Match reports

Wonderful Wizard of Aus

Toss: Australia.

Toss: Australia.
Yet another display of exceptional all-round cricket took Australia to victory by the now-familiar crushing margin. Warne, who had held England's batsmen spellbound from the moment he bowled Gatting at Old Trafford in 1993, was again the executioner, taking three for 39 and eight for 71 - his best analysis in first-class cricket. It was not until the final innings, though, that he commandeered the spotlight. During the first three days, it was the combined efforts of Slater, Taylor, Mark Waugh, McDermott and Healy which forced the tourists into a position from which there was little prospect of escape.
England suffered a severe setback when Malcolm went down with chicken-pox three days before the game, and one of even greater significance when Atherton lost the toss on Brisbane's driest and most closely shaven pitch for an Ashes Test in more than 20 years. It was a formality that Australia would bat. Indeed, it was so obvious that there would be more help for spinners the longer the game lasted that Taylor chose to bat again with a lead of 259, rather than enforce the follow-on, after England, through pitiful batting against McDermott, were dismissed for 167 on the third day. It was a mistake because it allowed England the opportunity to regain a little self-respect, but it did no lasting damage.
The ball swung on the first morning. But when an erratic start by Defreitas and McCague allowed Slater and Taylor to score 26 off four overs by doing nothing more than punish leg-side balls and off-side long-hops, the initiative was won and lost in 20 minutes. In the 33rd over Slater was responsible for Taylor's run-out, failing to respond to a call for a sharp single to mid-off. But the mistake increased his resolution. He scored a dashing 112 out of 182 with Mark Waugh, and was on course to pass 200 in the day when, 36 minutes from the close, he failed to clear mid-off against Gooch. Slater faced 244 balls and scored a hundred in fours.
Australia lost six for 97 on the second day; Mark Waugh, who faced 215 balls as he completed his third century against England, was ninth out when a ball from Gough inexplicably reared shoulder-high and carried to the covers from a fend-off. But then England's disintegration began: Stewart was caught at the wicket off a wide out-swinger in what might otherwise have been the last over of McDermott's new-ball spell; Hick soon followed, caught behind, mis-hooking; only while Atherton and Thorpe were adding 47 did England briefly promise to recover. All that subsequently redeemed a supine effort were 234 minutes of orthodox defence by Atherton and a huge swept six by Gooch off Warne, during a calculated attempt to hit the spinners off their length. But Gooch perished after half an hour, another catch for Healy, off a soaring top edge when May's drift from round the wicket undermined a sweep.
Batting again before lunch on the third day, Australia began their second innings with a stand of 109 in 28 overs from Taylor and Slater. But frustrated by Tufnell's accuracy over the wicket, into the rough, they lost eight for 92 before Healy pushed the lead beyond 500. Taylor's declaration left his bowlers 11 hours to win the match and England, improbably, 508 runs.
There was a possibility of Australia winning inside four days when, in Warne's second and third overs, Stewart was bowled by an undetected flipper midway through a pull and Atherton played back to a full-length leg-break and was lbw. Hick and Thorpe spared England that embarrassment, doggedly adding 152 in four hours to the close. On the last day, however, Warne was irresistible. In action from the start with May and - in contrast to the fourth day - bowling mainly round the wicket, he pinned Thorpe to defence for half an hour before beating him with a yorker. The 160 Thorpe added with Hick in 275 minutes was England's highest stand in eight Ashes Tests. England's chance of survival ended there, however: in Warne's next over, Hick was caught at the wicket via pad, chest and back of bat. Gooch hit ten fours in scoring 56, but he became the last of Healy's nine victims (equalling the Australian Test record) and the first wicket of Warne's final spell, in which he captured the last four wickets to bring his figures on the final day to six for 27 off 25.2 overs. They truly told the story of Warne's brilliance.
Man of the match: S. K. Warne. Attendance: 46,022.
Close of play: First day, Australia 329-4(M. E. Waugh 82*, S. K. Warne 0*); Second day, England 133-6 (M. A. Atherton 49*); Third day, Australia 194-7 (I. A. Healy 7*, C. J. McDermott 0*); Fourth day, England 211-2 (G. A. Hick 72*, G. P. Thorpe 66*).