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England presses hard for victory

Ted Corbett

MANCHESTER: Andrew Flintoff, who learnt his trade at the Test ground — Young Trafford you might call him — used his height and strength to blast out the most important batsmen in the Australian top order on Monday as England pressed for a crucial third Test victory in its fight to regain the Ashes. He bowled eight successive overs and took two for six in 30 balls when he had Simon Katich and Adam Gilchrist caught in the gully — but he showed no signs of flagging as he was egged on by men with a Lancashire accent like his own.

Even when five Aussies were out for 182 the game was still not settled but when the injured Michael Clarke arrived at the wicket — without a runner despite his troublesome back — only a faint chance of an Australian victory remained. Ricky Ponting was still batting on 91, four hours after he arrived to stave off a crisis, but if he had ever contemplated a win, that hope had gone by tea when 210 were needed from 42 overs.

Chaos at venue

At least the good folk of Manchester thought England could win. One queued at Old Trafford from 11 o'clock the previous night, complete with hamper and mattress and the traffic was so thick that half the England players, driving to the ground so they could make their way home overnight, were half an hour late. An hour before the start high ranking police officers were telling would-be spectators to go home.

"The ground has reached its capacity," they shouted. "You'll have to watch it on telly." A plan to screen the day's play in the city centre had to be abandoned. Approximately 10,000 angry people failed to get through the gates; 23,000 were crammed into this open ground, singing, dancing, laughing. They were sure the Ashes were as good as won and they wanted to celebrate with the players who had wiped the new football season and Paula Radcliffe's marathon success off the front pages. These are happy days for England cricket fans as they bask in the success of Michael Vaughan's men.

When Justin Langer was caught by the miscreant Geraint Jones from Matthew Hoggard's first ball — the eighth of the day — it seemed England might wrap the match up rapidly. But for the next couple of hours little went right. Ponting batted better than at any time on the tour, edges flew wide even when four slips were in place and lbw appeals were — correctly — turned down. The crowd, which had to pay only 10 to get in, was just as much on edge and roared at every Australian mistake, booed every success and almost burst their lungs when Flintoff bowled Matthew Hayden round his legs for 36. Two down for 96 in 30 overs and 121 for two at lunch: the game still in the balance.

Vital blow

Steve Harmison, who has been out of luck in this game, struck a vital blow just after lunch when he sent the ball crashing into Damien Martyn's pads and got umpire Bucknor to raise his finger. Martyn went off slowly and angrily and after five replays we had to concede he edged the ball before it hit his pads. Katich began by playing Flintoff as if he were offering slip catching practice and when Flintoff went over the wicket Giles at third slip was able to snatch the ball wide and head

high: 165 for four, the gate to success eased open and, for the first time, Australia concentrating on a draw.

So the runs dried up and eight overs on, with only 17 added Gilchrist sent yet another Flintoff ball wide of his off stump to Bell in the gully. Giles alongside Bell lifted the little man high over his head so pleased was he with that catch. How the matchstick men of this city — remember the L.S. Lowry pictures, particularly Going To The Match — cheered their man with his second wicket for just six runs and the old enemy on the retreat.

Scoreboard

England — 1st innings: 444

Australia — 1st innings: 302

England — 2nd innings: M. Trescothick b McGrath 41, A. Strauss c Martyn b McGrath 106, M. Vaughan c sub (Brad Hodge) b Lee 14, I. Bell c Katich b McGrath 65, K. Pietersen lbw b McGrath 0, A. Flintoff b McGrath 4, G. Jones (not out) 27, A. Giles (not out) 0; Extras (b-5, lb-3, w-1, nb-14): 23, Total (for six wkts. decl. in 61.5 overs): 280.

Fall of wickets: 1-64, 2-97, 3-224, 4-225, 5-248, 6-264.

Australia bowling: McGrath 20.5-1-115-5, Lee 12-0-60-1, Warne 25-3-74-0, Gillespie 4-0-23-0.

Australia — 2nd innings: J. Langer c G. Jones b Hoggard 14, M. Hayden b Flintoff 36, R. Ponting (batting) 91, D. Martyn lbw b Harmison 19, S. Katich c Giles b Flintoff 12, A. Gilchrist c Bell b Flintoff 4, M. Clarke (batting) 20, Extras (b-4, w-1, nb-15) 20. Total (at tea, for five wkts. in 66 overs) 216.

Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-96, 3-129, 4-165, 5-182.

England bowling: Harmison 12-3-27-1, Hoggard 6-0-26-1, Giles 21-3-68-0, Vaughan 5-0-21-0, Flintoff 15-3-50-3, Jones 7-2-20-0.

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