Third Test at Old Trafford: So near - but England fall one wicket short of victory

ENGLAND 444 & 280-6 DEC AUSTRALIA 302 & 371-9 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

Brett Lee was the man who kept out Stephen Harmison's final delivery, an attempted yorker, and on seeing the ball roll safely to the fine-leg boundary for four runs he leapt into the arms of Glenn McGrath, Australia's No 11, and hugged him with joy.

The Australian players on the team balcony joined in the celebrations, and anyone watching would have thought they had won the third Test. In fact, they had only held out for the draw, and Vaughan's distraught players may not have appreciated it at the time but the sight of Australians reacting in such a manner when they had only drawn a game highlights the progress England have made in the last two years, and how much pressure Ponting's side are under.

Australia's last pair kept England's exhausted attack out for 24 balls following the departure of Ponting, who was caught down the leg side off Harmison for 156. The phrase "captain's innings" is an often used cliché but rarely can the leader of a team - Michael Atherton's unbeaten 185 in 1995-96 against South Africa in Johannesburg was as monumental - have done so much for his side.

Vaughan's vibrant young team stretched every sinew, and tried every trick, as they attempted to take 10 Australian wickets, but Ponting heroically resisted everything England threw at him for 391 minutes.

Shane Warne stood by his captain for over an hour and a half. He took several blows to the body as England's fast bowlers attempted to break his resolve and proved how much he wants to keep hold of the Ashes.

England had laid down what seemed like a foundation for victory with a total of 444 in their first innings, including a captain's innings of 166 from Michael Vaughan, while on the second day Ashley Giles spun the ball like Warne, taking three wickets as the tourists were restricted to 210 for 7. On the Saturday, however, a heroic knock of 90 from Warne helped take his side past the 300 mark.

A century from Andrew Strauss then seemed to put England in sight of a victory - which they then threw away with their inability to close out Australia.

Angus Fraser's highlight

Simon Jones became England's reverse swing specialist on Manchester's rough, dry, hard pitch. The style of bowling allowed him to take career best figures of 6-53 in Australia's first innings. And the fast bowler was looking menacing as Australia tried to bat out the last day. But cramp forced him to leave the field as England went for the kill.

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