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December 5, 2006
Australia 513 and 4 for 168 (Hussey 61*, Ponting 49) beat England 6 for 551 and 129 (Collingwood 22*, Warne 4-49) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
How they were out - England
How they were out - Australia
It was a day dredged straight from the pit of English Ashes misery, and it was sparked, inevitably, by Warne. After his first-innings haul of 1 for 167, it was questioned whether he could ever again be the force of old, especially given the savage treatment that Kevin Pietersen had meted out on him in the course of his 158. And yet, the old showman proved that it's never too late for another encore. With England wobbling after two early setbacks, he reverted to his attacking line from over the wicket and bowled Pietersen round the legs with a prodigious first-ball legbreak that pitched in the rough and exploded onto off stump. It was a seminal moment, and England's resolve crumbled in an instant.
Pietersen had gone for 2, England had lost three wickets for four runs in three overs, and they had absolutely no place to turn. Andrew Strauss had fallen to a dubious catch at short leg and Ian Bell to a suicidal run-out - both dismissals inspired by Warne - and the combination of nerves and bad karma swept through the dressing-room like a bushfire. Australia went in for the kill, with sweepers on both boundaries to asphyxiate the runs and slips in place to pile on the pressure, and no-one other than the steadfast Paul Collingwood had any answer to the onslaught.
Collingwood by now was entrenched, starved of run-scoring opportunities and rapidly running out of partners. Matthew Hoggard dug in as best he could, but having ground his innings out for 24 obdurate deliveries, Warne served up a thinly disguised googly that took the inside-edge of an ambitious swish. And Glenn McGrath, who had been brooding in the outfield for three hours and 20 minutes, struck in his first over to end Steve Harmison's brief resistance.
James Anderson hung around with Collingwood for 10 precious overs, but runs were at an absolute premium, with England managing just three boundaries in the entire day's play. McGrath eventually picked Anderson off lbw for 1 from 28 balls, leaving Collingwood high and dry, unbeaten on 22 from a strokeless but steadfast 119 balls.
Scenting blood, Australia made a breathless start. Justin Langer signalled his intentions by dancing down the wicket to Matthew Hoggard's second delivery, and clubbed it off a good length through midwicket for four. But Hoggard had his revenge in his next over, when Langer threw the kitchen sink at a wide one but cut it straight into Ian Bell's midriff at point.
As Giles entered the attack, Flintoff posted sweepers on the off and leg side and attempted to cut off the easy singles behind square, but Australia's batsmen were too canny with their one-day expertise, and milked Giles out of the attack with a series of expert dabs and reverse-sweeps. Hoggard returned with the keeper standing up but had to retreat after conceding ten runs in one over, most of them dabbed through third man.
England's shoulders began to droop as Flintoff's captaincy became increasingly lacklustre. Anderson got one to kick off a good length to Hussey, but the edge eluded slip and raced away for another boundary, and though they briefly came back into the reckoning when Strauss clung onto two catches in four balls to see off Ponting for 49 and Martyn for 5, the final insult came when a hyperactive Pietersen fielded a relay throw from Hoggard at long-on, and hurled it over the boundary to give away seven precious runs.
As the replay screen counted down the runs required, it could have been a replay of the closing stages at Edgbaston or Old Trafford last summer - with one prominent exception. The fight had gone out of England long before Hussey picked off the winning runs through cover point. It is ironic, given the disdain they have shown for one-day cricket this year, that their Ashes campaign might just have been ended by a one-day style capitulation.
Moment of the Day
Kevin Pietersen's hubristic sweep shot against Shane Warne, the man he believed he had "beaten". With England rocking after two quick wickets, KP's default answer was another dose of aggression. But he was beaten by the drift, and embarrassed by the rip as he lost his off stump from around his legs.
Shot of the Day
Justin Langer's kitchen-sink smite over midwicket off the second ball of Australia's run-chase. He danced down the track and belted Matthew Hoggard, baseball-style. It established the tempo of the chase immediately, and ensured that England were as timid in the field as they were with the bat.
Stonewaller of the Day
Paul Collingwood survived 119 balls for his 22 not out, gritting his teeth and clinging on for dear life as England's innings collapsed around him. It wasn't pretty, and in the final analysis it wasn't very effective either. But all the while that Warne and Brett Lee were howling at the door, it was England's only hope of salvation.
Innings of the Day
Michael Hussey was thrust up the order ahead of Damien Martyn, and produced the sort of cool, calm, collected innings that has been a hallmark of his award-winning one-day performances. He found the gaps with ease, he turned ones into twos, and he clattered the bad balls with alacrity.
Cock-up of the Day
The run-out of Ian Bell. It was a moment reminiscent of Mark Ramprakash's aberration during their 46 all out at Trinidad in 1993-94 - the moment when mild alarm morphed into full-blown panic, for all of Andrew Flintoff's protestations to the contrary.
Quote of the Day
Channel Nine's jingoistic on-pitch reporter, Ian Healy, summing up the emotional scenes at the end of Australia's chase. "This Ashes clash twists and turns like a massive python," he said with an utterly straight face.
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