Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 4th day January 6, 2011

England on the brink of series glory


Australia 280 and 7 for 213 (Smith 24*, Siddle 17*) trail England 644 (Cook 189, Prior 118, Bell 115, Johnson 4-168) by 151 runs

England were three wickets away from an emphatic 3-1 series victory after more superlative all-round cricket left Australia in tatters on 7 for 213, still 151 runs short of making the visitors bat again. James Anderson produced an outstanding display of reverse swing, and Chris Tremlett battered the batsmen with hostile pace, to follow up Matt Prior's first Ashes hundred which led England to their highest total down under.

England claimed the extra half an hour to try and complete victory after Tremlett removed Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson in consecutive balls amid a heady atmosphere as the travelling fans, who outnumbered the locals, savoured every moment. However, Steve Smith and Peter Siddle managed to see out the eight further overs to keep England waiting overnight to celebrate.

Prior added 102 for the eighth wicket with Tim Bresnan (35) to extend the advantage to mammoth proportions before the innings finally ended for 644 shortly after lunch. Any hope of Australia levelling the Ashes had long since disappeared underneath the deluge of runs and it was down to the batsmen to see how deep they could dig. Shane Watson started brightly before a horrendous run out, then England's skills with the old ball - Swann's probing spin and Anderson's masterful control of swing - meant the pressure was never released.

Anderson dispatched Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke in a high-class six-over spell, while Bresnan was also a significant threat with the older ball. Australia's remote chance of salvaging pride disappeared when Mike Hussey carved Bresnan to point six overs before the close. Tremlett's double blast momentarily brought the prospect of a swift finish when he bounced out Haddin and clattered Johnson's off stump.

Watson played his shots at the start of innings, collecting seven boundaries with a combination of thumping pulls and drives, but for the third time in the series he was involved in a horrid mix-up and this time he was the one to depart. Phil Hughes turned the ball into midwicket where two runs were there for the taking, but he ambled the first so when Watson turned and sprinted back for the second Hughes hadn't moved. Watson soon ended up at the same end while Kevin Pietersen's throw reached Prior.

Hughes, rattled by the incident, didn't last much longer when he edged a good ball from Bresnan that seamed away a touch. Bresnan was again superb in tying down the batsmen and alongside Swann dried up the scoring after the early flurry of boundaries.

Khawaja produced another composed display until, the ball after pulling Anderson for four, he followed one that reversed away from him and edged to the wicketkeeper. By then Anderson was making the ball do exactly what he wanted and gave Clarke a thorough examination to match that of Simon Jones at Old Trafford during the 2005 Ashes.

It took all of Clarke's skill to survive as long as he did but eventually he pushed at one that moved away and even before Prior took the catch he was cursing himself. For a moment Anderson thought he had a third when Hussey drove at a full delivery, however the noise was bat clipping ground and Andrew Strauss correctly opted not to review.

Swann also played his part in maintaining the pressure and was denied a wicket he deserved when Ian Bell dropped a low chance at short cover offered by Haddin. It's a sign of how well England have operated as a unit that Swann, who was expected to be a major wicket-taker here, has just one to his name yet the team are so dominant.

As has been the case for the majority of the series, England's day couldn't have gone much more to plan. Prior resumed on 54 and reached his hundred, the fourth of his career, with an expansive cover drive off Michael Beer and coming off 109 balls it was England's fastest Ashes ton since Ian Botham at Headingley in 1981.

He has always been one of the finest off-side drivers in the England team and despite defensive fields had few problems picking the gaps. He also showed a deftness of touch to milk the spinners, then when the third new ball was taken made the most of the extra pace. As the runs piled up, England passed 500 for the fourth time in series, another new record against Australia.

Bresnan played the ideal support role and having taken 61 balls to reach double figures began to unleash some powerful strokes of his own. This situation was far from the most challenging he'll face but he showed a good range of strokes and a solid defence before edging Johnson to second slip. Swann played with the freedom the situation afforded him and Prior eventually fell as he slashed at Ben Hilfenhaus, although the TV umpire checked for a no-ball and it was only fractionally in the bowler's favour.

Swann proceeded to take 17 off five balls against Johnson and his last four-over spell cost 48 runs. It's a long time since Australia have been dominated so extensively in a five-match series on home soil and on Friday the final nails will be hammered in.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 7, 2011, 1:10 GMT

    lovely... loved the way aussies got humiliated.. well done england..cheers

  • Hollis on January 7, 2011, 0:03 GMT

    Congratulations England ..very well done ! Hopefully the rain will cease and the last rites would be performed and you can celebrate . I never thought the Aussies will give in that easily but have been proven wrong. England's all round performance has just been too, superb and clinical.The Aussies will rebound in due course but it's certainly obvious that the team has rapidly gone down hill since the departure of some of the great ones- Warne, Mcgrath, Haden and Gilly. For the sake of Test cricket, I wish I could have said that my Caribbean team will rebound shortly too.

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 23:44 GMT

    Great to see England give it to Aussie,just a pity it is such a dismal Aussie side that they are beating. Would have been great to see Finn,Anderson and co giving it to Langer,Ponting and co in there good days.

  • Michael on January 6, 2011, 22:55 GMT

    Congratulations must go to the England as they have dominated Australia in all aspects of the game. Batting, bowling and fielding have been superb, its disheartening to see how far backwards Australia has gone in all of those aspects. I think the Australian team and the selection process requires a complete overhaul, for a long time now players who are in form in state cricket have not been able to get an opportunity in the Australian side and by all appearences the team appears to be a "boys" club..."i like you, your in the team, i dont like you your out" kind of mentality. As a nation we need to bring it back to basics and rebuild with youthful players showing consistant form at state level. Batsmen that can score runs, bowlers that can take wickets in any conditions, and fielders that can maintain the pressure by restricting runs and taking catches. Players can not be allowed to grow old and remain out of form for extended periods. Forget personal pride and make it about the team!!!

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 22:51 GMT

    Amazing performance. Everyone contributing hard by England. Making centuries one after another. Absolutely fantastic. They made the Ausies tired like a hell. Their batting got effected by tiring bowling and long fielding in the ground for more then 2 days constantly. This is what Australia have done to other teams over the decade. Now after Colling wood, England would be more dangerous, as Morgan will come and Bell will move up to the order at no 3 or 4.

  • John on January 6, 2011, 22:50 GMT

    Comments on comments: @ vikram_roy: yes, I watched the last day of the deciding test between India and SA hoping to enjoy a great day's cricket. India 166-3 in 82 overs. Fascinating. @Marcio: good for you for at least showing up. I'm glad you are still supporting your team; I'm a bit fed up with those who are leaping off the band wagon. @dh74: I'd rather have Watson at #6 instead of Hussey at #5. Watson's 6 years younger and a useful 4th seamer. Hussey had a last burst of brilliance, but his scores in the last 2 tests were more like his form of the last year than those in the first 3. I'd take Bell over him as #5 right now. @England fans generally: enjoy it now, but remember a team is never as good or as bad as it seems. In 1970/71, Australia didn't have much, 2-0 England. By 1974/5, Lillee and Thomson had appeared, 5-1 Australia. @Australian fans: same thing.

  • Dummy4 on January 6, 2011, 22:47 GMT

    In my point of view, the most worst problem that AUS are facing right is the right use of the new ball. They gave Johnson new balls, he just ruined all the expectations and could not keep the pressure on as the Mcgrath and and rest used to do in the past. Thats why England were able to make higher scores. Because their opening batsmen are survived every time whenever they make 500 plus. This leads coming batsmen like Trott and pieterson to play freely without any pressure whatsoever. Cook was the major difference between two teams. Cook has played most of the new ball massive overs single handedly. Hats off to England. I can go on and on on their praising.

  • Damon on January 6, 2011, 22:31 GMT

    This series has reminded me how, of all the sports in the world, test cricket is the most cruel. England have inflicted a death of 1000 cuts over the course of 25 days, leaving a once proud team in a state of disintegration. Part of me feels sorry for Australia here, after being on the other side of this I can feel the pain. But then I remember it is Australia and I know they are far too proud a sporting nation not to bounce back quickly. Still, I'll enjoy it whilst it lasts.

  • John on January 6, 2011, 22:24 GMT

    England had a good series and got better as they went on (Bresnan and Tremlett made the team stronger when they replaced Finn and Broad). Australia didn't play well, except for Perth, but the Perth win wasn't a fluke. Johnson and Harris bowled exceptionally well and would have bowled out any side in the world. Unfortunately, Harris doesn't seem to be able to play more than a couple of games without breaking down and Johnson only gets it right once in a series. If those two could bowl that way in every match, Australia would be in better shape. However, the batting isn't strong and the spin bowling is practically non-existent. 5-679 in the series is woeful. England played well, but the second innings collapse at Perth is a concern and the side is still lacking an all-rounder, even more of a concern now Colly is retiring. I'd replace Colly with Broad and play Bresnan at 7, rather than bring in Morgan. Bell and Prior are a good 5 and 6 and Broad and Swann can bat. Bring on India!

  • Ralph on January 6, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    Full credit & congratulations to the English team ... they have been very good in all aspects of the game in 4 of the 5 tests, with a minor hiccup in Perth that was quickly turned around. How can Australia be so bad in comparison? The answers are very simple ... start getting the basics right on a consistent basis (watch what England have done this series compared to the Aussies), make all players accountable for their poor performance and pick the team on form not reputation, and most importantly have continual succession planning in place so there are always new players coming through and the veterans are moved on before they become a liability. England's long-term goal of reaching #1 in the world is commendable, and if Australia want to get back there they will need to stop celebrating mediocrity and start putting long-term strategies into place (as the English have done).

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