December 1, 2002

Australia totally dominant as the Ashes are retained in style

Australia has gone 3-0 up in the series and has retained the Ashes as a consequence. Leading England by 271 runs in the first innings Australia took the eight necessary wickets to finish England's innings at 8 for 223 - Australia won by an innings and 48 runs.

England in their defence were a much more improved side this time round. Their bowlers bowled better and their batsmen made an effort in the second innings. But still their improvements could not match it with the Australians.

The day started poorly for England losing three wickets for one run within the space of two overs. Nightwatchman, Richard Dawson was the first to depart. The 22-year-old appeared upset after falling to a Jason Gillespie three card trick. After bowling two balls that kept quite low, he bowled a fuller one outside the off stump, which Dawson slashed, to a waiting Steve Waugh in gully. He did not add to his overnight score of eight.

The next over, Michael Vaughan and Mark Butcher were involved in bad calling and then the consequential run out. After wanting two after taking a single, Butcher sent his partner back only to see the bails fly off before he could reach safety. Brett Lee fielding at mid-on threw the ball to Adam Gilchrist who came in front of the stumps to throw the ball to Glenn McGrath waiting at the bowlers end. Vaughan, well out of his crease went for nine.

Mark Butcher then fell leg before wicket to McGrath without scoring. England was well and truly strung out at four for 34 and Australia could smell success. Though they did not count on Nasser Hussain and Robert Key grounding out an innings saving performance.

In the consequent session, Hussain and Key dug in leaving outside the off stump alone, which McGrath and Gillespie religiously patrolled. They waited for the bad balls and punished them accordingly. Hussain and Key then reached mini milestones, a 50 partnership off 159 balls.

They played no silly shots and were a credit to themselves and England as they tried to restore hope and dignity to the visitors, which has been stripped away over the past two Tests and indeed since 1987. A minor victory came when the Australian skipper had to change field placings to reflect the stoke play of Hussain and Key.

Still though there was the ever-lurking presence of Australian pressure and the abundant amounts of confidence. After grounding out 23 runs from 106 balls, Key fell leg before wicket to McGrath, giving the lanky paceman his 200th Test wicket in Australia. McGrath joined an illustrious club, which only Shane Warne and Dennis Lillee are apart of. He trapped Key with the inswinger and ended a partnership of 68 runs.

Alec Stewart came to the crease in an aggressive frame of mind and looked early to take upon the Australian attack. Lee dropped Stewart early and it proved costly as he went on to be 66 not out. He played a naturally aggressive game and his bravado and temperament saw him ride out the innings.

Hussain given out caught behind on 61 was unimpressed with the decision and showed his annoyance as he returned to the dressing room. He had been given a life one ball before with Man of the Match, Damien Martyn dropping him at first slip. Replays suggested Hussain had a cause for frustration, although it was not as completely clear.

Stewart continued in his quick fashion and made a half-century off 66 balls. He smashed Warne, McGrath and Lee to the boundaries offering some hope that England may indeed wipe out the deficit.

His partners though could not match his stamina and fell quickly. Craig White, more impressive with the ball than bat this summer, made 15 before Warne tossed one up and White looking for the sweep missed it completely; Gilchrist stumped White, who was well out of his crease.

Alex Tudor only could contribute three runs after he ducked into a Lee thunderbolt, which opened him up above the eyebrow with new ball and hard seam. Lee seemed genuinely concerned but Tudor had to retire hurt.

Steve Harmison, the last of the line with Chris Silverwood unable to bat after he damaged his ankle ligaments on day one was cleaned bowled by Lee. The quick bowled a full toss and it hit middle and leg stumps after Harmison took a hug swing at it.

Australia achieved three victories in quick time as a result of fast runs with great bowling to back them up. In this team are excellent players who each have the ability to grab the match by the scruff of the neck and turn it in Australia's favour.

England, on the other hand, has been rattled by injuries and is at the end of an era. Their most successful players of recent times have either retired or are a few matches off retirement and therefore are in a process of rebuilding. Harmison, Dawson and Vaughan have shown that England can be competitive and have displayed positive signs for the future of England at Test and one-day level.