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Jonathan Agnew column

Fifth Ashes Test: Aus 280 & 213-7 v England 644 (stumps, 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
Anderson took the wickets of Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in Sydney

Apart from the poor performance in Perth, England have been streets ahead of Australia and that was the case again today when the home side were given an object lesson in reverse swing bowling.

Chris Tremlett, James Anderson and Tim Bresnan were all absolutely outstanding at getting the old ball to move both ways in the air.

It is one thing to make the ball swing in reverse, it is another to do it with the skill, accuracy and variety that they did here.

They put intense pressure on Australia's two inexperienced batsmen Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja. They were all over them and it was another disciplined, ruthless and faultless performance by England in the field.

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James Anderson has become brilliant at hiding the ball during his run-up in the manner of great swing bowlers like Waqar Younis.

If you have a ball that is reversing, it is generally pretty obvious which is the rough side and which is the shiny side and any experienced batsman will look at that and know where the ball is going to swing, so part of the art is all about deception.

Anderson runs up with the ball in his left hand, transfers it to his right, and manages to hide it right up to the moment of delivery. The whole thing is incredibly clever, all 'smoke and mirrors'.

Inevitably with reverse swing you get mutterings in dark corners about ball-tampering, but umpire Billie Bowden inspected the ball and was perfectly happy with the condition of it.

England's seamers once again took the glory but off-spinner Graeme Swann has also played a crucial role in their success throughout this series.

At the beginning of the series we all expected the Australian tactic to be to get after Swann and try to knock him out of his rhythm, but most of the time the Australians have not been in a position to attack anybody.

Matt Prior
Centurion Matt Prior is a not a member of the England one-day squad

Swann has been able to come on and just bottle up an end, which is important when you are only playing four bowlers. This has allowed captain Andrew Strauss to rotate his quick bowlers.

Matt Prior also deserves credit today for his century, which saw England to a total of 644.

He is belligerent, hits the ball hard and is incredibly strong square of the wicket on either side. He scores his runs quickly and that is exactly what England wanted.

They wanted to make sure they weren't bowled out cheaply to give the Aussies a glimmer of hope but also wanted to rattle on and get as many runs as they could.

Prior has also been fantastic behind the stumps, making only one mistake all series, a missed stumping. Some 18 months ago he was in the West Indies and he was all over the place, but now he is up there as one of the best and it is all down to hard work.

It will frustrate Prior that he is not in the one-day side but he has had lots of chances and has not taken them.

He might argue that it was the old Prior who had lots of chances and not the new one, but first Craig Kieswetter came in and took his place and then Steve Davies.

Finally, a word on Paul Collingwood, who has announced his retirement from Test cricket.

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He has been a great servant to England. He was never the most talented batsman but he worked really hard at his game and got the best out of himself. His fielding has been brilliant and he has taken two blinding, match-winning catches this series.

His departure is the right thing to do because he has not shown any form at all here with the bat, but it is so nice for a sportsman to choose his own time and bow out on a high, rather than wait for the rug to get pulled away from under his feet by the selectors.

Collingwood and England can celebrate having achieved something very special over here. It's going to be a huge party tomorrow.

Jonathan Agnew was taking to BBC Sport's Sam Sheringham


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 close on Ashes series win
06 Jan 11 |  England
Fifth Ashes Test day four photos
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Collingwood ends his Test career
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Cook and Bell make Aussies suffer
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Cook glad to end 'lonely' summer
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Cook builds England reply at SCG
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England on top in rain-hit Sydney
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Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
England in Australia 2010-11
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