Australia Won Fourth Test Match - Level Ashes series
Australia duly completed victory by an innings and 80 runs in the fourth Test at Headingley to level the Ashes series at 1-1 with one match remaining. England resumed in an impossible position, 261 runs behind and with only only five wickets left. And it looked like being a swift demise when James Anderson was caught at slip.
But Stuart Broad hit 10 fours in 61 and shared a pulsating 108 from 12.3 overs with Graeme Swann who fired 62, before Mitchell Johnson sealed it with 5-69. It had threatened to be England's worst defeat at home, but the partnership ended those fears and that record margin of an innings and 226 runs at the hands of the West Indies at Lord's in 1973 remains for a while longer at least. On the ground where Ian Botham inspired one of the greatest comebacks in 1981, there was a glorious hint, but inevitably no dramatic reverse in this match, as Australia took the series to a decider starting at The Oval on 20 August.
The deficit when Botham walked out at number seven 28 years ago was a mere 122, so the chances of Anderson, Prior and the bowlers compiling around 300 more than that to set Australia any sort of total were beyond even the imagination of the bookmakers. Still the opera singer performed "Jerusalem" on the playing area with admirable gusto as the players took the field, but perhaps "Things Can Only Get Better" or "Always Look on the Bright Side" would have been more appropriate. There was a healthy crowd in attendance too, some even brave enough to sport fancy dress, and one patriotic soul donning full English knight regalia.
Anderson at least extended the record for number of Test innings without a duck to 54, but the ball after doing so he gave comfortable catching practice to Ricky Ponting at second slip. Given that there is no guide as to how to bat when more than 250 behind and only Broad, Swann, Steve Harmison and Graham Onions remain, Prior played some stylish drives square of the wicket, before eventually fishing at one wide of off-stump that was magnificently scooped up by Brad Haddin, diving low to his right.
The four Australian seamers, none of whom had previously played at Headingley, complemented each other superbly during this match. After Stuart Clark and Peter Siddle did the damage in the first innings, it was Johnson and more significantly Ben Hilfenhaus who posed the greatest threat. Hilfenhaus continued to bowl accurately with just the right amount of movement to further expose frailties in the batsmen. But the next hour gave the crowd some fantastic entertainment in glorious Sunday morning sunshine as Broad and Swann adopted a positive approach.
Having claimed Test-best bowling figures of 6-91 on Saturday, Broad spoke confidently about surpassing his highest score with the bat, 76 against South Africa at Lord's last year, and it looked as though he was heading for a remarkable maiden century. In one Clark over he thumped four fours to bring up the fifty partnership in 51 balls with Swann, and a magnificent drive on the up down the ground off Siddle recorded his fifth Test fifty from only 42 balls. If the tall, blonde left-hander bore a resemblance to Graham Dilley, who shared in the famous 1981 partnership, the right-handed Swann began to bat in the mentality of IT Botham himself with some bold full-blooded strokes in classic nothing-to-lose vein.
In a truly thrilling passage of play, 49 came in three overs and the crowd were delighted to have the opportunity to bait Clark, who took the badinage in commendable spirit when he returned to patrol the boundary. On 53 Broad was reprieved when Johnson backtracked from mid-off but could only push the ball over the ropes for four and the 100 partnership was soon recorded in a mere 73 balls. Groans rang out across the ground when Broad's hook was caught at deep square-leg, but Swann ensured that the fun did not end when he hooked - perhaps a little bit like Botham in his 1981 century at Old Trafford - whilst not looking at the ball. It sailed for six and signalled his second Test fifty.
Against all the odds, England made it to lunch, when they were given a standing ovation by a crowd delightfully surprised to have some live action to watch in the afternoon, and having savoured a session in which 163 were scored in 24 overs. But soon after the interval Swann was given out caught behind chasing a wide one and Johnson confirmed his return to form by shattering the stumps of Graham Onions, leaving everything to play for in south London.