McGrath drops the "A" word
The "A" word has not been spoken much by the Australians this week but after Glenn McGrath swept two late wickets he realised how close the prize was to returning "home". In the lead-up to the Test Ricky Ponting said talking about winning the Ashes was off limits and his charges have done a good job of pretending in public that it has not been the over-riding goal.
However, as McGrath's double dropped England to 5 for 265 he allowed himself to think about what finishing off the innings would mean. "If we can get the last five then when the last wicket falls, hopefully at some stage tomorrow, we'll start celebrating and the Ashes will be back home," McGrath said.
Australia's first two stumbling blocks are Kevin Pietersen, who is 37, and Andrew Flintoff (2) after Alastair Cook and Matthew Hoggard slipped in McGrath's second last over before stumps. Cook's 116 and Ian Bell's 87 delayed the home side's push to victory but the new ball lifted the locals and McGrath ended with 2 for 50 off 20 overs.
"It was nice to get something for the hard work and effort," McGrath said. "It was always going to be a tough one if they got a couple of partnerships together and Shane [Warne], Stuey [Clark] and Brett [Lee] kept the pressure up. It was a good team effort."
Warne delivered 31 overs, picking up Bell, and the way he "never eased up" impressed McGrath. "He bowled a fair bit of the first session, a fair bit of the last session and all of the middle session, it's a pretty decent day at the office," he said. "To put in that effort with the amount of balls he's bowled in Test cricket is amazing."
McGrath credited Warne's pressure from the other end as a key factor in him getting the final two wickets. Cook edged a fine delivery from McGrath to Adam Gilchrist while Matthew Hoggard was upended by a pinpoint yorker, creating a moving "ooh, aahh, ooh, aahh" chant as he ran in to finish off his duties.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo