How England retained the Ashes
1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge
Australia 75 for 4 (Smith 38*, Hughes 7*) trail England 215 (Trott 48, Bairstow 37, Siddle 5-50, Pattinson 3-69) by 140 runs
Pent-up tensions at the start of the series frothed out into a memorable first day of eager bowling, angsty batting and high excitement. Trent Bridge swung for the quicks, Peter Siddle took five England wickets and James Anderson passed Fred Trueman's 307 Test wickets with a mesmerising delivery to bowl Michael Clarke.
England 215 and 80 for 2 (Cook 37*, Pietersen 35*) lead Australia 280 (Agar 98, Hughes 81*, Anderson 5-85) by 15 runs
No last man has ever made a Test hundred. Ashton Agar came within inches of achieving it in his maiden Test innings, only to fall for 98 as he pulled Stuart Broad to deep midwicket. His last-wicket stand of 163 in 33 overs with Phillip Hughes, a world record, gave Australia a first-innings lead of 65 that they could not imagine at 117 for 9.
England 215 and 326 for 6 (Bell 95*, Broad 47*) lead Australia 280 by 261 runs
Ian Bell played with inconspicuous authority on an increasingly turgid surface to move within five runs of a century, but the furore surrounded Stuart Broad. Broad was accused of bad sportsmanship for not walking (a practice barely seen for half a century) when umpire Aleem Dar gave him not out after an edge cannoned off the gloves of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin to first slip.
Australia 280 and 174 for 6 (Rogers 52, Broad 2-34) need 137 more runs to beat England 215 and 375
Australia put on 84 for the first wicket as they were set 311 to win at Trent Bridge. A dead pitch and the hottest day of the year made it tough work for the bowlers, but the loss of three wickets in the last hour tilted the Test towards England.
England 215 (Siddle 5-50) and 375 (Bell 109, Broad 65, Pietersen 64, Cook 50) beat Australia 280 (Agar 98, Hughes 81*, Smith 53, Anderson 5-85) and 296 (Haddin 71, Rogers 52, Anderson 5-73) by 14 runs
James Anderson led England to victory as he took the last four wickets to fall in a steadfast spell of fast bowling on a nerve-shredding final day. A last-wicket stand of 65 between Brad Haddin and James Pattinson took a wonderful match, against expectations, into the afternoon session before Anderson struck for the final time.
2nd Investec Test, Lord's
England 289 for 7 (Bell 109, Bairstow 67, Smith 3-18) v Australia
Ian Bell became the fourth England batsman to score three successive Ashes hundreds after Ryan Harris had bulldozed aside the top-order on a sweltering day at Lord's, but Steven Smith's lightly used legspin brought three late wickets for Australia to balance up the match.
England 31 for 3 (Siddle 3-4) and 361 lead Australia 128 (Swann 5-44) by 264 runs
This was the day that persuaded many that Australia were no-hopers. They batted dreadfully, losing 10 wickets for 86 in a display that raised questions about their technique and confidence. This was an opportunity to bat themselves into a winning position, occasional sharp turn for Graeme Swann notwithstanding. Instead, they floundered, dismissed in only 53.3 overs.
England 333-5 (Root 178*, Bell 74) and 361 lead Australia 128 by 566 runs
Joe Root ground down Australia with his first Test hundred as an England opener to end the debate about his promotion up the order. Root was 97 not out at tea, but the benefits accrued for England in the final session as they added a further 162. Root's unbeaten 178 left his quality incontestable.
England 361 (Bell 109, Bairstow 67, Harris 5-72) and 349 for 7 dec (Root 180, Bell 74, Siddle 3-65) beat Australia 128 (Swann 5-44) and 235 (Khawaja 54, Clarke 51, Swann 4-78) by 347 runs
England secured a 2-0 lead as they completed an inevitable victory in the last over of the fourth day. Australia, losing for the sixth successive Test, were four balls away from taking the match into a fifth day, with England forced to take a second new ball and the extra half-hour before Graeme Swann's ninth wicket of the match finished the job.
3rd Investec Test, Old Trafford
Australia 303 for 3 (Clarke 125*, Rogers 84, Smith 70*) v England
Australia, so clueless at Lord's, summoned long-dormant reserves of application at a hot, humid Old Trafford to breathe life into an Ashes series that no longer seemed quite as inevitable. Michael Clarke, predictably, was at the centre of it all, marrying grit with glitz in the first century by an Australia batsman for seven Tests.
England 52 for 2 (Cook 36*, Trott 2*, Siddle 2-7) trail Australia 527 for 7 dec (Clarke 187, Smith 89, Rogers 84, Starc 66*, Haddin 65*, Swann 5-159) by 475 runs
The Old Trafford Test continued to be a throwback as Australia, led once more by Michael Clarke, again dominated, batting boldly and bowling with discipline and menace. England toiled in the field for hours before taking up a grim occupation of the crease with a draw looming as their favoured outcome.
England 294 for 7 (Pietersen 113, Cook, 62, Bell 60) trail Australia 527 for 7 dec by 233 runs
England were indebted to a century from Kevin Pietersen as their unsatisfying progress towards the retention of the Ashes continued. Two successive sixes off Nathan Lyon pronounced that the day beloned to Pietersen, who insisted afterwards that he had refused surgery on his knee complaint to play in the Ashes.
Australia 527 for 7 dec and 172 for 7 (Clarke 30*, Harris 0*) lead England 368 (Pietersen 113, Cook 62, Bell 60, Siddle 4-63, Starc 3-76) by 331 runs
Australia, aware of a worsening weather forecast, batted positively to extend a first-innings lead of 159 to 331 before bad light controversially ended the fourth day early. Umpires Tony Hill and Marais Erasmus judged conditions unsafe, much to the incredulity of the Old Trafford crowd and Australia's captain, Michael Clarke.
England 368 (Pietersen 113, Cook 62, Bell 60, Siddle 4-63, Starc 3-76) and 37 for 3 drew with Australia 527 for 7 dec (Clarke 187, Smith 89, Rogers 84, Starc 66*, Haddin 65*, Swann 5-159) and 172 for 7 dec
Predictions that there would be no play at all were wide of the mark, as the groundstaff cleared up in time for an 11.30am start. Australia declared, setting England a notional 332 to win, and claimed three wickets before lunch to maintain faint hopes of keeping the series alive. Then the Manchester weather closed in, ensuring the Ashes would remain with England.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo