MELBOURNE: England retained the Ashes series with a crushing innings and 157-run victory in the fourth Test, breaking a 24-year away drought in the series and leaving Australian captain Ricky Ponting’s future in doubt.
The holders’ biggest win over hosts Australia since 1956 put them an unbeatable 2-1 up with one to play, almost a quarter of a century after Mike Gatting’s team claimed the series 2-1 in 1986-87 in England’s last triumph in Australia.
In 1986 England won the series and the Ashes after an innings and 14-run victory at the MCG.
Australia’s humiliation was complete when Ben Hilfenhaus was the last man out before lunch on the fourth morning at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), caught behind off Tim Bresnan for a duck after fast-bowler Ryan Harris was unable to bat because of an ankle stress fracture.
Strauss ecstatic after victory
“Winning the Ashes in Australia has always been a bit of a Holy Grail for English sides,” said captain Andrew Strauss.
“We have not won the Ashes yet but we obviously retain the urn which has been one of our primary goals and the guys deserve everything they get because the players stood up and performed when it mattered the most.”
There was only going to be one outcome after Australia were routed for a miserable ground record low of 98 runs on Sunday’s opening day after the England captain had won the toss and put the Australians in to bat on a greenish wicket.
The English responded with a towering 513 to hold a match-winning 415-run innings lead which Australia found totally beyond them.
Ponting under fire, captaincy in danger
“The really important thing we need to do is pay credit to England and the way they played for the whole tour,” said Ponting.
“Apart from the third Perth Test, they have played a really high level of cricket the whole way through, not only this series, but the tour games as well. Credit to them for the way they prepared and played such good cricket.”
The crushing loss in this Test will heap further pressure on already-embattled Ponting. It was the Australian captain’s third failure to win an Ashes series following his earlier defeats in England in 2005 and last year.
However, Ponting said that he wanted to remain captain. “I probably haven’t got much of a case at the moment [but] I’ve got a lot of knowledge on the game.
“The fact that I’ve played 150 Tests and won 99 Tests as a player and a captain. I’ve captained a lot of winning teams. There is no doubt that the experiences I have in the game will hold me in good stead,” said Ponting.
England look forward to Sydney
Australia can still level the series if they can fight back and win next week’s fifth Sydney Test, but the Ashes are gone.
“Our objective was to come out here and win the Ashes series, so we have not achieved that yet,” said Strauss.
“It’s very reassuring to know that the Ashes are going to remain in England for the next couple of years, but it would leave a very sour taste in the mouth if we were not able to go on and convert our leading position into a series win in Sydney.”
Harris out for three months
The bad news did not end for Australia after fast-bowler Ryan Harris was ruled out for three months after surgery for an ankle stress fracture, said Cricket Australia. Harris suffered the injury while bowling in the fourth Test. The recovery time will rule Harris out of the World Cup, starting in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on February 19. Harris, 31, took 11 wickets in the Ashes series at 25.54 - the best average of any Australian bowler in the series.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting
“The fact that I’ve lost three Tests is disappointing. Hopefully, I’m not only remembered as the guy that lost three Ashes series, there are lot of great things I’ve been part of in my career.”
England captain Andrew Strauss
“English cricket is not just about winning the Ashes, we have to look forward and get our team up those rankings and be world number one at some stage. That’s the ultimate goal for us.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2010.
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