Australia have regained the Ashes with a comprehensive 206-run win two balls after lunch on the final day at the WACA. Shane Warne claimed the final wicket, leaving him on 699 Test scalps, as Kevin Pietersen was left stranded on 60. He and Andrew Flintoff had briefly raised English hopes with a stand of 75, but once Warne made the first breakthrough the rest fell like skittles.
For the umpteenth time in Ashes history, Warne was involved in the major moments. He ended Flintoff's best innings of the series then bowled Monty Panesar with the second ball of the afternoon session as five wickets fell for 14 runs. Warne's script has often seemed pre-determined and he now has the opportunity of reaching 700 in front of his home fans on Boxing Day. But that is for the future, today was all about Australian redemption.
"Every second of our hard work over the past 14 months has been worth it," said an emotional Matthew Hayden, while the elated captain, Ricky Ponting, said: "We've had a long time to think about it, we worked harder than ever before and all that work has come through in our play but we have turned it around and played some unbelievable cricket."
As Pietersen and Flintoff defied Australia for the opening hour and a half the excitement levels around the ground grew with every boundary. After a miserable period with the bat, Flintoff appeared to have decided to return to his basic instincts and just attack the bowling. He smashed five fours in nine balls off Brett Lee and Stuart Clark, his timing and authority growing with each blow. A flicked six over midwicket followed and his first half-century of the series came off 64 balls with two boundaries off Glenn McGrath.
Suddenly a host of dates were being thrown around the easily excited commentary boxes (most 1981 and 2005) but the dream couldn't survive. For all the concerns over Warne's workload, it is the man himself who doesn't want to stop bowling and when a full delivery drifted under Flintoff's bat the celebrations started.
For once Pietersen had been overshadowed but followed Flintoff's fifty with his second of the match, from 123 deliveries. However, after losing his captain the shoulders visibly sank. As Flintoff made his way off the ground he waited for Geraint Jones - a man living on borrowed time - but any words of wisdom had little impact. The dismissal summed up Jones's series; he went for a sweep, the ball bobbled to silly point and while everyone was focused on the appeal Ponting spotted Jones's foot was on the line and promptly ran him out. Pietersen had earlier survived a similar referral to the third umpire - after Mike Hussey's direct hit from short-leg - but this time Steve Davis, the TV umpire, had an easy call to make and Jones completed his first Test pair.
Sajid Mahmood was quickly pinned by Clark's yorker and Pietersen's odd decision not to farm the strike exposed Steve Harmison to Warne with predictable results, although Rudi Koertzen's decision was again debatable. The break kept everyone waiting just that little bit longer, but lunch had barely been digested when the series was sealed. England held the Ashes for 463 days; Australia spent every one of those waiting for this moment and it's going to be one mighty party in Perth tonight.