England’s dreams of retaining the Ashes were dealt a savage blow today when a dramatic final-day collapse enabled Australia to complete an emphatic six-wicket victory in the Second Test.
Resuming the final day at the Adelaide Oval 97 runs ahead on 59 for one, England knew that a solid batting performance would all but end Australia’s slim hopes of claiming an unexpected victory.
But just as the tourists seemed to have weathered the early pressure, they lost nine wickets for 70 runs to be dismissed for 129 and Australia, chasing a victory target of 168, sealed victory by reaching the total for the loss of four wickets with 19 balls remaining.
The shock triumph gives Australia a 2-0 lead in the series and effectively ends England’s hopes of retaining the Ashes as no side in the 123-year history of the compeition has ever come back to level the series after going two behind.
Only once in the last 70 years has a team overturned that deficit to win the series - Australia won on home soil in 1936-7 after England claimed a 2-0 advantage - while no side has ever lost a Test with as big a first-innings-declared total as England’s 551 for six.
Once again the chief architect of England’s demise was legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne, who finished with figures of four for 49 from 32 overs having claimed incredible figures of 27-11-29-4 bowling unchanged from the Cathedral End all day.
It took Warne until the 11th over of the day until he made the breakthrough but the sustained pressure he exerted - restricting England to only 30 runs from 28 overs during the morning session - prompted a stunning collapse.
Andrew Strauss was the significant breakthrough when he came down the wicket in the 11th over of the day and, although the ball bounced off his pad to short leg, umpire Steve Bucknor controversially upheld the appeal.
Warne’s mastery of control contributed to the next dismissal in his next over with Ian Bell pushing nervously to point. Paul Collingwood raced down for a quick single, only for the Warwickshire batsman to hesitate and Michael Clarke transferred the ball to the non-striker’s end for Warne to complete the run-out.
With the tourists rocked by those two setbacks, Warne sealed the third wicket to fall in a 14-ball spell by claiming the key scalp of Kevin Pietersen, bowled around his legs trying to sweep with a delivery which spun enough to clip his off stump.
Having decimated the top order, Australia then turned the screw by turning to the pace of Brett Lee who struck in his second over by tempting Andrew Flintoff into a drive outside off stump which he edged behind.
Geraint Jones fell in almost identical fashion, this time chasing an even wider delivery which was caught by Matthew Hayden at third slip, while Warne bamboozled Ashley Giles with a sharply-spinning leg break which was edged to Hayden again at slip.
Warne claimed his fourth wicket of the innings with a disguised googly which outwitted Matthew Hoggard, who attempted to drive and got an inside edge onto his stumps.
Glenn McGrath wrapped up the innings despite last man James Anderson surviving for 41 minutes to leave Australia facing what appeared a stiff victory target.
That was underlined with England striking twice in the opening six overs with Justin Langer cutting Matthew Hoggard straight to point and Hayden being brilliantly caught by Collingwood running back to mid-wicket.
England were given renewed hope by claiming two wickets in successive overs after Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey forged an 83-run stand off only 91 balls with Giles having the Australian captain caught at extra cover for 49 while Damien Martyn’s struggles continued when he was caught at slip off Flintoff.
But Hussey continued to hit an unbeaten 61 and hit the winning runs off James Anderson to complete a remarkable victory in front of a capacity Adelaide Oval crowd.
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Australia v England - 2nd Test Match
At Adelaide. Australia beat England by 6 wkts.
Overnight: Australia 513 (R T Ponting 142, M J Clarke 124, M E K Hussey 91, A C Gilchrist 64; M J Hoggard 7-109). England 551-6 dec (P D Collingwood 206, K P Pietersen 158, I R Bell 60) and 59-1
ENGLAND 2nd INNS cont
A J Strauss c Hussey b Warne…34
I R Bell run out …26
P D Collingwood not out …22
K P Pietersen b Warne…2
* A Flintoff c Gilchrist b Lee…2
+ G O Jones c Hayden b Lee…10
A F Giles c Hayden b Warne…0
M J Hoggard b Warne…4
S J Harmison lbw b McGrath…8
J M Anderson lbw b McGrath…1
Extras (b3 lb5 w1 nb2) …11
Total (73 overs)…129
Fall of wickets: 1-31, 2-69, 3-70, 4-73, 5-77, 6-94, 7-97, 8-105, 9-119.
Bowling: Lee 18-3-35-2; McGrath 10-6-15-2; Warne 32-12-49-4; Clark 13-4-22-1.
AUSTRALIA 2nd INNS
J L Langer c Bell b Hoggard…7
M L Hayden c Collingwood b Flintoff…18
* R T Ponting c Strauss b Giles…49
M E K Hussey not out …61
D R Martyn c Strauss b Flintoff…5
M J Clarke not out …21
Extras (b2 lb2 w1 nb2) …7
Total 4 wkts (32.5 overs)…168
Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-33, 3-116, 4-121.
Did not bat: + A C Gilchrist, S K Warne, S R Clark, G D McGrath.
Bowling: Hoggard 4-0-29-1; Flintoff 9-0-44-2; Giles 10-0-46-1; Harmison 4-0-15-0; Anderson 3.5-0-23-0; Pietersen 2-0-7-0