Stuart Broad took 5 wickets this afternoon to demolish the Australian batting lineup almost single-handedly – leaving England poised to lift this Ashes 2009 decider at the Brit Oval.
Chasing England’s total of 332, Australia were bowled out for just 160, before rallying by removing three england batsmen for 58 runs before stumps.
After England were all out early in the day, and following a period before lunch which saw Australia fairly race away beyond sixty runs without loss, England may well have been forgiven for being slightly pleased that the heavens opened and play was delayed for more than an hour.
After the rain delay and lunch, however, England, and Staurt Broad, produced a spell of bowling that will live long in the memory.
Broad took Watson (34) plumb LBW with a delivery that hooked in from outside off and would have hit middle and leg. FOW 71 for 1.
Broad got his dander up and steamed in, producing balls which jagged both ways off the seam, many of which looking like that holy grail of bowling: the unplayable delivery.
Ricky Ponting (8) fell to one which bounced a little more from Broad. This was, in truth, one of Broad’s more innocuous looking deliveries which simply got a little big on the Australian captain: he played on to his wicket. Bowled. 85 for 2.
Hussey (0), who has not played well with the bat all series, was Broad’s next victim, producing another stone wall LBW with a ball which swung back into Mr Cricket. 89 for 3.
Michael Clarke (3), a hugely in-form player, was taken for just three runs, well caught by Trott’s at his toenails, bowled Broad. Australia were 93 for 4.
Swann took left-hander North (8), another key wicket, LBW with a delivery which appeared to have hit bat before pad. A little unlucky for the Australian, but that was where the afternoon seemed to be heading, with the momentum England were stacking up. North’s wicket fell with Australia on 108 for 5.
There was nothing lucky about Swann’s next wicket, as Katich (50) looped a simple catch out of the rough to Alistair Cook. 109 for 6.
Broad then clean bowled Haddin (1) with a yorker aimed directly at the Australian wicket keeper’s off stump, which it hit. Broad’s fifth wicket of the innings.111 for 7. Nelson had struck again.
Swann had ripped some huge amounts of turn out of the crumbling pitch, often beating the edge of Mitchell Johnson’s (11) bat, before edging one which Matt Prior bagged happily before launching the ball high into the air.131 for 8.
England came in for tea having dismissed 8 Australian batsmen for just 68 runs. The crowd stood as Broad left the field following one of the finest ever spells of Ashes bowling ever witnessed. If England can retain the Ashes in 2009, this five wicket haul will perhaps be regarded as the most devastating demonstration of cricketing brilliance during a series otherwise marked by mediocrity and underachievement from both sides.
At tea the Australian team were trailing by 199 on 133 for 8.
After tea, England emerged once more with the wind in their sails. The Australian side must have been stinging, and it was not long before the final three batsmen would join their burgeoning list of low scoring batsmen sitting in the pavillion.
Siddle (28 not out) added to his impressive work with the ball while others around him fell.
Stuart Clark (6) was caught by Cook from a Swann delivery which appeared to hit nothing but pad, adding a little to the feeling that this was to be England’s day, before Andrew Flintoff, in what is his last ever Ashes test match, produced one of the biggest cheers of the day by clean bowling Hilfenhaus with a full, straight delivery. This was Flintoff’s 50th wicket against the old enemy, and, more importantly for his team, removed Australia for just 160.
The Australian middle and lower order had capitulated once more, as they did at Lord’s, primarily at the hands of Stuart Broad who took 4 wickets for 8 runs in 21 balls at the start of his remarkable spell. When Broad came in to bowl, Australia were 66 without loss. Broad almost single-handedly, though admitedly ably assisted by Graham Swann, rattled through the entire group of Australian leading batsmen.
England just had to push home their advantage by making it to the close of play without loss. This tall order on a lively pitch would prove beyond them, as they closed the day on 58 for 3.
Strauss and Cook once again got a little start before off-spinner North found Cook’s (9) edge with a ball that turned a long way, but which was not pitched up enough to trouble a truly in-form opener. Michael Clarke took the catch at slip. Alistair Cook walked off for the last time in this series which has proved disappointing for the left-handed opener.
Ian Bell (4) came in looking to add another good score to his first innings tally of 72. He was picked up by a magnificent Katich catch at short leg from the bowling of Mitchell Johnson.
Collingwood (1) went to the same combination of Johnson and Katich by spooning a short delivery straight up. Replays showed Johnson had overstepped his mark.
Strauss continued his good form and saw off the remaining deliveries with his score on 32 not out and Trott on 8.
England will feel this series is now theirs to lose. Certainly, Australia must remove the remaining England batsmen quickly tomorrow if they are to retain any hope on this tricky wicket. Saturday morning should show where the tiny urn is heading in 2009: if England bat well beyond lunch, it could be coming back their way; if they don’t, Australia have enough class at the crease to chase under 300 on this pitch, unless, of course England can reproduce this afternoon’s ferocious play with ball in hand.
If England can achieve this feat, their fans and players will look to Stuart Broad’s phenominal effort today for years to come. Few will argue that this devastating spell is not worthy of winning an Ashes series.
The match, and series, however, are still up for grabs. It remains impossible to take one’s eyes off this exciting 2009 Ashes, even for just a moment.