Following the third Test match that ended in a tense draw after England failed to dislodge the last Australian batsman off the final ball after five days of tense cricket, the bandwagon moved on to the fourth Test match in Robin Hood country at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.Michael Vaughan the English captain won the toss again and rightly decided to bat on what looked an easy paced pitch. They batted well too, racking up a huge total of 477 with man of the moment Freddie Flintoff notching up his first century against the men from down under.
When Australia batted the England bowlers were on the money from the off and finally bundled Australia out for 218, giving England a priceless first innings lead of 259.Because Australia failed to get within 200 runs of the English total, the English captain had the option of asking Australia to follow on, to bat their second innings again immediately, and he took up that option after consulting with his bowlers about their freshness. Many commentators worried about the decision as it would give Australia an opportunity to bowl last on a potentially wearing pitch, and of course they had within their ranks the best leg spinner in the history of the game, in Shane Warne. Spinners traditionally come into their own the longer the match runs.Australia batted far better second time round posting an all out total of 387 leaving England to score what looked like an easy 129 to win the match, and to lead the series for the first time.
But of course things could never be as simple as that, as the Australians gritted their teeth and began knocking down the English batsman. Four went out relatively cheaply and already the nerves had set in, on the pitch, in the pavilion, throughout the packed grandstands, and in tense living rooms up and down the nation. Thankfully Kevin Pietersen, and who else but Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff, steadied the ship, but once they had departed, the nerves returned with a vengeance. Thankfully Ashley Giles nonchalantly stroked the winning runs as England closed on 129-7 to win the game.
Freddie took the man of the match award for the second time after his first innings debut century against the world champions and for his always penetrative and quick bowling.So the bandwagon moves on to the last stop, the fifth and final Test at Surrey County Cricket's Oval stadium in London. Like every other ground in this series, all tickets have been sold months in advance.Terrestrial television viewing figures reached record levels as the nation watched entranced, ironic really, as this will be the last live series available to the public, unless you subscribe to expensive Sky satellite TV.
There is barely a fingernail left anywhere in the kingdom and it would seem that this historic series is destined to be decided in the last session on the fifth day of the fifth and final Test.As in every other match, punting on the game reached frenetic levels with Betfair matching almost £28 million, another new record. You can still have a free $30 bet on the fifth Test with Betfair.
com if you enter the promotional code 6CHE3VPWJ. On the Saturday afternoon news came through that the English Women's XI had finally regained the Ashes from Australia for the first time since unbelievably 1965. Now the nation hopes and prays that the men can follow suit.Australia have been shaken by injuries to key bowlers, some top batsman being out of form, the snarling English attack, some poor and incorrect umpiring decisions, and above all the ferocity and intensity of the English competitiveness. Australia just aren't used to it. They have become set in their ways of bullying poorer sides into submission the world over, but this English side is made of sterner stuff.
Freddie Flintoff has become their talisman, and he is now an odds on favourite to scoop the sportsman of the year awards. The football season may have started, but cricket now dominates the back pages of the newspapers like it has rarely done before. The chatter in the pubs, and on the buses and in the trains is all about the heroics of Michael Vaughan's side.The ultimate winner has been the game itself. Cricket will never again be seen as a dull game for middle-aged buffers so long as this truly memorable Ashes series lives on in the memory.
And it aint all over yet. Off we go to London, and no one can be sure where the tiny urn of burnt ashes, cricket bales cremated from long ago, will finally be heading.It has been an utter pleasure to watch every ball bowled throughout 20 days of this Titanic struggle. Five more playing days remain before the series is decided. Australia now need to win the fifth Test to retain the Ashes.
The pressure is all on the tourists, but as they have shown countless times before, they are at their absolute best when cornered. A draw or a win will do for England. They are so close to toppling the world champions, but no one in England is taking anything for granted..
David Carter's new book SPLAM! Successful Property Letting And Management is now available. Check out http://www.splam.co.
uk for details. He also runs a holiday cottage web site where you can browse through over 7,000 holiday cottages, villas and apartments worldwide on http://www.pebblebeachmedia.co.uk.For more information on the Ashes series and cricket in general take a look at http://www.
cricinfo.com. You can contact David direct on any matter at supalife@aol.
By: David Carter