The Associated Press
The Ashes belong once more to Australia.
Captain Ricky Ponting and a team of aging champions took the
precious urn from England’s grasp Monday when it won the third cricket
test at the WACA Ground by 206 runs, clinching the five-match series
Australia set England 557 to win the match — a run chase which, if
successful, would have been unprecedented in cricket history — then
dismissed it for 350, capturing the final wicket two balls after lunch.
England resumed at 265 for five Monday after its bid to save the
match was undermined by the loss of two wickets in 16 balls before
stumps on the fourth day.
It reached 336 for five as overnight batsmen Kevin Pietersen and
Andy Flintoff added 75 for the sixth wicket. But Flintoff’s dismissal
for 51 ignited a collapse which saw England’s last five wickets go for
14 runs. When Monty Panesar was the last man out, a minute after lunch,
Pietersen was stranded at 60 not out.
Shane Warne took four of the five wickets which fell Monday,
finishing the match with 699 test dismissals, poised to become the
first bowler to reach 700 in the fourth test at Melbourne beginning
Stuart Clark took one wicket and Ricky Ponting ran out England
wicketkeeper Geraint Jones to prevent Warne from reaching the 700 mark
simultaneously with Australia’s match and series wins.
"It was all about being ready. We knew how England would play and it was all about execution," Warne said.
"We’re really happy with the way we played. England have come out fighting, as we new they would. It’s great for the side.
"We deserve it, we’ve earned it and we wanted it badly after 2005."
Australia’s determination to win this series, to do so emphatically
and quickly, was heightened by its 2-1 series loss in England last year
which conceded the Ashes to the English for the first time in 17 years.
That result stood as the single stain on the recent record of
Ponting’s peerless Australian team which, since the English series, has
won 13 of 14 tests, including nine out of nine in the calendar year.
In spite of that record, there were many within Australia who
believed Ponting’s team was past its best, that its integral members
were too old and that its best series were behind it. It was dubbed
"Dad’s Army" and there were various calls throughout the series for the
removal and replacement of players such as Adam Gilchrist and Matthew
Monday’s win was Australia’s emphatic response to those critics, and
its vindication. It had allowed England to hold the Ashes for only 15
months, the shortest in the Ashes’ 124-year history.
"We have been very good in this series," Ponting said. "We had a
long time to talk about it, a long time to prepare, 12 or 14 months or
whatever it was since the last series. This win is second to none."
Ponting, 31, Gilchrist, 37, Justin Langer, 36, Hayden, 35, Warne,
37, and Glenn McGrath, 36, showed that they are unwearied by age, as
Australia clinched the series in 15 playing days.
"I think we all felt we’ve had a point to prove with some of the
talk coming into this series," said Ponting. "Even on the eve of the
first test I heard a lot of ex-Australian players, some of them
commentators at the moment, asked for their predictions for the series
and some thought we’d get beaten.
"That’s a bit disappointing. I think the (older) guys, the guys who
are concerned here, have definitely made it an issue to make sure they
played a big part in this series and if you look at some of the guys
we’ve spoken about I think they’ve done so.
"There hasn’t been any talk about when some of these players are
going to even think about retiring. I haven’t got a clue when that’s
going to happen but as far as I’m concerned, hopefully it’s a long way
England has been outplayed in all three tests and seems barely a
shadow of the side which won last year’s absorbing test series in
"I thought we played some good cricket," said captain Andy Flintoff.
"We had a good crack and it didn’t come off. But we’ve still got two
tests to play and we will be playing for pride."
This was the most anticipated test series in decades, made so by the
quality of last year’s series and by Australia’s avid hunt for revenge,
but it failed to match its hype.
Only Pietersen, with scores of 92 at Brisbane, 158 at Adelaide, 70
and 60 not out at Perth, lived up to his reputation. Paul Collingwood
made a diligent 215 in the first innings of second test and Alastair
Cook a mature 116 on Sunday but England’s batsmen were otherwise
Flintoff, who was the hero of England’s 2005 Ashes victory, seemed
worn down by the responsibilities of captaincy, which he inherited from
Vaughan, and of being a tour selector with coach Duncan Fletcher.
The selection decisions taken by the pair, particularly to omit
spinner Panesar from the Adelaide test, to persist with Ashley Giles in
his place and to prefer Jones to Chris Read as wicketkeeper were
material in England’s defeat.
In the end, Australia’s superiority was overwhelming. It progressed
with barely a hindrance to its ninth win in the last 10 Ashes series,
their 10th in 14 series since 1983.
Australia improved its overall record to 31 wins in 63 Ashes series
since the first in 1882, when England fans mourned their nation’s loss
by cremating the bails and interring the ashes in the tiny urn that
gives the series its name.