For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
England emerge victorious after heroic half hour
ONE of the great beauties of Test cricket is that a fluctuating five-day contest can be decided in the space of less than half-an-hour.
In the early stages of tonight's evening session at Chester-le-Street, Australia were cruising along at 168-2 chasing a victory target of 299, and looked likely winners as they battled to keep the Ashes series alive.
Fifty-six balls later, and they were reeling at 181-7 with their middle order ripped out and only the tail to guide them home.
Unsurprisingly, it never looked like being up to the task, and in the gathering gloom, Stuart Broad became the first man to take the winning wicket in a North-East Ashes Test when Peter Siddle chipped to James Anderson at mid off.
Boasting an unassailable 3-0 lead ahead of the final Test at the Oval, England have won their third Ashes series in a row for the first time since 1956.
It was only fitting that Broad landed the final blow, as the blond-haired seamer was the key difference between the sides in a magnificent Test match that ebbed and flowed right up to the final few moments.
He took six wickets for 20 runs in the space of 45 balls in the evening session, ripping the heart out of Australia's failed victory chase and compiling his best Test figures of 11-121 in the process. Given the quality of his bowling, it was no more than he deserved.
He was ably supported by Tim Bresnan, whose morning efforts with the bat propelled England into a position of strength, and whose two wickets alongside Broad, including the crucial one of David Warner, were equally significant in terms of the overall picture.
From a point where they looked to have run out of ideas, England's partners in pace ensured this most hard-fought of Tests would build to a remarkable crescendo.
Just as he was in the first innings, Broad was the talisman again, roaring in at more than 90mph, terrorising Australia's batsmen, who suddenly resembled rabbits in the headlights, and whipping a jubilant Chester-le-Street crowd into a frenzy.
He produced a belter to rip out Michael Clarke's off stump, beating the Australia skipper with pace and the slightest movement off the seam, then lured Steve Smith into an ill-advised hook that resulted in the batsman dragging the ball into his own stumps.
He rounded off the middle-order carnage by trapping Brad Haddin leg before as the wicketkeeper looked to work the ball towards leg, then repeated the trick to dismiss Ryan Harris, this time outfoxing his opponent with a ball that cut in.
Nathan Lyon was next to go, clean bowled as Broad's rhythm proved irresistible, and while it briefly looked as though the 27-year-old would be denied the chance to clinch victory because of the state of the light, he returned at the death to account for Siddle.
Surely no one will describe Anderson as England's only fast-bowling match winner now.
Bresnan's victims were Warner, who nicked behind to a delivery that bounced more than he had been expecting, and Shane Watson, who fell in his traditional fashion looking to work the ball into the leg side, and the Yorkshireman's ability to work in tandem with Broad was crucial.
It transformed a day that looked to be slipping away from England, as prior to Bresnan's removal of Warner at third wicket down, Australia appeared to be closing in on their victory target with a minimum of fuss.
The pitch was doing much less than expected, Anderson was strangely out of sorts, and as Warner and Chris Rogers calmly put on 109 for the first wicket, the unthinkable achievement of a successful 300-run chase seemed plausible.
Swann ripped out Rogers for 49, turning one away from the opener and luring him into a prod to Jonathan Trott at slip, but even when the spinner also accounted for Usman Khawaja with a flighted delivery that resulted in a successful lbw appeal, Australia were still in the box seat.
Had Warner built a partnership of 50 or 60 runs with Clarke, the tourists might have been heading to The Oval with a chance of making it 2-2.
As it is, and thanks to the heroics of Broad in particular, they are 3-0 down and facing a repeat of their recent 4-0 series defeat against India. Given the identity of their opponents this summer, though, another 4-0 reverse would be harder to take.
It is surely on the cards if Broad repeats his efforts of the last four days here, although credit must also go to Ian Bell for the fluent century that dug England out of a considerable hole on Sunday.
Bell was an early victim this morning, adding just eight to his overnight score before he succumbed to a ball from Harris that barely rose six inches off the floor. If England's bowlers interpreted the delivery as proof of a deteriorating surface, however, they were sadly mistaken.
Prior fell to the very next delivery, with Broad going for 13 when he fended a bouncer to Smith in the gully, and at that stage, a lead above 250 looked unlikely. However, England's hopes of posting a daunting total were rescued when Bresnan and Swann cut loose.
Bresnan added 41 runs in just 69 balls, throwing caution to the wind and boasting sufficient technical ability to dominate a fired-up attack.
For all that Graham Onions might have been a better bowling option on this wicket, it is easy to see why Andy Flower is so reluctant to dispense with Bresnan when he is capable of scoring as heavily and quickly as he did today.
He plundered 14 in one over from Jackson Bird, clubbing to long on when the bowler over-pitched before hooking behind square when his opponent responded with a short ball.
He eventually became Harris' seventh victim of the innings when he chipped a return catch to the bowler, but Swann picked up the baton and cracked a valuable 30, which included three boundaries in one especially eventful over.
Having posted a target of 299, England would have been extremely confident as they strode out to bowl. Four hours later or so, and their confidence had turned to edgy uncertainty.
They needed a match winner, and Broad seized his opportunity to fill the role. For all that this has been a tight series, England's key players have found their best form when it has mattered. If they do it once more at The Oval, a sensational summer will be complete.
Comments are closed on this article.