The Ashes: key moments

England snatched the Ashes back this summer at the end of a hugely fluctuating series. Here's how they did it, match by match
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FIRST TEST, CARDIFF - DRAWN: Unlikeliest of venues for the start of a famous series, yet this was perhaps where England overcame their toughest hurdle.

In somehow lasting out for a draw, they stopped Australia putting a stamp on the series. Kevin Pietersen top-scored on day one and promptly claimed England's 336 for seven at stumps was competitive. He was wrong. But after Australia's four individual hundreds in a mammoth 674 for six declared, Paul Collingwood batted almost six hours second time round - and most memorably last-wicket pair James Anderson and Monty Panesar just about did the rest, with a little help from 12th man Bilal Shafayat.

SECOND TEST, LORD'S - ENGLAND WON BY 115 RUNS: England reaped the rewards of halting the Aussie steamroller in Wales. They had not beaten Australia at HQ since 1934. But England's two Andrews were not reading the history books.

Captain Strauss led the way with a big hundred, and near double-century opening stand with Alastair Cook. Then after Anderson and Graham Onions had hustled out Australia's reply and Matt Prior's strokeplay set up a declaration, Flintoff took his third Test five-wicket haul to snuff out Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin's second-innings resistance.

THIRD TEST, EDGBASTON - DRAWN: No re-run of the great 2005 contest - largely because of bad weather, which took out a day-and-a-half.

Australia's imaginative choice of Shane Watson as emergency opener paid off. But Anderson and Onions again stopped Australia posting a major first-innings total, and four half-centuries helped England into a three-figure lead.

Australia looked in trouble chasing the game, but Clarke's second hundred of the series put some balance back into the match - until rain intervened again.

FOURTH TEST, HEADINGLEY - AUSTRALIA WON BY AN INNINGS AND 80 RUNS: England's great 2009 aberration was prefaced by an almost comically unsettling morning before start of play.

From the 4.30am fire alarm in the team hotel, to news that Flintoff was not fit to play because of his knee injury, to Prior's back-spasm scare, events conspired against England.

The response, after Strauss won the toss, was a hapless procession to 102 all out in less than 34 overs. There was no way back on a perfectly feasible pitch.

Clarke and Marcus North again scored heavily - and despite Stuart Broad's career-best six for 91 and some belated yet evidently vain second-innings defiance from the England tail, Australia levelled the series in under two-and-a-half days.

FIFTH TEST, THE OVAL - ENGLAND WON BY 197 RUNS: It was all supposed to be about Flintoff, in his final Test before injury-hastened retirement. Yet it was heir apparent Broad who proved the game-breaker.

The jury was out at stumps on day one - had England blown their chance, or was 307 for eight a decent haul on an unusually slow Oval wicket already taking spin?

By lunch on day two, it seemed the former was true. By tea, England were favourites again - cheered off with a standing ovation after Broad and Graeme Swann had taken eight wikets in the session.

Jonathan Trott's hundred on debut helped set Australia a mammoth world record 546 to win, or six-and-a-half sessions to survive.

Flintoff duly had his impact after all, running out Ricky Ponting with a moment of brilliance before Australia - and even Michael Hussey's brave 121 could not stop his team being bowled out for 348 on the fourth evening.