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Rediff.com  » Sports » England win second Ashes Test

England win second Ashes Test

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Last updated on: August 07, 2005 21:26 IST

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Shane Warne and Australia's tail-enders gave England a massive fright before Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison snatched a dramatic two-run victory for the home side in the second Ashes Test in Birmingham, on Sunday.

It was the closest winning margin in Ashes history in one of the most enthralling and tense games that either captain could remember and left the five-match series perfectly poised at 1-1.

It was also the closest game in international cricket since West Indies beat Australia by one run in Adelaide in 1992-93.

England's victory gave them their first win in a 'live' Test against Australia since the first Test of the 1997 series, also at Edgbaston.

All their other recent wins have been in dead rubber games. Australia have won the last eight Ashes series.

Australia's last three batsmen, playing and missing as often as they hit the ball and with nothing to lose, put on 104 off 133 balls on the fourth morning before Michael Kasprowicz gloved Harmison behind down the leg side.

The dismissal sparked wild celebrations among the players and the Edgbaston crowd.

Wicketkeeper Geraint Jones raced around, pumping his arms, while his team mates mobbed each other. Flintoff kept his cool to shake hands with a deflated Brett Lee, who top-scored with 43 not out in an innings of 279, and Kasprowicz.

Earlier Warne had made a rumbustious 42 to suggest the possibility of a miracle escape before treading on his stumps. Man-of-the-match Flintoff took four for 79. He also captured three wickets in the first innings and scored two half-centuries.

EPIC GAME

Moments before a finale which kept the series alive, England had been one shot away from defeat.

"It's been an epic game," England captain Michael Vaughan said. "If we had gone down 2-0 today, I don't think we would have come back. It's been mentally draining."

Australia captain Ricky Ponting, whose side had resumed on 175 for eight chasing 282 to win, said: "It says a lot about the character of our team that we fought back the way we did. Unfortunately we just weren't quite good enough.

"I don't feel shattered. I'm pretty proud at the moment. Lee and Kasprowicz probably feel shattered but we were really happy with what they did."

Sunday's action lasted just 100 minutes but was as tense a passage a play as one could imagine, concluding an extraordinary match that swung repeatedly one way, then the other.

"It's probably the most nerve-racking end to a Test I have ever played in," said Ponting. "It's right up there with any game I have ever played in."

Australia had resumed with Warne on 20, Lee yet to face a ball and with apparently no chance of scoring the 107 runs needed for an unlikely win.

LIVING DANGEROUSLY

The pair, however, living dangerously but refusing to be cowed by some viciously fast bowling from Harmison and Flintoff, put on 45 off 56 balls.

When Warne stepped back on his wicket as he looked to leg-glance Flintoff, 62 were still needed from the last-wicket pair.

But Lee and Kasprowicz somehow survived a barrage of short-pitched bowling to edge ever closer to the target.

With 15 still needed, Simon Jones dropped a Kasprowicz upper-cut off Flintoff at third man to apparently seal England's fate.

England's final-day tactics seemed questionable, their fast bowlers intent of bouncing out the final wickets. Things began badly, though.

Strike bowler Harmison was soon taken off after a 3.2-over burst which cost 27 runs.

Lee edged him off the splice for one of the four boundaries he conceded, with Warne also edging just over the slips.

FLINTOFF PACE

Flintoff, despite an overstepping problem, cranked up the pace after Warne's departure and almost got his five-wicket haul only for Kasprowicz to survive a big lbw appeal after making just a single and then keep out a yorker.

Vaughan ignored Simon Jones's swing bowling but did give left-arm spinner Ashley Giles a try. The courageous Lee charged down the wicket and hit him to the mid-wicket rope. Moments later, Kasprowicz hit another boundary over mid-off.

Harmison and Flintoff kept peppering. Lee took a nasty blow on his left glove from Flintoff, who had switched from the Pavilion to the City End, then inside-edged Harmison over the top of his stumps for four.

Flintoff dug another one in, Kasprowicz upper-cut and the isolated Simon Jones spilled the ball at third man with Australia on 267, needing 15 more. England seemed sunk before Harmison and Jones handed England a momentous victory.

Two Ashes Tests have been decided by three runs, the latest when England beat Australia in Melbourne in 1982-3.

The third match of the five-Test series starts at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Tony Lawrence
Source:
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