Australia 196 (Hussey 62*) and England 196 for 9 (Jones 71, Collingwood 53) tie the NatWest Series final
The Natwest Series final finished in a thrilling tie as Ashley Giles scrambled two leg-byes from Glenn McGrath's last ball to level the scores. Under tournament rules, the trophy was shared between England and Australia - but it looked as though it would be bearing just the visitors' name after Brett Lee and McGrath had devastated England's top order, reducing them to 33 for 5, chasing 197.
Geraint Jones and Paul Collingwood added 116 for the sixth wicket to bring the hosts right back into the match, although after they fell in quick succession, Australia were back on course. However, Giles hit 20 from 21 balls and, with help from Darren Gough, earned England a share of the spoils. England's bowlers had earlier worked their way through Australia in pace-friendly conditions, with Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff the pick of the attack, each taking three wickets.
The momentum swung back and forth throughout ever since Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden clattered 46 from the first six overs, before England clawed their way back. Andrew Symonds failed to fire with an unusually restrained 29 from 71 balls and it was left to Mike Hussey to boost Australia to respectability, with 62 not out.
Four an over was chaseable nevertheless, although England made a terrible start. Marcus Trescothick fell first, edging McGrath to second slip where Ricky Ponting snapped up a great, low catch to his left (11 for 1).
Then Lee got one to swing back into the lefthanded Andrew Strauss and spread his stumps (13 for 2). The opening pair each finished with a series average of 11 against Australia in this series and the visitors will be licking their lips, none more so than Lee, whose case for inclusion in Australia's Test team is growing stronger with every blow.
England's slide continued as Michael Vaughan attempted an expansive pull to McGrath and was bowled, instead, for a duck. Neither was there to be Kevin Pietersen's familiar rescue act: having scored 6 he fine edged a Lee awayswinger, before Flintoff edged to first slip on 8 (33 for 5).
But Collingwood and Jones left all that had gone before - Collingwood even blanking from his mind a grassed chance (albeit a difficult one) when on 4, to make 53. Jones, for his part, contributed a valiant 71 which included four fours and three sixes, the highlight a straight-driven six back over Jason Gillespie's head. They were brave, and fortune favoured them: choosing to go aerial most times and balls kept landing in space.
England's momentum was building, but Symonds punctured it dramatically with a rocketed throw to Gilchrist from cover to run Collingwood out (149 for 6). Then Brad Hogg's full toss trapped Jones. Simon Jones' stay was short and sour - Hayden and he exchanging knowing looks - before Hussey bowled him for 1 (162 for 8). Hussey did a good job in the unfamiliar situation of bowling towards the death.
But all was not lost for England - although it wasn't ultimately won - as Gough and Giles took up the reins, needing 35 from 29 balls when they came together. They kept chipping away until 19 were needed from the penultimate over, bowled by Lee. Giles mishooked his second ball, an attempted bouncer, over Gilchrist and it raced for four.
The trusty McGrath bowled the final over - with ten required - but delivered a no-ball first up, and England scrambled a run to boot. Giles and Gough rotated the strike until three runs were required from the last two. Gough patted the penultimate ball back to McGrath, who snatched the ball, turned and - with time aplenty - lobbed it gently, delicately towards the stumps. A cool head, and a cool result - Gough was on his way. Giles faced the final ball, and scrambled those vital leg-byes.
Australia had got off to a flyer, Gilchrist destroying Jones' second over, driving four fours in succession as he and Hayden piled up 54 for the first wicket. Hayden fell first, toe-ending Gough to short mid-off. Then Flintoff accounted for Gilchrist: after being beaten three times on the run, a frustrated Gilchrist finally lashed a shorter one high to mid-wicket (54 for 2). It was the start of England's comeback - and they didn't let up: Harmison removed Ricky Ponting with his first ball (71 for 3). Symonds should have departed shortly after, when Flintoff's pitch-perfect delivery struck the offstump - but the bail stayed on.
Harmison then removed Damien Martyn and a becalmed Michael Clarke was then trapped plumb by Jones (93 for 5). Symonds and Hussey posted fifty between them before Collingwood got the vital breakthrough, removing Symonds.
Having made such inroads, everyone was expecting Vaughan to bring back his pace guns to rifle through the lower order. Instead, he stuck with Collingwood and Giles for a little while longer, until they had bowled 16 overs between them. These overs may have gone for just 53, but England should have been going for the jugular.
Vaughan eventually brought Harmison back - and it immediately paid off, as Hogg could only glove a hostile bouncer to Geraint Jones. A menacing Flintoff then came back, too, and removed Lee then Gillespie in successive balls. Flintoff had to wait an over for his hat-trick ball, though, which was nudged away by the in-form Hussey. Gough then finished things off, McGrath duly holing out to point.
This match heralds the true start of summer and, if it continues in similar, heated vein we are in for a scorcher.