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Last Updated: Monday, 29 August 2005, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Dare to dream
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport at Trent Bridge

England supporters at Trent Bridge
Fans revel in the success of the England team at Trent Bridge

It began with England's 100-run victory in the Twenty20 international back in June, when they proved Australia really could be beaten.

It gained a fillip on the opening day at Lord's, when Steve Harmison bowled the Aussies out for 190, only to see Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne hit back and win the first Test.

England's belief grew to massive proportions when they completed a nail-biting victory at Edgbaston to level an Ashes series for the first time since 1984.

When the home side got the better of the nerve-jangling draw at Old Trafford a week later, confidence scaled the heights.

But it was not until England bowled their centuries-old rivals out for 387 at Trent Bridge on Sunday that the chorus of "Ashes coming home" had resonance.

Australia have not given up easily so far, though, and they certainly did not on Sunday evening as Warne and Brett Lee seared through the England order.

But with edges of seats well worn, Ashley Giles drove Warne though mid-wicket to secure victory.

Shane Warne celebrates another wicket
Warne's magic almost conjured a remarkable win for Australia

To the tune of Kumbaya, England's fans asked "What's the score McGrath?"

As the veteran acknowledged from the players' balcony, England are 2-1 up needing only need to draw at The Oval to win back the Ashes urn - cricket's holy grail - for the first time in 16 years.

The signs of England's dominance have been there for some time, especially in a four-pronged attack of pace and reverse-swing that has left Australia battered, bruised and bemused.

Australia's opening batsman Justin Langer, who has taken more blows to the head than a heavyweight, has compared them to the West Indies quartets of the 1980s.

And the technical analyses that focused after Lord's on how England played Warne and McGrath were firmly turned on Australia's batsmen after Old Trafford, where they struggled for the third match in a row.

England's batting showed it had caught up on Sunday evening in that third Test, when Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell shared a stand of 127 to set up England's declaration.

With McGrath still struggling after a rushed return from an ankle injury and the rest of the pace attack out of sorts, Australia were left wondering where the next wicket would come from.

Michael Vaughan's nebulous talk of "building pressure" turned into something solid at Trent Bridge as Australia looked like the playground bully just introduced to his victim's father.

Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard
Giles and Hoggard enjoy victory at Trent Bridge

"England are doing to us what we've done for a number of years," admitted Australia's formally-dominating wicket-keeper batsman Adam Gilchrist as his side faced the prospect of following on for the first time in 17 years.

The cracks in the Aussie side were exposed as they were forced to abandon selection policy and make a defensive substitution, bringing in Shaun Tait for Jason Gillespie.

Many questioned the wisdom of coach John Buchanan as he flailed for a solution to the side's bowling woes.

And captain Ricky Ponting showed his anger and frustration when he unleashed a verbal volley towards the England dressing room.

The side rated best in the world since taking over from the West Indies in 1995 now have less than a fortnight to regroup and reassert themselves.

But as they showed in a tense Sunday evening, they will not take it lying down.

In Warne, who ended Marcus Trescothick's firecracker start on his way to three wickets for seven runs in 29 balls, Australia have a scrapper who refuses to admit defeat.

Glenn McGrath
McGrath may yet provide a sting in the tail for England followers

Unless he is unable to lift his right arm, McGrath will play in one of Australia's most important Test matches since his career began in 1993.

And if the Warne-McGrath axis, with 1,124 wickets between them, can reform in earnest for the first time since Lord's, the scene could be vastly different.

That would free Lee to bowl at express pace without having to think about retaining control.

England will also be sweating on the fitness of Simon Jones, whose series average of 21.00 for his 18 wickets betters all of his team-mates.

They can afford a draw at The Oval, which is generally considered to have the best batting surface in the country.

But to play for one may open themselves up to defeat in this fast-paced version of the game.

The details can wait for a week, though, while England, and their raucous supporters, celebrate what they have achieved so far.




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