ENGLAND lodged a formal letter of complaint with officials yesterday over a controversial catch on the second day of the third Ashes cricket Test in Adelaide. While the visitors recovered from the loss of two wickets in the space of five balls to Australia's spin attack on a crumbling Adelaide Oval pitch, events were overshadowed by the controversial dismissal of England opener Michael Atherton. England were 160 for three at the close after Nasser Hussain (58 not out) and Mark Ramprakash (45 not out) went on the attack and added 76 in the final 80 minutes of play. England were chasing Australia's first-innings total of 391. The controversy erupted when former captain Atherton was given out caught by Australian captain Mark Taylor at slip for 41 off leg-spinner Stuart MacGill in the final session. Television replays appeared to show the ball bounced off either the ground or Taylor's fingers into his hand. Taylor told on-field umpire Steve Bucknor he was not sure he caught it and Bucknor then referred the matter to third umpire Paul Angley. Angley adjudged Atherton out after viewing the main replay once, while repeated showings appeared to raise some doubt about the catch. A visibly grim Atherton shook his head several times as he watched the big screen replays at the ground on his long walk back to the dressing room. Team manager Graham Gooch later said a formal letter of complaint would be sent to the match referee, John Reid, about the speed with which the decision was taken. Ramprakash and Hussain wrested the initiative from Australia with a series of glorious drives and pulls to the boundary. Their strong showing made up for another failure by England captain Alec Stewart, who was caught off an inside edge on to his pad for nought off the third ball he faced. It was Stewart's third duck in five Test innings on this tour that have yielded only 41 runs. In the morning, Australia squandered their strong position of the opening day and added just 125 runs for the loss of their last six wickets. They owed much to Justin Langer, whose 179 not out was the backbone of the Australian innings. England looked to be in trouble early in their innings, but in the last hour Ramprakash and Hussain chose to attack Australia's spinners, who were extracting increasing bite and turn on a dry and wearing pitch. England's cause was not helped by Atherton's dismissal and a controversial lbw decision against fellow opener Mark Butcher, who was given out for six not offering a shot to a ball from off-spinner Colin Miller that looked to be missing off stump. Butcher stood for several seconds in disbelief at the decision before trudging off. Miller finished the day with two for 48 but the biggest threat to England could well come from MacGill, who was dangerous throughout the afternoon.