicep.

Prior and rival gloveman Brad Haddin also had words.

Despite the escalation of animosity, players were keen to play down the disputes.

''Pup [Clarke] walked in to have a look at the light and Broady was asking Mitch where to go to dinner,'' Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle said.

''There wasn't a lot to it. It's no more than we've ever seen in the history of cricket. You can say what you want, but being out there, there is not much being said at all.

''I've played 48 Tests now and I don't think it's been any different no matter who we play. It doesn't matter whether you're winning or losing, or who you're coming up against, it's just part of the game.''

Johnson, whose aggression has rattled England's batsmen, was an ever-present adversary on Sunday, delighting in post-delivery comments to the batsmen, most prominently to Joe Root.

The 22-year-old Yorkshireman displayed maturity with a gritty 87 at No. 3 that frustrated Johnson, particularly when he reacted to the paceman's words by smiling.

''I didn't feel that there was anything going on out there,'' Root said. ''You want to play hard cricket and it's Ashes cricket - you'd expect that. You'd be disappointed if there wasn't a bit of rivalry. I think it makes entertaining cricket to watch.

''It's certainly good to be involved in that out there in the middle. You know you're involved in a battle. You've got to front up and fight.''

Root's 111-run stand with Kevin Pietersen (53) was comfortably England's best partnership of the series, enabling the tourists to survive into Monday with four wickets remaining.

There was more fight from Stokes in a determined 28 from 90 balls and from Prior (31 not out) and Broad (22 not out), who ushered England to stumps at 6-247.