Warne sets up the whitewash
Australia are on the verge of their first Ashes whitewash for 86 years, after yet another day of effortless domination at Sydney. By the close England had been reduced to a feeble 5 for 114 in their second innings, with Kevin Pietersen, once again, providing lone resistance for his side. He was standing fast on 29 at the close, with Monty Panesar - promoted to nightwatchman - yet to get off the mark.
In all likelihood, the biggest retirement party in Australian history is set to get underway sometime tomorrow afternoon, and Shane Warne is guaranteed to be right in the thick of things, after another ludicrously far-fetched twist to his astonishing career. He was Australia's star with the bat, top-scoring with 71 from 65 deliveries including nine fours and two sixes.
At the MCG Warne had been left high and dry on 40 not out, but he continued today's innings as if he'd never been away from the crease. His first two deliveries, from Panesar, were spanked for four and six, as he turned a delicate situation for Australia into one of familiar dominance. The Aussies had slipped to 6 for 260, which compared favourably to England's own position of 6 for 258 at the same stage of their innings.
But nothing could atone for the lack of spine shown by England's tail - their last five batsmen mustered four runs between them - and with every crashing stroke that Warne produced, the morale of their bowlers was further sapped. Adam Gilchrist produced a pugnacious 62 of his own before being sawn off by a poor umpiring decision, while Stuart Clark proved the ideal foil for Warne in a 68-run stand for the ninth wicket.
As the afternoon session wore on, the odds plummeted on Warne's script including a maiden Test century in what seems likely to have been his 199th and final Test innings, but in the end he fell short by 29 runs. Clark top-edged a pull to point for 35 and, with only Glenn McGrath for company, Warne was forced to take a few risks and was stumped while slog-sweeping at Panesar.
The day had started much more promisingly for England, as Michael Hussey was caught behind in Anderson's first over and Andrew Symonds, after a mature knock of 48, was fooled into a rash swing across the line against Panesar. But by tea, England were even deeper in the mire.
With Brett Lee bowling at a furious pace, Alastair Cook scuffed an attempted pull that spiralled off a top-edge to Gilchrist for 4, before Andrew Strauss, on 15, was felled by a vicious short ball that didn't get up as he expected. He was struck flush on the side of the helmet and crashed to the crease in a heap, but after a lengthy delay, he battled on gamely. Like the rest of his series, however, it was a futile gesture. On 24 he wafted across the line to Clark, who sent him back to the pavilion via a trip to the hospital for a precautionary scan.
Strauss and Ian Bell had added 50 for the second wicket to halve the first-innings deficit, but six stodgy overs later Bell was also on his way. He flashed a loose uppercut at a wide one from Lee and Gilchrist pouched a snick that could be heard even above the defiant din of the Barmy Army. Paul Collingwood followed soon enough. His performances have been in freefall since his heartbreak at Adelaide, and Matthew Hayden in the gully gave Clark his second wicket of the innings, courtesy of a loose drive.
Inevitably, it was time for that man to make another appearance. In the dying overs of the day, Warne had Andrew Flintoff stumped for 7 by Adam Gilchrist as he dragged his back foot out of the crease, and Australia knew beyond all doubt that the game was in the bag. Panesar saw out the final over with a field that had all 10 fielders huddled round the bat, and he can expect more of the same when the final day of this mismatch dawns.
Attack of the day
Ian Bell left with the honours in his final Test battle with Shane Warne by striking him for three fours in an over. Each time he went down the crease, meeting the ball on the full and striking it through the legside.
Exchange of the day
Paul Collingwood was standing at slip when Warne was successfully targeting Monty Panesar's bowling and the pair's exchanges became so intense Billy Bowden twice walked in with verbal cold water. "You're making me concentrate, mate," Warne told Collingwood after hitting Panesar for one of two sixes.
Bad decisions of the day
Bowden's caught-behind ruling of Adam Gilchrist was particularly bad, but by then Aleem Dar had missed the flick of Shane Warne's glove off Panesar, so the Australians could not complain too much.
Headache of the day
Andrew Strauss wins for his ducking into a Brett Lee bouncer that rattled his helmet and ricocheted into his shoulder. The Australian cordon and Lee ran to check on Strauss, who was shaken but slowly returned to his feet to continue the innings. He went to hospital when he was dismissed and the scan was clear.
Roar of the day
Not since Steve Waugh's final Test here in 2004 have the spectators made as much as noise as they did when Glenn McGrath walked out to bat. In what will probably be his last innings he faced three balls and was applauded for a textbook forward defence.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo