England celebrate nailbiting Ashes victory

The unlikely pairing of Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles kept England's Ashes dreams alive yesterday evening when they somehow guided Michael Vaughan's side to another astonishing and agonisingly close victory over Australia in the fourth Test.
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The Independent Online

But my, did Australia make England fight for the 129 runs they required to complete their victory, and my, did England nearly blow it. Hoggard joined Giles when Geraint Jones holed out to deepish mid-off and every England supporter throughout the country would have been fearing the worst with 15 runs still required. But the pair nudged, edged and even handsomely drove their way to the target in the most tense situation imaginable.

The nerve-racking conclusion was largely due to the brilliance of Warne, who took four wickets and caused problems for every England batsman. He was given brilliant support by Brett Lee. Never in the 129-year history of Test cricket can three consecutive matches have ended in such dramatic circumstances.

After England had bowled Australia out for 387 in their second innings, most in a capacity crowd would have expected them to win quite comfortably, especially when Marcus Trescothick set off cutting, carving and driving the new ball to all parts of the ground.

But his cameo ended when Ricky Ponting threw the ball to Warne and asked him to bowl the sixth over of the innings. Trescothick played a regulation forward defensive to Warne's first delivery but the ball spat out of the foot-holes, struck his bat and carried to Ponting at silly point. But it was not until the first ball of Warne's second over, when Vaughan edged a beautiful leg-spinner to Matthew Hayden at slip, that the prospect of the unimaginable happening became a real possibility.

Every run brought a cheer from the England supporters, and boundaries were greeted with standing ovations. The 50 was brought up, but then Andrew Strauss was caught at leg slip off the bowling of Warne. Strauss stood his ground, questioning whether the catch had carried to Michael Clarke, and the decision was referred to the third umpire, who correctly gave him out.

Ian Bell did absolutely nothing to relieve the state of dread that was descending over Nottingham when, two balls later, he top-edged a hook at Lee and was caught by Michael Kasprowicz at fine leg.

The departure of Bell left England reeling on 57 for 4, still 72 runs short of victory. But his demise brought together the two biggest names in English cricket - Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. They offered England some composure but both fell to Lee with England needing less than 30 runs for victory. Pietersen edged the fast bowler to the keeper while Flintoff was bowled by a superb inswinger.

The cricket during the morning session contained far less action, but it was equally compelling as Australia attempted to eat into the 37-run deficit they had inherited from the first three days.

Michael Clarke offered a couple of half chances off the bowling of Giles but batting against the old ball looked pretty comfortable. It was then that Vaughan could have done with Simon Jones, but he was nursing an ankle injury on the balcony. The full extent of Jones's complaint is yet to be revealed, but the sight of the fast bowler walking around with his right ankle in a splint suggests he may be struggling to play in the fifth Test.

The second new ball made little impact until Clarke nibbled at a Matthew Hoggard outswinger 10 minutes before lunch and was caught behind. England were now one ball away from the Australian tail.

And that ball was bowled 10 minutes after the interval, when Hoggard beat the defensive push of Adam Gilchrist and trapped him in front. Hoggard's ecstatic reaction highlighted the importance of the wicket.

The dogged Simon Katich reached his half-century while Warne successfully chanced his arm, and Australia's lead passed 50. Australia have been on the wrong end of many dubious umpiring decisions and this continued when Aleem Dar gave Katich out leg before to a ball that pitched outside leg stump and would have gone over the top.

Geraint Jones dropped Lee before he had scored and Warne went after Giles, slogging him twice over deep mid-wicket for six. Yet Giles laughed the longest when, with the lead on 83, Warne missed a huge heave and was stumped.

Kasprowicz and Lee continued to bat positively as Australia's advantage reached 100. Flintoff replaced Giles and Pietersen grassed his sixth catch of the series, when Kasprowicz clipped one high and to his left at mid-wicket.

But the chance failed to be costly when Stephen Harmison lured him into edging a catch through to the wicketkeeper. And it was Harmison who finished off Australia's stubborn resistance when Shaun Tait - the only player not to reach double figures - inexplicably walked across his stumps and was bowled behind his legs.