Australia won their seventh consecutive Ashes series at four o'clock on August 4, by which time their successful defence of the trophy had taken not quite 4,000 deliveries, or just over a week in actual playing time. Victory at Trent Bridge was a testament to their resourcefulness, for England at two stages held the upper hand. Australia trailed by 80 runs with three first-innings wickets remaining at the end of the first day, and England led by 110 with eight second-innings wickets remaining late on the second: the visitors regrouped on both occasions in dynamic fashion, led first by Gilchrist, then by Warne. England, meanwhile, experienced their usual quota of misfortune and miscellaneous acts of God.
First of these was the loss of their captain. Atherton, moments after he had won England's first toss in ten attempts. McGrath's second delivery looped from Atherton's forearm guard to second slip, and umpire Hampshire upheld the appeal for a catch, a decision greeted with hoots of dismay when the big screen replayed the contact. It went down as Atherton's 20th Test duck, an England record. The pitch, recently relaid, offered bowlers discomfiting bounce and sideways movement, and England might have been dismissed before lunch had it not been for the stoical Trescothick: he did not make a mistake for more than two hours, striking 13 emphatic boundaries, including three sumptuous pull shots from Lee. Otherwise, Stewart aside, McGrath encountered little resistance from batsmen frankly overawed by both his craft and his reputation. The narrow man from Narromine claimed five wickets in a Test innings for the 20th time, and the fifth time against England. The wider Warne snuck in to claim his 100th Ashes wicket, having Croft taken at silly point.
It appeared business as usual when Hayden and Slater steered Australia to 48 without loss in 55 minutes against some rather ragged new-ball bowling from Caddick and Gough. But Tudor made it seem like two weeks since his last Test, rather than two years, as he trapped Hayden lbw. A remarkable 93 minutes followed in which Australia lost seven for 54 in less than 20 overs, with Gough and Caddick also profiting from the conditions: Steve Waugh's snick to slip seemed to send a tremor through their dressing-room. Gilchrist, however, remained, by now perhaps a wicket more coveted than that of his captain.
The sun broke through on the second morning, but England, after removing Lee, did not. Gilchrist bolted to his half-century from 47 deliveries with ten boundaries, twice edging to fine leg within a breath of leg stump but otherwise unassailable. With the courageous Gillespie, he added 66 from 15 overs, sufficient to conjure Australia an undreamt-of first-innings lead. Tudor, who had been a doubtful starter because of a side strain, claimed five wickets in a Test innings for the first time, but England's bowling in general was spasmodic rather than systematic.
As the weather closed in after lunch, Atherton and Trescothick showed considerable composure in crafting their best opening stand of the series to date. For once, McGrath lacked penetration, and grew frustrated after Venkat declined an lbw appeal against Atherton when he was 12, the batsman playing no shot as at Lord's. The breakthrough, against the tide of play, came by freakish means. Trescothick's well-struck sweep rebounded from short leg Hayden's ankle and Gilchrist leapt forward to collect the catch. In fact, Trescothick was trebly unfortunate: television replays revealed that Warne had narrowly overstepped the front line, and immediately after his dismissal the players left the field because of rain.
The resumption brought a tense period of play, Lee touching his top speed in removing Butcher and hitting Atherton a glancing blow on the jaw at 91.8mph. But it was after a further break for bad light that Warne truly turned the Test on its head. Atherton may or may not have touched the ball he was judged to have edged to Gilchrist, but there was no doubt about the careless dismissals of Stewart and Ramprakash. The latter, in charging down the wicket with nine overs of the day remaining, squandered more than an hour and a half of painstaking application. White became Warne's fourth victim for 11 runs in 36 deliveries from the day's final ball, and the Australian advantage was consolidated when Gillespie claimed three for six from 14 deliveries on Saturday morning, including his 100th Test wicket (Caddick). W'ane's six for 33 were then his best Test figures since November 1995, before the finger and shoulder operations that had imperilled his career.
Australia required 158, which they might have experienced some pangs about had Venkat upheld Gough's lbw shout against Hayden from his second ball. As it was, some punchy shots, judicious calling and a stream of boundaries to the untenanted third man set them on their way. The fifth and last fifty partnership of the match was the largest and fastest, an unbroken 69 in I I overs as Mark Waugh and Martyn propelled Australia to victory. By then their captain had succumbed to a strained left calf - sustained while setting off for his first run - which was the only event to mar their visit. The scores were levelled by a stylish clip for four to mid-wicket by Mark Waugh, and the Ashes retained by a Caddick no-ball, an apt sequence of events for a series in which Australian style had been decisive but English ineptitude had played a part.