Kevin Pietersen and Joe Root celebrate one of England's six wickets in the final session.

Kevin Pietersen and Joe Root celebrate one of England's six wickets in the final session. Photo: Getty Images

Loose shots, a non-shot and diligent England bowling completely unwound the sizzling start Australia had brought to day two of the Boxing Day Test as England enjoyed its best day of the series to take the upper hand in a salve for lost Ashes. Before a crowd of 78,346 at the MCG after the world record breaking crowd on day one, 13 wickets fell as Australia first rolled England out cheaply then collapsed to be 9-164 and poised to suffer its first first innings deficit of the series.

Michael Clarke wasn't in the middle for very long, bowled by James Anderson.

Michael Clarke wasn't in the middle for very long, bowled by James Anderson. Photo: Pat Scala

Brad Haddin once more this series was asked to recover his team from a hazardous position. He counter-punched aggressively, in bright contrast to his teammates scoring freely even hitting Anderson for three fours in one over on his way to 43, but save for Chris Rogers’ dogged defiance there were too few offers of help.

As fraught as Australia’s situation was it could have been worse as Haddin was given a life. He was given out LBW to Monty Panesar when on 5 and Australia 6-149 but the decision was over-turned by video review.

Having begun the innings confidently after a spirited Mitchell Johnson morning – he took two wickets in his first over – Australia’s top order surrendered its presumptive advantage with loose and lazy shots.

Out cheaply ... David Warner skies a ball off Jimmy Anderson and is caught by Johnny Bairstow.

Out cheaply ... David Warner skies a ball off Jimmy Anderson and is caught by Johnny Bairstow. Photo: Pat Scala

Australia lost early wickets with Dave Warner slapping at a lap pull shot that he skied for an easy catch, Shane Watson drove wide of his body and edging behind. Michael Clarke then left a ball that bowled him. The Jimmy Anderson delivery moved back a shade but Clarke plainly misread the line and departed for just 10.

Soon after lunch Steve Smith was caught at second slip flashing at a good length ball wide outside off without moving his feet.

Opener Chris Rogers had been 50 not out at tea, having survived a crack in the helmet from Broad when he ducked and dived into a ball that did not bounce as high as expected. The hit – which prompted a regular exchange of ill-fitting replacement helmets – appeared to serve to focus Rogers’ mind on occupying the wicket.

Out cheaply ... David Warner made just nine runs.

Out cheaply ... David Warner made just nine runs. Photo: Getty Images

Rogers patiently nudged and bunted his way to 61 with the occasional flourish, when he pushed hard at a ball that was full but hit footmarks and held up slightly as spooned a drive wide to Kevin Pietersen at extra cover.

Rogers had been the man to anchor the innings, shouldering the load of a team playing aggressively on a slow wicket, but when he left George Bailey could not offer anything more to hold Australia together.

The one day captain waved at a ball on a duck and was given out on video review after lengthy reflection by the third umpire. The technology showed no hot spot but a fissure on the snicko suggested a feathered edge and guaranteed his departure. After Joe Root’s dismissal in Perth on similarly thin technology grounds the decision was correct.

Kevin Pietersen is bowled by Mitchell Johnson.

Kevin Pietersen is bowled by Mitchell Johnson. Photo: Pat Scala

Australia was 6-112 and collapsing. Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle could not offer the sort of late innings resistance that had been a hallmark in England and aided Australia in the early Tests of this series.

Siddle was out to what became the last ball of the day laving the home side with last man in Nathan Lyon and Brad Haddin on Saturday morning to attempt to scrounge close to the England tally and hope that batting last on a wicket yet to crumble will not prove too difficult.

Day two offered a different complexion and a more charitable perspective to England’s slow scoring on day one, the second innings confirming the pitch to be slow and scoring difficult.

England bowled tidily without menace but for a change in this series, with something resembling a plan, employing a simple wide line for much of the day which made surviving easy but scoring much harder. Many of the batsmen were drawn into frustrated error trying to score.

It left England poised to take a first innings lead for the first time in the series and Clarke reflecting less bullishly on his decision to send England in than he had earlier in the morning when Johnson thundered through the England lower order.

Johnson had done on the morning of day two what Clarke had hoped would happen on day one when the captain put England in, by rifling through the remaining England bats.

Johnson had two wickets in his first over, a third in the first half hour and Nathan Lyon closed it out with the last wicket for England to be all out for 255 inside the first hour of play.

Johnson’s first ball of the day was a wicket. Kevin Pietersen’s first ball of the day was a four. One was playing from Boxing Day’s songbook the other was reaching into his back catalogue.

Tim Bresnan fell to a brute of a first ball from Johnson fending in hope at a steepling ball only to pop up a catch to short leg.

Pietersen, who spent Boxing Day stubbornly trying to re-craft the impression of him as selfishly cavalier by playing a stubborn innings approached day two with a more familiar mindset.

After his first-ball four next over he ducked late under a sharp Johnson bouncer when about to hook then a ball later swung with the abandon of a drunk uncle on Christmas Day in the back yard yet with far less control at a ball from Johnson that shook his stumps.

Perhaps, as Graeme Swann alluded – then denied – Pietersen’s head was elsewhere.

Ryan Harris suffered a fourth dropped catch of the innings- this time putting down a catch off his own bowling – when Stuart Broad lollied a ball back down the wicket.

Johnson then reprised his bowling to Stuart Broad in Perth with an exact replica – a fast yorker that Broad managed only to shuffle in front of to be out lbw and one of the easiest decisions Aleem Dar might ever have had to make.

In a diversion, at the tea break a self-promoting middle-aged village cricketer and TV berk faced six balls from Brett Lee and found courage can be a concept easily boasted about.