England secured their first series victory in Australia for 24 years by scoring their highest ever total in the country on the fourth day of the Fifth Test. There was still some shouting to be done, as Australia closed the day at 213 for seven still 151 adrift, but it was all over bar it.
Since the tourists were 2-1 ahead in the series coming into this match, the Ashes had already been retained, but there was always the important of series victory. That, too, is now certain, the only point being at issue the runs margin involved in England’s victory.
Australia’s second innings on the fourth afternoon was catastrophic as they fell to 171 for seven against some skilful bowling in splendid batting conditions. As in the first innings too many of them showed too little patience against the reverse swinging ball.
The fourth day was marked by the retirement from Test cricket of Paul Collingwood, who announced his decision in the team huddle before play began, and the rip-roaring maiden Ashes century of Matt Prior, who took a heavy toll of a weary, ragged attack.
Prior took only 130 balls for his scintillating 115 – the fastest Ashes hundred for England since Ian Botham’s at Headingley in 1981 – and he put on 101 for the eighth wicket with Tim Bresnan as Australia wilted in the morning. With Graeme Swann helping himself late in the innings, England proceeded imperiously to 644 all out shortly after lunch, overtaking the 636 they made in 1928-29. In a series of records this was hardly the least embarrassing for Australia.
With a lead of 356, England could attack as they wished. Australia began aggressively and Shane Watson hit a small series of booming drives. But he was run out in circumstances which summed up the worst aspects of Australia’s cricket in this series. Phil Hughes nudged a ball off Graeme Swann to the leg side and set for an easy single. Watson, however, turned for two while looking at the ball and never at Hughes and they ended up in the same crease at the non-striker’s end as the Kevin Pietersen’s throw came in at the other.
Hughes’ painful occupation was ended soon after during a persistent spell by Tim Bresnan and while the other youngster, the debutant Usman Khawaja, exhibited flashes of class, he was perplexed by Graeme Swann and dismissed by Jimmy Anderson following one which did not swing.
Michael Clarke offered some resistance but was out limply, edging behind, Mike Hussey crashed one to gully, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson were out in successive balls from Chris Tremlett. England claimed the extra half hour allowed in such circumstances but were left to wait a little longer for their just desserts.
Australia fall of wickets, 2nd innings: 1-46 (S.R. Watson, 38), 2-52 (P.J. Hughes, 13), 3-117 (U.T. Khawaja, 21), 4-124 (M.J. Clarke, 41), 5-161 (M.E.K. Hussey, 12), 6-171 (B.J. Haddin, 30), 7-171 (M.G. Johnson, 0).
England fall of wickets: 1-98 (A.J. Strauss, 60), 2-99 (I.J.L. Trott, 0), 3-165 (K.P. Pietersen, 36), 4-181 (J.M. Anderson, 7), 5-226 (P.D. Collingwood, 13), 6-380 (A.N. Cook, 189), 7-487 (I.R. Bell, 115), 8-589 (T.T. Bresnan, 35), 9-609 (M.J. Prior, 118), 10-644 (C.T. Tremlett, 12).