England come agonisingly close
It was a day filled with drama - from the early dismissal of Justin Langer to the final, excruciatingly tense moments as Australia hung on for the draw. England's bowlers gave their all for 98 overs, with Andrew Flintoff again producing a Herculean effort as he tore in throughout the day. It was his spell in mid-afternoon, which included the wickets of Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist, that really ignited England's victory charge.
Flintoff was in the thick of the action again when he broke a superb rearguard stand between Ponting and Shane Warne. They had combined for nearly 22 overs after England scented victory following an incisive burst with the old ball, as England utilised their new-found weapon of reverse-swing.
Geraint Jones then held onto an amazing catch to give England hope of finishing off the Australian tail with 10 overs remaining in the match. Warne edged towards Andrew Strauss at second slip, but he could only parry the ball as it banged into his midriff. The ball looped towards Jones, who dived forward and clung on inches from the turf.
Just as much as Flintoff deserved to lead England to victory, Ponting's was a performance worthy of saving the match. He faced 275 balls in an innings of supreme concentration and application, withstanding everything the England attack could throw at him. It is a while since an Australian captain has experienced the pressures Ponting is currently facing and he knew the fate of the match, and possibly the series, rested on his shoulders.
At the start of the day England knew wickets would not fall in clusters and it would be hard work to dismiss Australia. They were given the perfect start when Hoggard pitched his first ball perfectly on off stump and Langer nibbled it through to Geraint Jones.
Matthew Hayden was never comfortable and Flintoff made his first mark on the day by bowling him behind his legs. England then had a huge slice of fortune after lunch as Harmison trapped Damien Martyn lbw. He fired a ball into the pads of Martyn and Steve Bucknor upheld the huge appeal despite a clear inside-edge.
Michael Clarke, batting at No. 7 due to his back injury, was virtually unhindered this time around and took an aggressive approach at the start of the final session. Vaughan searched for wickets with a mixture of pace and spin but found Giles largely ineffective throughout the day as Ponting played him with confidence.
Therefore, Vaughan turned to his reverse-swing king, Simon Jones, who produced a stunning delivery to knock back Clarke's off stump as he shouldered arms. Hoggard then bowled his best spell of the match, as he too got the ball to duck back into the batsmen, and swiftly dispatched Jason Gillespie lbw. With 29 overs remaining, England needed three wickets.
Vaughan opted for the new ball almost as soon as Warne arrived at the crease, although his hand was forced with the old ball, quite literally, coming apart at the seams. The Australian tail, though, was not about to unravel and the eighth wicket stand took vital overs out of the game. England had a chance to remove Warne when he clipped a full toss from Jones towards Kevin Pietersen at midwicket, only to see the chance go down - Pietersen's fifth miss of the series. At that point 16 overs remained, and it took England a further six - potentially vital - overs to take the wicket courtesy of Geraint Jones's stunning intervention.
He could have had an entire over at McGrath but gave away a single to allow Lee to face the final three balls. One went down leg side, one was outside off stump and the final ball was a full toss which Lee bunted down to fine leg and in one continuous moment raised his arms in triumph at seeing his side to safety. There was a sense of symmetry at the end, as Lee could this time enjoy success after the deflating experiences of Edgbaston.
It shows how far the series has turned around to see Australia celebrating a draw with such joy, while England were left to reflect on coming so near to a 2-1 series lead. The entire country can now take a breather as the series breaks for 10 days before Trent Bridge. There are many people who will need to go and lie down in darkened room - with two Tests to go this is becoming the ultimate series.
Justin Langer c G Jones b Hoggard 14 (25 for 1)
Classic outswinger, edged to keeper
Matthew Hayden b Flintoff 36 (96 for 2)
Played down wrong line, bowled round legs
Damien Martyn lbw Harmison 19 (129 for 3)
Full length, massive inside-edge. Terrible decision
Simon Katich c Giles b Flintoff 12 (165 for 4)
Chased an outswinger, flying edge plucked at third slip
Adam Gilchrist c Bell b Flintoff 4 (182 for 5)
Pitched up, squirted to gully
Michael Clarke b S Jones 39 (263 for 6)
Shouldered arms to late inswinger
Jason Gillespie lbw b Hoggard 0 (264 for 7)
Trapped in front by a booming inswinger
Shane Warne c G Jones b Flintoff 34
Amazing rebound catch via second slip
Ricky Ponting c G Jones b Harmison 156 (354 for 9)
Gloved leg-side bouncer to keeper
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo