The Reuters global sports blog
Ricky Ponting made the long, lonely walk back to the dressing room after another Ashes failure on Tuesday as England moved to the brink of a famous triumph at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
The sight of Ponting’s wickets shattered after he had scrapped to 20 runs in 73 balls summed up his own personal decline and that of his once-dominant team.
England, still leading by 246 runs after their first innings 513, just need to take four more Australian wickets on Wednesday to ensure they become the first England team to return home from Australia with the Ashes in 24 years.
Mick Tsikas took the picture.
England gave the perfect response to those who had written them off after the 267-run drubbing in Perth with a day of absolute dominance in front of 84,345 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday.
The first day of the “Boxing Day” test at the MCG is one of the great fixtures on the Australian sporting calendar but Andrew Strauss and his team were superior in every area of play to skittle the hosts for 98 runs and reach 157 without loss at the close of play on day one of the fourth Ashes test.
A casual remark from Pakistan fast bowler Wahab Riaz last week illustrated how swiftly life moves on in elite sport.
Riaz was asked which of the five England wickets he had captured in his test debut at the Oval had given him the most satisfaction.
The recent experience of England’s rugby team is testament to this after being forced to pick a squad without twelve regular members.
A stunning spell by Andrew Flintoff saw Australia’s last five wickets tumble for just 93 runs as the tourists came under an intense barrage of brutal deliveries from England’s retiring talisman, who secured his side their first test victory over Australia at Lord’s since 1934 by 115 runs.
If anybody ever questioned what England would be missing once Flintoff retires at the end of this series, they got their answer in spades as Lancashire’s finest bowled unchanged for nine overs from the Pavilion End, returning figures of 3 for 33, and completing his first five-wicket haul in an innings for four years.
The selection of Australia’s Ashes squad has compounded England’s worst fears. This is a team more than capable of successfully defending the little urn.
There may be no Shane Warne, Adam Gilchirst or Glenn McGrath in the lineup but what the squad lacks in star quality it makes up for in depth.
When England nightwatchman James Anderson smashed West Indies seamer Lionel Baker for four late on the first day of the second test he extended one of the more surprising records in test cricket.
The fast bowler has now played 48 test innings without being dismissed for a duck, three more than his nearest rival Yasir Hameed of Pakistan.
At 30 years old England spinner Graeme Swann is no spring chicken, but since his first taste of international cricket ended up with him oversleeping and missing the bus this story could have a bit of a fairytale feel about it if things continue to go well … Not so much Swann Lake as The Ugly Duckling, perhaps?
The focus heading in to England’s second Test has been on local hero Graham Onions, and latterly the West Indies captain Chris Gayle, after he said he would “not be so sad” if Test cricket were to disappear.
We speculated here last week how Fleet Street’s finest headline writers would be sharpening their pencils in glee at the prospect of the splendidly named Graham Onions playing for the England cricket team.
True to form, Britain’s newspapers have gorged themselves in a veritable feeding frenzy after the Durham seamer marked his debut with five wickets in his debut test match at Lord’s on Thursday.
I defy anyone to read the name Graham Onions without letting off a short, poorly subdued snigger. It’s a brilliant name that brings out the schoolboy humour in all of us.
The Durham seamer’s call-up into the England cricket squad propelled him to the pantheon of headline writers’ dreams alongside Usain Bolt, Ian Rush and Mardy Fish.