Australia win at the MCG but have to fight for victory
Remarkable as it might appear, Australia took the result but England took heart from the last session of the fourth Test. Needing just 99 to win on the fifth morning, Australia lost five wickets in reaching the target with moments of stirring batting, intense excitement, umpiring controversy and, yes, heroic efforts from England's two bowlers.
If England had been disappointed by their failure to take wickets at the close of the fourth day, they had to wait no time at all for success at the start of the fifth. Matthew Hayden hooked at a short ball from Andrew Caddick and substitute fielder Alex Tudor took the catch.
While Justin Langer was content to settle in after that blow, Ricky Ponting took the attack to England. He went for his considerable array of strokes from the off and had hit three fours and a six as he raced to 30 from 35 balls taking full toll off bowling that was a little too short. Having said that, it was a short ball from Steve Harmison to which Ponting played something of a half-hearted pull that touched the glove on the way through to James Foster.
Three balls later, Harmison produced a beauty to Damien Martyn that took a faint outside edge on its way through to Foster and suddenly Australia were 58 for three. They needed only another 49 runs to win, but there was still time for drama.
It came in the 12th over of the morning, bowled by Harmison to Steve Waugh who had four unconvincing runs to his name at the time. The fifth ball climbed past the outside edge and went through to Foster who looked inquiringly but said nothing. Marcus Trescothick at first slip raised his arms, but there was no more by way of an appeal until the fielders saw a replay on the big screen. Then Foster appealed, but umpire Dave Orchard said not out.
Next ball, Waugh drove off the back foot low into the covers where Hussain clutched the ball and threw it up in a celebration that was only cut short when he noticed that Orchard had signalled a no ball. Waugh did not notice and had to be called back when well on his way to the pavilion. He returned to crash the last ball of the over back past the bowler to the boundary.
After some more uncomfortable moments, Waugh tried to leave a ball from Caddick that looped off the glove wide of Mark Butcher at second slip who took off to hold a spectacular catch. Four balls later, Langer was hit on the pad by Caddick, everyone went up and Russell Tiffin pointed his forefinger to the sky. Langer out for a calm 24, but a replay showed that the ball had pitched outside leg stump.
It was extraordinary entertainment, especially bearing in mind the fact that England had just two fit fast bowlers. Both Caddick and Harmison gave their all but Australia had the depth of batting to reach their objective. There was still time for a few moments of excitement before Gilchrist hit the winning runs and for once in the series there was a real contest.
It took a long time in coming and the result was as expected, but at last England have something positive to remember as they go to Sydney for the final Test. Australia needed their steadiest nerve to head north with the chance of a whitewash still very much on the cards.