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Ashes: England close in on series victory in Australia

Fifth Ashes Test: Australia 280 & 213-7 v England 644 (day four)
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground Resumes: 2300 GMT Coverage: Live on Test Match Special (from 2245 GMT) 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

James Anderson
James Anderson's reverse swing saw off Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke

By Oliver Brett

England are on the verge of a crushing 3-1 Ashes victory and first series win down under in 24 years.

At stumps on day four in Sydney, Australia were 213-7, 151 runs behind and staring at a third defeat by an innings in the current series.

Earlier, Matt Prior stroked 118 from 130 balls as England reached 644, their highest Test total on Australian soil.

Australia slumped from 161-4 to 171-7 allowing England to take the extra half-hour as they pressed for the win.

Steve Smith and Peter Siddle were able to play out the final few overs, but England will start the final day hoping to quickly complete a victory that appeared likely from the moment Prior took the game away from the hosts.

The wicketkeeper put on 102 with Tim Bresnan, and his century made it nine in the series for England, an Ashes record for them. The tourists were finally all out soon after lunch, but the real drama of the day was still to come.

England's three seamers each struck twice and Australia completely lost their way when the ball began to reverse swing after tea, with five wickets tumbling in the final session alone, including two in consecutive Chris Tremlett deliveries.

HIGHEST SCORES FOR ENGLAND IN TESTS IN AUSTRALIA
Matt Prior reaches his century
644, in Sydney, Jan 2011
636, in Sydney, Dec 1928
620-5d, in Adelaide, Dec 2010
592-8d, in Perth, Nov 1986

Predictions that the SCG wicket would deteriorate from Thursday onwards under a hot sun did not come to fruition as Prior, on 54 not out, and Bresnan, still yet to score, continued a marathon England innings at the start of the day.

Feasting on balls of full length aimed well outside off-stump - in one of the Sussex wicketkeeper's favourite areas - Prior leant into a series of drives, intelligently angled to avoid a packed field on that side, or lofted with precision over the men positioned on that side.

Bresnan, who faced 103 balls for his 35, was unable to achieve the fluency of his partner, but nevertheless got in some important batting practice before the impending one-day series.

The two right-handers ran Australia ragged in a stand of 102 from only 28.2 overs, a ground record by an England eighth-wicket pair. It was the third century stand in succession as the lower order continued a spectacular conversion from 226-5.

Shirtless England fans, having absorbed the news that Paul Collingwood had decided to make this Test his last, dealt out some fierce taunts towards seamer Mitchell Johnson, the Australian hero in Perth.

Johnson was the most expensive bowler, but enjoyed a modicum of revenge when having Bresnan caught in the slips.

Prior, too, finally had to depart, nicking a high bouncer from Ben Hilfenhaus - although the dismissal was delayed as umpire Billy Bowden radioed the third official to check Hilfenhaus had not sent down a no-ball.

TOM FORDYCE BLOG

The compensation for Prior was the fastest Ashes century by an Englishman since Ian Botham's memorable 118 off 102 balls at Old Trafford in 1981.

The punishment continued to be meted out, however. Graeme Swann (36) smashed 17 in a Johnson over costing 20 before the final wicket was taken in the 178th over of the innings.

Johnson finished with four wickets, but will want to forget how much they cost him - 168.

Within 20 overs of Australia's second innings, England had picked up two wickets, leaving Australia 77-2 at tea and under severe pressure.

The first breakthrough was a bonus. Shane Watson, a notably poor runner, suffered a breakdown in communication with Phillip Hughes and Kevin Pietersen's sharp pick-up and return to Prior had him run out by the length of the pitch.

Hughes's wretched performances in Ashes cricket continued when he nicked a good delivery from Bresnan to Prior, whereupon Michael Clarke came out to join Usman Khawaja in the middle.

With debutant Khawaja playing cautiously and skipper Clarke adopting a positive role, they added 65 before two James Anderson wickets derailed the Australians.

Bowling with exceptional control, Anderson first drifted one away from the left-handed Khawaja, who got an edge through to Prior.

Michael Clarke
Clarke has had a tough introduction to Test captaincy

And the same combination did for the right-handed Clarke as an excellent delivery held its line just outside off stump.

The pitch was still playing well, but England were bowling superbly, and Bresnan was next to strike when Mike Hussey picked out Pietersen at gully with a misdirected cut shot.

Somehow there was still time for Tremlett to get in on the act, and he did it by taking wickets with consecutive deliveries, Brad Haddin edging yet another testing delivery to Prior before Johnson was bowled first ball.

Andrew Strauss claimed an extra half hour to try to finish off Australia, but with the shadows lengthening Smith and Siddle showed enough nous to push the match into the final day, taking advantage of some hyper-attacking fields to add 42 runs in 10 overs.

England expatriates in the Sydney area - as well as the regular travelling supporters - could now be tempted to make a beeline to the famous old ground on the final day after it was announced entry would be free.


Listen to commentary highlights from the fifth Test (UK users only)

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

There is a 90-minute Ashes Special on 5 live sport starting at 1930 GMT, with contributions from Matthew Hoggard, Marcus Trescothick and Mark Ramprakash



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see also
England deserve success - Watson
06 Jan 11 |  England
Collingwood ends his Test career
05 Jan 11 |  England
Fifth Ashes Test day four photos
06 Jan 11 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
06 Jan 11 |  England
Justin Langer column
06 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Cook and Bell make Aussies suffer
05 Jan 11 |  England
Cook builds England reply at SCG
04 Jan 11 |  England
England on top in rain-hit Sydney
03 Jan 11 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
08 Oct 09 |  Cricket


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