England have effected a successful tryst with history, retaining the much-coveted Ashes with a crushing innings-and-157-run win over Australia on Day 4 of the fourth Test, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. With this victory, the visitor move one win closer to grabbing an Ashes series Down Under for the first time in 24 years With just four wickets needed to seal the win in this match, England took just 18.4 overs and a little over an hour to shoot out Australia's latter order.
No sooner had proceedings begun on what turned out to be the final day of the match, than England got a breakthrough. In just the second over, pace bowler Chris Tremlett bowled a clueless Mitchell Johnson for 6 runs and the visitors had re-asserted their dominance by reducing Australia to 172/7.
But new batsman Peter Siddle and Brad Haddin wouldn't surrender meekly. The duo launched a counter-offensive with the former batsman, smacking speedster Tim Bresnan for two fours in the 75th over, one shot going past mid-off and the other, to the third-man boundary. In the process Australia had moved past 200.
Then Siddle next targeted the off-spinner Graeme Swann in the 78th over, pulling him for a four to midwicket and three balls later, carting him for a straight six. He again went after Siddle in the 83rd over, lofting him for another maximum. But his defiance was brought to an end when in the 85th over, Swann got the batsman caught by Kevin Pietersen at long on. Siddle was on his way for a career-best 40, but it was in a losing cause as England were now just one wicket away from grabbing the urn.
The historic moment arrived in the next over when Brasnan had Ben Hilfenhaus caught behind for a duck as Australia had collapsed to 258 all out in 85.4 overs. Since, No.9 batsman Ryan Harris, couldn't come out to bat because of an injury picked up during the match, England had in effect wrapped up the Aussies' second innings and won the match. Tim Bresnan was the pick of the bowlers, ensnaring 4/50 in the second innings and 6/75 in the match, while Jonathan Trott was awarded Man of the Match for his 168 not out.
Immediately after the last wicket fell, the victorious English team collected in a huddle and with arms laced around each other, jumped in unison to celebrate the moment. At the presentation ceremony, a delighted English captain Andrew Strauss said "I hoped we would retain the Ashes here. You know how much hard work is needed to win a series over here. A huge amount of credit has to go to Andy Flower and the backroom staff who got us prepared for this, and even more so to the guys out on the field who did what was asked of them. We've still got a series to win."
Losing captain Ricky Ponting of Australia, replied, "I'm not sure if you're better off getting flogged like we have been here or go down in a tight one. Sometimes I think it can be more disappointing when it goes down to the wire, and we've been totally outplayed here. We've only got ourselves to blame, and we've got to give credit to England."
England are now just one draw away from winning the Ashes series in Australia for the first time since 1986-87. The visitors are however, bound to carry the momentum of this win forward and try to end the series on victorious note. Meanwhile, Australia captain Ricky Ponting faces the dubious distinction of becoming the first Aussie skipper since 1890 to lose three Ashes series. Will England subject Ponting to that humiliation? A scintillating contest beginning on Jan 2, 2011 at Sydney, holds the answer!