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England close in on Ashes victory in Melbourne

Fourth Ashes Test (day three, stumps):
Australia 98 & 169-6 v England 513
Venue: Melbourne Dates: 26-30 December Start: 2330 GMT (25-29 Dec)
Coverage: Live on Test Match Special on BBC 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW & online; TMS highlights online (UK only) and day's review on the TMS podcast; live text on BBC Sport website; live on Sky Sports 1; highlights on ITV4
Match scorecard

Michael Clarke is caught at slip
Graeme Swann accounted for Michael Clarke as Australia's batting crumbled

By Pranav Soneji

England moved closer to retaining the Ashes for the first time in 24 years following another dominant display at the Melbourne Test on day three.

England added 69 to their overnight total as they were dismissed for 513, with Jonathan Trott unbeaten on 168.

Australia had been progressing steadily at 99-1 when Tim Bresnan ripped through the middle order with three wickets for five runs in the final session.

The hosts ended the day on 169-6, still 246 runs adrift of the tourists.

That deficit is purely mathematical with only three lower-order wickets remaining - Ryan Harris is unlikely to bat after sustaining a stress fracture of his left ankle bowling in the morning session - and with England's bowlers rampant.

A superb, disciplined display from the quartet was characterised by sustained periods of pressure, starving Australia's beleaguered top order of run-scoring opportunities.

At the forefront of the middle-order demolition was Bresnan's superb spell of 3-17 from seven eventful overs, dismissing Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey in quick succession.

Jonathan Trott walks off the field
Trott hit 13 boundaries during his 345-ball innings

Yorkshireman Bresnan was ably assisted by the frugal Chris Tremlett and the ever consistent James Anderson, who once again exemplified why he is the best swing bowler in the world.

And Graeme Swann's canny ability to collect wickets at crucial stages left Australia staring down the barrel of yet another humiliating innings defeat on home soil.

After almost two days of rest, England's bowlers were eventually called for action after lunch when the tourists were dismissed for their third 500+ total in this series.

The indefatigable Trott brought up his second Test score in excess of 150 as wickets tumbled around him, with the ever-persistent Peter Siddle rewarded for a spirited bowling display with figures of 6-75, his fourth five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

Matt Prior fell 15 runs short of his fourth Test hundred when he spooned a catch to Ponting at mid-on, while Bresnan became Siddle's fifth victim.

But Australia's hopes of wrapping up the tail were hindered when Harris was forced off the field when he broke down in his 28th over, later confirmed as a stress fracture which will require surgery.

An entertaining knock of 22 from Swann was brought to an end when Brad Haddin took an excellent one-handed catch high above his head off Ben Hilfenhaus, only his second wicket in the series.

And Tasmanian Hilfenhaus added a third minutes later when he cleaned up Tremlett's stumps before Siddle wrapped up the innings with his sixth wicket when a fast reverse-swinging delivery clean bowled Anderson.

With two-and-a-half days remaining in the match, Australia needed to bat at least six sessions if they were to stand any chance of keeping the series alive for the final Test in Sydney on 2 January.

TOM FORDYCE BLOG

The onus was on Australia's openers to provide a solid platform for a robust riposte and, although Phillip Hughes began nervously with a series of streaky boundaries behind square, they managed to notch a confidence-boosting 50-run partnership.

However, Swann's second over in the afternoon session provided the breakthrough, although the dismissal owed more to Watson's poor judgement calling for a quick single than the off-spinner's guile.

A superb throw from Trott in the covers caught Hughes out of his ground with Watson lamenting his hasty call from the non-striker's end.

Bresnan and Anderson choked the flow of runs with a disciplined display of swing bowling, manipulating the 15-over old ball in both directions as Ponting and Watson were given few run-scoring opportunities to cash in on.

Tremlett maintained the stranglehold, using his huge 6ft 7in frame to generate awkward bounce and height, making batting an arduous affair for Australia's second-wicket pair.

The Surrey seamer was unfortunate to see a thick Watson outside edge fall just short of Prior at 79-1 while a number of lbw appeals were repeatedly turned down by umpire Aleem Dar, with height providing the biggest doubt in the Pakistani official's mind.

Watson reached his 15th Test half century from 95 deliveries in the 30th over but once again the barrel-chested opener fell short of a three-figure score when he misjudged a reverse-swinging delivery, offering no stroke to a ball which moved back into his pads.

Tim Bresnan celebrates a wicket
Tim Bresnan bowled seven maidens in a 15-over spell

Umpire Tony Hill upheld England's clamorous lbw appeal, although Watson's fate was delayed as the opener referred the decision to the third umpire Marais Erasmus, only for the South African to confirm the ball would have just clipped the top of the bails.

Ponting's painstaking innings of 20 from 73 deliveries was brought to a close soon after when a thick inside edge clattered into his stumps, much to the delight of the jubilant England fans.

And the assiduous Hussey, England's nemesis throughout the first three Test matches, was dismissed without scoring when Ian Bell took an excellent low catch at short cover to leave Australia reeling at 104-4.

With rookie Steve Smith, whose credentials as a Test number six have been questioned by seasoned observers and home fans alike, and the out-of-form Michael Clarke at the crease, England sensed another dismissal was close.

Although the fifth-wicket partnership offered obdurate defence, it was the deception of Swann which earned it.

Bowling around the wicket to Clarke, the off-spinner's delivery held its line outside the off stump and a thick outside edge flew into the hands of Andrew Strauss at second slip, further compounding Australia's vice-captain's miserable series.

Smith swung his bat at every opportunity whenever he was offered a modicum of width, collecting six boundaries before he dragged a short ball from Anderson on to his stumps to leave Australia on 158-6.

With Mitchell Johnson at the crease alongside Brad Haddin, Australia face the impossible task of saving the Test - and series - on day four, which is certain to herald huge celebrations from England players and fans alike.


Listen to commentary highlights from the day three of the fourth Test (UK users only)

TMS podcast: Agnew and Boycott's review (available worldwide)



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see also
Star Bresnan hails 'best feeling'
28 Dec 10 |  England
Watson calls for pride in Sydney
28 Dec 10 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
28 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Justin Langer column
28 Dec 10 |  Cricket
Fourth Ashes Test in photos
28 Dec 10 |  England
Ponting regrets umpire argument
28 Dec 10 |  Australia
Ponting hit with fine after row
27 Dec 10 |  Australia
Trott ton stretches England lead
27 Dec 10 |  England
England dominate woeful Aussies
26 Dec 10 |  England
England crash to heavy Ashes loss
19 Dec 10 |  England
England complete Adelaide triumph
07 Dec 10 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket


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