January 4, 2003

Unbeaten Vaughan hundred steers England towards safety

Michael Vaughan scored his third hundred of the Ashes series to put the tourists into a commanding position on the third day of the final Test. The Yorkshire opener made an unbeaten 113 as England reached an impressive 218 for two in their second innings. Earlier a typically flamboyant century from Adam Gilchrist had enabled Australia to take a first-innings lead of just one run, but the fact that Australia have to bat last on a wearing SCG pitch makes England favourites to avoid a 5-0 series whitewash.

After his wonderful run in 2002 Vaughan had seen the New Year in with a duck, but he bounced back at the first opportunity with another sublime innings, studded with a six and 16 fours, to give England a 217-run lead. It was his seventh ton in the last 12 Tests and took his Ashes tally to 563 runs - the highest by an England batsman in Australia since Geoff Boycott scored 657 and John Edrich 648 on the victorious 1970-71 tour.

England lost Marcus Trescothick early, chopping on to his stumps to give Brett Lee his 100th Test wicket. Vaughan then played the starring role in an 87-run partnership with Mark Butcher (34), before the Surrey left-hander was caught by Matthew Hayden at short leg, getting a glove to a spinning delivery from Stuart MacGill.

Vaughan then shared an unbroken third-wicket partnership of 94 with his captain Nasser Hussain, who ended the day unbeaten on 34. Vaughan's innings was not without good fortune; he twice edged MacGill just short of slip, and was dropped on 102 when he pulled Damien Martyn to Justin Langer at mid-wicket.

After being 150 for five yesterday, Australia did remarkably well to overhaul England's first-innings total, albeit by only one run. Resuming on 237 for five, their innings this morning was dominated by Gilchrist. He hit a brilliant 133 off just 121 balls, dominating a stand of 82 runs for the ninth wicket with Jason Gillespie.

Matthew Hoggard took three wickets to give England the initiative first thing. Steve Waugh fell almost immediately, failing to add to his overnight 102 before edging a widish ball to Mark Butcher at second slip. To the delight of the Barmy Army Hoggard then took two wickets off successive balls, and almost repeated Darren Gough's achievement in claiming a hat-trick in the corresponding Test here four years ago.

Andy Bichel, who had been lucky not to be sent on his way by Russell Tiffin when he gloved Hoggard to Alec Stewart behind the stumps in the Yorkshireman's previous over, was the first of the two to go, caught by John Crawley in the gully as he tried to cut. Lee fell to the next ball, edging a full-length delivery to Stewart, and Gillespie was within a whisker of departing to his first ball in like manner.

Gilchrist rarely wastes time at the crease, so it was no surprise to see him grasp the situation by the scruff. He took 24 off his next 15 balls to put Australia within reach of England's total, before edging Steve Harmison to Stewart. Gillespie (31*) then took his side into a one-run lead before last man Stuart MacGill holed out to Hussain at mid-on, giving Hoggard his fourth wicket of the innings.