Cricket: England make Australia take the medicine

Australia 118 & 477 England 478-9 dec & 119-1 England win by nine wickets
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The Independent Online
The moment the whole of English cricket has been waiting for appears to have arrived. England have not only beaten Australia with comprehensive ease, they have taken the lead in an Ashes series. It is an achievement hitherto thought beyond them, but one taken here as comfortably as Kings take to carpet slippers.

Needing 118 to win, the same as Australia scored in their first innings, England set off like men in a hurry lest the bubble burst. Perhaps they had Headingley of 1981 on their minds. If they did, their nerve did not betray it, and the nine-wicket win at Edgbaston in 1997 will go down as the time the Australians got a taste of their own medicine.

The margin was perhaps too great for this Test to be considered a classic. Mind you, considering the match looked decided as early as the second day, the Australian fight-back, led by a long overdue century from their captain Mark Taylor lent a human story to England's dramatic cricket on the first two days.

With a raucous crowd enjoying every moment, anyone who claims cricket in this country is elitist, exclusionist and dull could not have been watching events here at Edgbaston over the last four days. "Ashes coming home," they were singing from the Rea stand: a prediction that is coming more alive with every session of cricket.

Fittingly, England's captain Mike Atherton was on hand to see his side home with an aggressive unbeaten 57, full of his trademark drives off the back foot. There were hugs and little punches of joy as Alec Stewart sealed the contest by smashing Warne to the cover fence.

In this match, England have played with real aggression and purpose. Gone was the caution that has sometimes dogged Atherton's captaincy in the past. Over the last few days, he has stood out, a commanding figure unafraid to give his bowlers a rocket or his opponents a grin.

England have now won their last three Test matches and are on something of a roll. Sustaining a high level of performance will be the captain's next challenge and one that will be crucial if the Ashes are to return at the end of the summer.

After their sensational start to this Test, it would have done England good to have had two hard days' work as well. Confidence is a great asset to have, but not if it turns into apathy, and their opponents' comeback will have steeled England for the battles yet to come.

When Australia resumed, Taylor, intent on setting out his stall, as he had done on Saturday, was easily outscored by Greg Blewett. Of the 21 runs he did add, most were tucks off his legs. This was an area England's pacemen had liberally fed the day before when he had reached his first hundred in 25 Test innings.

For Taylor, it was probably the only way to silence those who had begun to question his right to lead his country. One of those who hadn't, was his wife Judy, whose faith in her husband went as far as placing a bet on him scoring a hundred. She was the first person he rang at the end of play on Saturday.

While Taylor nudged, Blewett played expansively all round the wicket, despite the handicap of an injured left knee. His morning duel with Devon Malcolm, armed with the second new ball was thrilling. Malcolm bowled fast, rapping gloves and tickling ribcages. Blewett responded by hooking him to the boundary backward of square. When the ball had dulled, he stretched forward and two languid cover drives off Gough were perfection.

Another four, this time off Caddick, flashed past cover to bring up his hundred off 171 balls. This was Blewett's third century in only his third Ashes match, a unique record and one that underlines what a fine batsman he is.

He had added 194 with his captain when Croft lured Taylor into chipping back a return catch. Extracting considerable turn, Croft began to apply the tourniquet to Australian ambition that had eluded the pace bowlers. Continuing after lunch, the Glamorgan off-spinner removed Blewett, caught by Mark Butcher at silly point, as the ball rebounded off pad then back of bat.

At the other end, Malcolm was propelling another fearsome spell which, although going unrewarded, softened up Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan enough for Gough to pick them both off when he replaced the Derbyshire man from the Pavilion end.

He also removed Mark Waugh, returned from hospital with a clean bill of health, though the grimace as he left the arena was probably down more to his team's impending predicament than the stomach cramps and fever that had ailed him over the weekend.

If Gough's spell had opened up the possibilities for a fourth- day finish, Mark Ealham's sealed it. With that bustling waddle of his, the Kent all- rounder took 3-0 in 10 balls, a sequence only broken when Bevan, acting as runner for Gillespie, was run out by Darren Gough as he received John Crawley's throw from square leg.

With the extra half an hour available, England, motivated by a variable weather report, launched their reply as if it was the first 15 overs of a one-day match. Ninety runs were added in 18 overs and the extra half- hour was not required.

At one stage the Australian bowlers were going at eight an over as Atherton and Stewart cut loose. Only Warne managed to slow things down. He will have to expand that role if Australia are to get back on terms in this series.


Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 118 (S K Warne 47; A R Caddick 5-50, D Gough 3-43).

ENGLAND - First innings

(Friday: 449 for 6)

M A Ealham not out 53

(172 min, 132 balls, 7 fours)

R D B Croft c Healy b Kasprowicz 24

(71 min, 56 balls, 4 fours)

D Gough c Healy b Kasprowicz 0

(8 min, 9 balls)

A R Caddick lbw b Bevan 0

(11 min, 7 balls)

Extras (b4 lb7 w1 nb15) 27

Total (for 9 dec, 549 min, 138.4 overs) 478

Fall (cont): 7-460 (Croft), 8-463 (Gough), 9-478 (Caddick).

Did not bat: D E Malcolm.

Bowling: McGrath 32-8-107-2 (nb7) (5-2-14-1, 9-1-43-0, 7-2-20-0, 7-2- 24-1, 4-1-6-0); Kasprowicz 39-8-113-4 (nb6 w1) (7-0-24-1, 4-1-12-0, 4- 2-2-0, 14-4-37-1, 10-1-38-2); Gillespie 10-1-48-1 (nb1) (5-1-22-1, 5-0- 26-0); Warne 35-8-110-1 (nb1) (3-1-12-0, 15-2-55-0, 6-2-14-0, 11-3-29- 1); Bevan 10.4-0-44-1 (2-0-10-0, 3-0-20-0, 5.4-0-14-1); S Waugh 12-2-45- 0 (nb2) (1-1-0-0, 7-1-30-0, 4-0-15-0).

Progress: 450: 514 min, 129.5 overs. Declaration: 11.37am.

Ealham's 50: 170 min, 131 balls, 7 fours.

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

M T G Elliott b Croft 66

(146 min, 113 balls, 12 fours)

*M A Taylor c and b Croft 129

(398 min, 296 balls, 13 fours, 1 six)

G S Blewett c Butcher b Croft 125

(302 min, 228 balls, 19 fours, 1 six)

S R Waugh lbw b Gough 33

(137 min, 101 balls, 2 fours)

M G Bevan c Hussain b Gough 24

(44 min, 41 balls, 5 fours)

M E Waugh c Stewart b Gough 1

(9 min, 7 balls)

I A Healy c Atherton b Ealham 30

(67 min, 46 balls, 5 fours)

S K Warne c and b Ealham 32

(51 min, 34 balls, 5 fours)

M S Kasprowicz c Butcher b Ealham 0

(2 min, 2 balls)

J N Gillespie run out (Crawley-Ealham) 0

(10 mins, 6 balls)

G D McGrath not out 0

(1 min, 0 balls)

Extras (b18, lb12, w2, nb5) 37

Total (588 min, 144.4 overs) 477

Fall: 1-133 (Elliott), 2-327 (Taylor), 3-354 (Blewett), 4-393 (Bevan), 5-399 (M Waugh), 6-431 (S Waugh), 7-465 (Healy), 8-465 (Kasprowicz), 9- 477 (Gillespie), 10-477 (McGrath).

Bowling: Gough 35-7-123-3 (nb4) (5-0-18-0, 11-5-29-0, 3-1-6-0, 3-0-19- 0, 4-0-17-0, 9-1-34-3); Malcolm 21-6-52-0 (5-3-11-0, 5-0-14-0, 5-1-16- 0, 6-2-11-0); Croft 43-10-125-3 (w2) (6-1-27-0, 13-4-38-1, 3-1-5-0, 18- 4-46-2, 3-0-9-0); Caddick 30-6-87-0 (nb2) (7-0-22-0, 9-3-19-0, 3-0-12- 0, 6-3-17-0, 3-0-8-0, 2-0-9-0); Ealham 15.4-3-60-3 (7-1-32-0, 6-1-18-0, 2.4-1-10-3).

Progress: 50: 68 min, 17 overs. Rain: 12.55pm, 51-0 (Elliott 22, Taylor 29), 17.2 overs (lunch taken). 100: 110 min, 27.5 overs. Rain: 3.56pm, 133-1 (Taylor 66, Blewett 0), 37.5 overs (tea taken). 150: 171 min, 44 overs. 200: 227 min, 58.5 overs. 250: 306 min, 76.3 overs. Close of third day: 256-1 (Taylor 108no, Blewett 61no). Fourth day: New ball taken immediately. 300: 366 min, 90.5 overs. 350: 435 min, 108.2 overs. Lunch: 352-2 (Blewett 123, S Waugh 8) 110 overs. 400: 507 min, 126.1 overs. Rain: 2.50-3.59pm, 403-5 (S Waugh 28, Healy 0), 127 overs (tea taken). 450: 559 min, 139.3 overs. Innings closed: 5.16pm.

Elliott's 50: 119 min, 93 balls, 9 fours. Taylor's 50: 97 min, 69 balls, 6 fours, 1 six. 100: 287 min, 214 balls, 10 fours, 1 six. Blewett's 50: 132 min, 103 balls, 7 fours, 1 six. 100: 225 min, 171 balls, 16 fours, 1 six.

ENGLAND - Second innings

M A Butcher lbw b Kasprowicz 14

(15 min, 10 balls, 2 fours)

*M A Atherton not out 57

(88 min, 65 balls, 9 fours)

A J Stewart not out 40

(72 min, 54 balls, 7 fours)

Extras (b4 lb4) 8

Total (for 1, 88 min, 21.3 overs) 119

Fall: 1-29 (Butcher).

Bowling: McGrath 7-1-42-0 (4-1-21-0, 3-0-21-0); Kasprowicz 7-0-42-1 (3- 0-21-1, 4-0-21-0); Warne 7.3-0-27-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 38 min, 8.3 overs. 100: 81 mins, 20 overs. England won at 6.53pm.

Atherton's 50: 83 mins, 63 balls, 8 fours.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and P Willey. TV replay umpire: J W Holder. Match referee: R S Madugalle.

Man of the match: N Hussain. Adjudicator: R G D Willis.