England Nearly Snatch Test - Day 5 - 4th Ashes Test

Ashes Cricket News 30/12/02

Report By Jon Cocks

When the history of Test cricket is analysed, a five wicket victory is generally regarded as a straightforward win, but those who saw the five wickets fall for 99 during the 25.1 overs of the fifth morning at the MCG would beg to differ in the case of this Australian victory in the fourth Ashes Test of the summer.

It was all happening at the MCG, as Bill Lawry would say, from the very first ball of the morning's play, when Matthew Hayden (1) top-edged an attempted hook off Caddick (12-1-51-3) and was well caught by Twelfth Man Alex Tudor, running around from Fine Leg. It was almost an identical shot to the one he played from the first ball of the Test.

The wicket began to play a little up and down, but it didn't trouble Ricky Ponting (30), who came out firing, playing shots all around the wicket - cover and on drives, cuts, hooks and a cracking pull for six off Caddick.

Harmison (11.1-1-43-2) began by bowling far too short, twice bouncing the batsmen only to have Foster - who allowed no byes at all in Australia's huge first innings total - leaping in vain to stop the errant ball racing to the fence.

However, the Durham quick was also able to bowl a very testing line when he got it right to have all batsmen jumping around at the crease. Now and then he pitched up more, beating Langer with one beauty that hurried through the narrow bat-pad gate.

Ponting gloved Harmison through to Foster to bring Martyn (0) to the crease. His brief three balls at the crease were all rip-snorters, the third having the elegant WA right-hander fishing outside off, only to tickle it through to the keeper. Steve Waugh's eventful short knock of 14 began with a huge off-cutter to finish a great over from Harmison.

Caddick kept the pressure on with a tight over to Langer, hitting his helmet yet again, allowing the batsmen to take two byes from the rebound. Harmison then cut Waugh in two with another big off-cutter. Then came the most amazing sequence of play in the Test, in which Waugh was out three times.

Firstly, Waugh got a clear edge to a short ball outside off from Harmison, which was taken by Foster, but for which no one appealed, perhaps because Waugh's withdrawal of the bat masked the deflection from Umpire Orchard. Having viewed the replay on the big screen, the England players all asked the question, but the umpire had made his decision.

Then, Waugh was well caught at cover by Hussain from the next ball, a no-ball. The captain was halfway back to the dressing room before Langer was able to get his attention. The Barmy Army hit new frenzied heights as Waugh drove the last ball of the over to the long off boundary.

The Australian captain no doubt began to take exception to Hussain's tactics, which were to allow Langer a single, so that they could pepper Waugh with short stuff. Harmison followed him when he attempted to back away to leg and slash over point and the inside edge beat everything.

Caddick has bowled well to Waugh (14) in the past and worked him over solidly in the next over with the short ball, before finding his glove and dismissing him for the ninth time overall, when Butcher took an excellent diving catch to his right from second slip, with 24 still needed for victory.

Martin Love (6*) calmly turned his first delivery from the pads for three and Langer crashed a searing square cut boundary through point, but Caddick struck again, trapping Langer LBW with 17 needed. Langer (24), who spent almost the entire Test out in the middle, was a little unlucky, as Hawkeye showed the ball pitching outside leg stump.

Harmison released the pressure valve a little with another short one that ballooned over Foster for another four byes and Gilchrist slaughtered a short one from Caddick's next over through to the mid wicket rope.

Love drove from the back foot to raise the hundred and Gilchrist (10*) sweated on the right ball to hit, finally hitting Harmison up-and-under over point to score the final four runs to take Australia to a 4-0 series score, while the Barmy Army chanted on defiantly.

Afterwards, Steve Waugh noted that the Test 'ended up being a little closer than we would have liked it...maybe it was a little up and down today...I thought England bowled well (Caddick and Harmison bowled unchanged) and hit the pitch harder. It's always harder batting last and a hundred runs just seems that little bit more when you have that target in mind and we didn't play all that well, but full credit to England. They played well this morning.'

Waugh also played a straight bat to the inevitable question as to his plans after the Sydney test match is concluded: 'I'll see how it goes...I'm looking forward to playing in the next Test match. A home Test match is always special and I'll be making a decision after the Test match.'

Hussain observed: 'Cricket must be a mind game, really, because Australia has had a history of struggling, chasing low scores and that was a really low score, so maybe the pressure's off and the boys could relax a little bit. But the big lads ran in - it wasn't the easiest of wickets to duck and weave on and they bowled well - all credit to them.'

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