Peter Roebuck: Australia beaten fair and square by England's spirit

A magnificent onslaught from Kevin Pietersen changed the match after Glenn McGrath had brought it to life with two wickets in two balls. Pietersen's attack on Brett Lee after lunch brought 37 runs in three mostly short-pitched overs as Australia's gamble in unleashing its fastest bowler backfired.

Hooking and straight driving with courage and panache, the African-raised youngster blasted his adopted country towards its triumph. Spared on three occasions, the newcomer played a stirring innings, twice clouting Shane Warne for six over midwicket, thereby revealing the strength of his eye and intent. Nor did he lose his head. Although he clobbered the lesser bowlers, he kept the closest of watches upon McGrath and Warne.

It was a fine time to produce the best attacking innings of the series. That Ricky Ponting played the best defensive innings of the summer at Old Trafford tells the tale of the balance of power between the sides. Ever since the first day of the second Test in Birmingham, Australia have been playing from behind. England's furious attack on that first day at Edgbaston took their opponents by surprise. It was a masterpiece of courageous cricket.

Australia never quite recovered. By the end of the series both their pace bowling and their opening batting were in trouble, even though Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer both managed centuries here at the Oval.

Among the tourists, only Shane Warne lived up to expectations, though Langer also gave stout service. No one could doubt that England (or, more correctly, Britain) deserved to win the series.

Australians may argue that bad light stood between them and a squared series. England can point out that rain prevented them taking a 3-1 lead in Manchester. Nor did England win by stealth. Instead, they looked the Australians in the eye and exchanged blows until the weaker side fell.

England also found a hero, a powerful, formidable and proud warrior who stood resolute on the battleground, rousing colleagues, intimidating foes and inspiring supporters. Andrew Flintoff started the series with a whimper and ended with the loudest of bangs. Simply, he is a great cricketer, the best fast bowler in the world, a fine representative of his country and a staunch team-mate.

Australia had its own champion, and how impressively he played. Throughout, Warne bowled valiantly and with supreme skill, but without much support or help from a captain who allowed him to bowl long spells.

That Warne dropped the crucial catch yesterday was cruel luck. Happily, the crowd acknowledged his contribution with several sustained ovations. Rising to the occasion and ignoring his exhaustion, Warne also ran 70 yards to congratulate Pietersen when England's saviour finally departed.

Both captains deserve credit for the sporting atmosphere that prevailed. Michael Vaughan led his side superbly. Naturally, the Australians were disappointed, but they were beaten fair and square. England were the better side. Ponting now has the chance to show he can shape his own side. Perhaps, though, the last word belongs to a cheerful crowd's lone trumpeter, a splendid gentleman who reminded all and sundry that it is only a game by routinely greeting Langer with his rendition of " hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power