Brisbane: A bellicose Mike Hussey hit 81 not out to lead Australia to 220 for five when play was abandoned early on the second day of the first Ashes test against England Friday.
Hussey, aided by a solid 22 not out from Brad Haddin, arrested a second session slide and helped the hosts to just 40 runs behind England's first innings total of 260 when bad light and rain stopped play at The Gabba.
After Australia had put on 143 runs for the loss of Shane Watson's wicket in the morning, England's bowlers finally got the breakthrough they had been seeking.
James Anderson, who had accounted for Watson in the morning, came out firing after lunch and got immediate reward with the key wicket of Australia captain Ricky Ponting in the first over.
Ponting, the most prolific test batsman at the Gabba who made 196 in his corresponding innings on the last England tour of Australia, was caught by wicketkeeper Matt Prior after attempting to glance the ball down the leg side.
Anderson's fellow quick Steve Finn kept up the pressure with his first Ashes wicket, dismissing Simon Katich caught and bowled after the opener had survived a couple of scares to reach 50, his 25th test half century.
Hussey, under pressure for his place in the side after a thin run of form, wasted no time in taking the game to the English, hitting 18 runs off two overs from spinner Graeme Swann, including the first six of the contest over long-on.
England's bowlers retook the initiative, however, with another two wickets in quick succession.
Michael Clarke had endured a torrid examination, including a TV review of a suspected inside edge and a bang on the helmet from a Stuart Broad bouncer, when Finn snared him caught behind by Prior for nine.
Swann, tipped to be a big influence on the series, had by now tightened up his line and got his reward when Marcus North was dismissed for one courtesy of a good low catch by Paul Collingwood at slip.
The series began with a bang Thursday when Australian paceman Peter Siddle took six wickets, including only the third Ashes hat-trick in the last century.
Australia have not lost a test match at the Gabba since 1988 but, even if they extend that record, the series now looks like being as close as many had predicted.