Flintoff takes England to the brink of victory
Steve Harmison struck with the final ball of the day to put England on the brink of a series-levelling victory at Edgbaston, after Andrew Flintoff had produced heroics with bat and ball. Flintoff shrugged off a shoulder injury to smash 73 in a final wicket stand of 50 with Simon Jones; took three wickets, including Ricky Ponting for a duck, and then held a catch to remove Adam Gilchrist.
England claimed the extra half-hour in an attempt to finish the match within three days day but Michael Clarke and Shane Warne resisted amid a flurry of shots. But Harmison bowled a brilliant final over to give a jubilant crowd yet another amazing moment to cheer at the end of another incredible day.
This frenetic match continued in relentless fashion from the off as, in what had been billed as Warne's morning, it was actually Lee who stole the early honours, with three early wickets, one clanging wake-up call after another. He removed Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan in the space of four balls - and then added the nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard to add a further dint to the scorecard.
Warne came into his own soon enough, though, dismissing the dangerman Kevin Pietersen and then adding Ian Bell. He took six in all, and is now just one wicket shy of the magical 600-wickets mark.
Trescothick fell in familiar style: flapping at a widish one outside off stump, he failed to move his feet and feathered through - just as he had in the first innings. Lee then bowled Vaughan through the gate before Hoggard steered a loose one to gully. Australia were back in the hunt, and thought they had another, when Pietersen appeared to edge his first ball off Lee.
Pietersen survived and immediately smacked Warne for two nonchalant sixes through mid-wicket. Both were in the mood for havoc, but Warne won the battle, fizzing down a ripper which Pietersen was adjudged to have edged through to Gilchrist. This time it was Pietersen's turn to feel hard done by.
Another questionable edge accounted for Bell, whose hapless series continued gloomily, although this time he had at least managed to reach double figures. England were wobbling and had more cause for concern when Flintoff tweaked his left shoulder: but he played on with a big grin and an even bigger bat as wickets tumbled around him.
Lee struck again in the first over after lunch, a short, sharp hostile delivery prompting Geraint Jones to fend to Ponting in the slips. Then Warne made it five wickets, removing Ashley Giles and Steve Harmison in successive deliveries. Australia had England in trouble at 131 for 9, but then came the fireworks.
In a booming half-hour, Flintoff single-handedly, and single-shoulderedly, swung the momentum back England's way. He posted a pain-defying brace of towering sixes as Michael Kasprowicz's third over disappeared for 20, and that was just the start of it.
Lee was next to get the treatment - six, four, six - with the first of the maximums driven straight out of the ground. It was a remarkable effort in any situation, but one made all the greater given the pressure to post a sizeable lead with one wicket remaining, not to mention the injury.
England's batting hero shrugged off such trifling concerns, laughed at the nine fielders posted on boundary patrol, and promptly lofted a six over them. Jones got in the swing too, and his 12 not out was invaluable in both psychological and actual terms.
Flintoff's fun eventually came to a close, bowled by Warne whose six wickets - and ten for the match - were thoroughly deserved. But by that time Australia were rattled and were now facing a target of 282.
It's not the visitors' way to give up without a fight, though, and the match was still finely poised when Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden began Australia's reply. And indeed they began to turn the tide, closing in on the fifty partnership, when Flintoff came on to bowl. In one over of pure heart he removed Langer and Ricky Ponting, to swing the momentum back for the home side.
Flintoff was on a hat-trick after finishing the first innings with a brace, but the first ball was safely negotiated by Langer. Not so the second, which Langer could only edge on to his stumps. It was a huge breakthrough and more was to come four balls later when Ricky Ponting edged through for a duck.
It was gripping stuff, with first Hayden then Damien Martyn taking the attack to England's bowlers, but England refused to cede their grip. Hayden had looked to have the measure of Simon Jones, creaming him for two fours in one over but, trying for another, he instead edged one which swung away from him. Yet again the game began to tilt in Australia's favour as Martyn began his silky onslaught. But Hoggard was brought back into the attack and struck with his first ball as Martyn clipped a lazy shot to Bell at midwicket.
There was yet more excitement in store as Giles removed first Simon Katich then Adam Gilchrist to reignite the slide. Katich went for one which didn't turn and then Gilchrist couldn't resist hitting out at another Giles delivery shortly afterwards, even with the end of day looming.
And just before the 6 o'clock cut-off point, that man Flintoff was in the thick of things - he certainly didn't want this day to end - trapping Jason Gillespie plumb. England claimed the half-hour.
Clarke and Warne took the attacking approach (what other way has there been in this match?) with Warne in particular taking great delight in pulling Giles for two sweet sixes in yet another of the absorbing subplots. But Clarke was made to pay when, in the very last over, he was bowled by Harmison. It was a fitting end to an action-packed day.
Andrew Strauss b Warne 6 (25 for 1)
Wicked side-spin, spat out of rough, hit middle behind legs
Marcus Trescothick c Gilchrist b Lee 21 (27 for 2)
Flapped at a wideish one
Michael Vaughan b Lee 0 (27 for 2)
Caught in two minds footwork-wise, bowled by one which kept low
Matthew Hoggard c Hayden b Lee 1 (31 for 4)
Prodded to gully
Kevin Pietersen c Gilchrist b Warne 20 (72 for 5)
Ball appeared to come off elbow, keeper holds catch low
Ian Bell c Gilchrist b Warne 21 (75 for 6)
Big turn out of the rough, faint edge through
Geraint Jones c Ponting b Lee 9 (101 for 7)
Hostile short ball climbed on batsman
Ashley Giles c Hayden b Warne 8 (131 for 8)
Prodded forward to one with plenty of sidespin
Steve Harmison c Ponting b Warne 0 (131 for 9)
Deceived by the slider
Justin Langer b Flintoff 28 (47 for 1)
Inside edge on to stumps
Ricky Ponting c G Jones b Flintoff 0 (48 for 2)
Drove at one which swung away slightly
Matthew Hayden c Trescothick b S Jones 31 (82 for 3)
Flashed at widish one
Damien Martyn c Bell b Hoggard 28 (107 for 4)
Drove uppishly to mid-wicket, lazy shot
Simon Katich c Trescothick b Giles 16 (134 for 5)
Wafted at straight one which pitched in the rough
Adam Gilchrist c Flintoff b Giles 1 (136 for 6)
Flicked easy catch to mid-on
Jason Gillespie lbw Gillespie 0 (136 for 7)
Trapped plumb in front
Michael Clarke b Harmison 30 (175 for 8)
Beaten by a brilliant slower ball on middle stump
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo