England beat Australia to retain the Ashes

England 513 Australia 98 & 258 (England win by an innings and 157 runs)

Wednesday 29 December 2010 02:49

England completed the formalities of wrapping up a first successful Ashes tour of Australia in 24 years before lunch on the fourth day of the fourth Test in Melbourne, winning by an innings and 157 runs to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

With home bowler Ryan Harris unable to bat due to injury, Andrew Strauss' men knew they needed to take just three wickets to retain the urn and they duly did so, despite some admirable resistence from the Australia tail.

After Chris Tremlett had snared Mitchell Johnson in the second over of the day, Graeme Swann removed Peter Siddle before Tim Bresnan struck the historic blow, having Ben Hilfenhaus caught behind.

The win, with one Test in Sydney to come, means England cannot lose the series and that home captain Ricky Ponting is only the second Australia skipper to have three unsuccessful Ashes series.

On a glorious morning, England encountered resistance in the shape of Brad Haddin (55 not out) and Siddle's eighth-wicket stand of 86.

They first deployed Bresnan - fresh from his three quick wickets last night - and Tremlett, with the old ball.

In his first over, Tremlett got the big breakthrough which suggested the session would be short - swinging one back into left-hander Johnson to bowl him on the defence via bat and pad.

Australia had begun in a hopeless situation, on 169 for six and 246 runs short of even making England bat again for the urn.

After only 11 balls, they were seven down - and it was common knowledge Harris was highly unlikely to bat in these circumstances, having suffered a stress fracture of his left ankle yesterday.

But Haddin's defiance meant Australia soon topped 200 - they did not even reach three figures in their hapless first innings - and Siddle joined in by clubbing two front-foot boundaries in one over off Bresnan.

Siddle brought up the 50 stand with a slog-swept four off Swann, and in the same over Haddin smashed a six over long-on from the crease.

Against expectations, Australia made it past drinks - and almost immediately afterwards, Haddin reached an 86-ball 50 when his edge for three off Swann on 49 somehow evaded Paul Collingwood's hands low down at slip.

The Australia wicketkeeper had hit four fours and a six, and Siddle soon counted another maximum off Swann over long-on.

But only one more wicket was required when Siddle picked out Kevin Pietersen on the long-on boundary with another attempted big hit off Swann.

That brought Hilfenhaus to the crease and he did not offer too much resistence to England's ambitions, lasting just four balls before he nicked a Bresnan delivery to Matt Prior, prompting scenes of mass jubilation on the field and in the stands.

Batsman Ian Bell admitted the win will take some time to sink in in the England dressing room.

"This is one of the best moments," he said. "Winning at the MCG in the Boxing Day Test, especially after this performance, it's fantastic.

"We're a bit gobsmacked. The performances we've done out here have been fantastic since we've arrived.

"To retain the Ashes, we've worked very hard for this. Now we have to prepare for Sydney and we hope to end the series on a high. We want to put in a good performance in Sydney.

"At times Australia have shown they're a good side but we've also played some good cricket. Our batting, bowling and fielding has been fantastic and it's good we've been able to play consistent cricket for some time now."

England skipper Andrew Strauss had nothing but praise for his side and also paid tribute to coach Andy Flower for his part in their success.

"I had hoped we would retain the Ashes, but you know how much hard work is needed," he said.

"We did a lot of planning for this series and knew what we wanted to do, but it's another thing going out and doing it.

"A lot of credit goes out to Andy Flower and the backroom staff, but also the players on the pitch who did a fantastic job. Now we want to go out and win the series but it's pretty amazing what we've achieved here."

Beleaguered Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who has made just 113 runs all series, said he hoped to lead his side in Sydney as talk over his future builds, but admitted it may not be his decision to make.

"Absolutely I still want to be captain," he told Test Match Special. "I still feel I have a whole lot to offer the team as far as batting and leadership is concerned.

"It's not a decision for me to make. I could step down but I don't have a decision to stay on. The powers that be will make that decision.

"If I have a decision to make it has to be right for Australian cricket and not for me."

Ponting also admitted that his form had been a critical reason behind his side's troubles.

"My series has been horrible," he said. "That's a big reason why we've been in this position. We've all tried and you do the best you can, sometimes it's good enough.

"We're disappointed and we've been beaten easily. We now can't win the Ashes and no-one is more disappointed than me.

"We weren't good enough, they simply outplayed us."

Ponting, who has had another x-ray on the broken finger that had threatened to rule him out of this game, added on Sky Sports: "I don't know (about my fitness). The plan was to get through the game and have another x-ray. I've got them back, but I've not had chance to look at them with the physio yet.

"I have a bit of thinking to do. It would be nice to flick a switch and turn things around. I've tried my heart out and I understood that for us to win I had to make runs. I haven't done that."

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