January 6, 2003

England complete 225-run win at the SCG

There were Australian hopes that this outstanding team might break all known records and come back to complete a whitewash in Sydney. There were fears that England's confidence might have taken such a battering throughout the tour that they might not be able to finish the job. Those hopes and fears proved equally unfounded as, shortly after lunch, Andrew Caddick took seven second innings wickets, Australia were bowled out for 226 and England had achieved a memorable victory by 225 runs.

The superb Caddick set England on their way with just the fourth ball of the morning. Andy Bichel had played a rollicking innings when coming in supposedly as night watchman as three wickets fell on the fourth evening, but his adventure came to an end when Caddick got a ball to come back to claim the fourth lbw decision of the innings.

Australian coach John Buchanan had said that his side would go for the win but the fall of a couple of early wickets would change the game plan. It evidently had not changed as the new batsman, Steve Waugh clipped his first ball off his legs for a boundary.

The Australian captain had stolen the show with his first innings century but his script-writers had run out of ideas second time around. Waugh ran out of luck as well, for a ball from Caddick found a way to the stumps via an inside edge and boot. Waugh had scored only six, but still received a standing ovation as he left his home ground for presumably the last time in a Test match.

Six overs into the session and Australia were teetering on the brink at 99 for five. Ideas of batting through to save the game exploded in a puff of dust with the ball that greeted new batsman Martin Love. That struck him high on his body as the pitch crumbled.

Off-spinner Richard Dawson allowed Caddick to take a rest and he claimed the next wicket to fall. Dawson found prodigious turn to take the inside edge of Damien Martyn's bat and as the ball bounced up off his thigh, Alec Stewart was alert enough to grab the chance one-handed to his right.

Love had survived to make 27 and had also survived a confident shout for lbw two balls before his eventual dismissal. Steve Harmison illustrated the old maxim about bowling straight and fast on deteriorating surfaces, for he produced a shooter that took the base of Love's middle stump and Australia were 139 for seven.

Adam's Gilchrist's response to that situation was to attack, as his response to most situations. Four consecutive boundaries off four legal balls from Harmison signalled his intent as he raced to 37 from only 29 deliveries before Caddick was brought back into the attack.

The tall Somerset bowler made use of all his attributes to produce a ball that reared head height to Gilchrist who could do no more than fend it off with his glove for Mark Butcher to pick up the simple catch moving round to his left from second slip.

Brett Lee caused mayhem with 26 runs coming from two Caddick overs as he carved his way to nine fours and a six in making 46 from 32 balls, but it could not last. Extra bounce from Caddick ended the assault with the help of a catch by Stewart behind the stumps and, four balls later, the impressive Caddick bowled Stuart MacGill to bring proceedings to a close seven overs into the afternoon session.

Caddick finished with seven for 94 to give him the first ten-wicket match haul of his Test career. Australia's defeat was the first on home soil against any country since losing to England in Melbourne in 1998 and the heaviest loss to England since being beaten by an innings and 14 runs at the MCG in December 1986.

At last it was England's turn to write the records. It was a long time in coming and this win, however welcome, cannot disguise the fact that another Ashes campaign has ended in failure for England, and by a margin of four matches to one yet again. Nevertheless, it was a stirring performance by a much-maligned team who should enjoy their moment in the sun.

After the string of injuries to bowlers they suffered, England had asked the hypothetical question as to how Australia would fare without Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. They got their answer in Sydney. The only disappointing note might be that England were deprived of the honour of beating the best side in the world in their own back yard. South Africa moved to the top of the ICC Test Championship table 24 hours earlier. But that is only a mathematical aberration. Australia are the best team in the world and England have beaten them. Too little too late maybe, but who can tell what effect it will have on the future of English cricket?