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   Monday, 30 December, 2002, 04:35 GMT
True drama at the MCG
Jonathan Agnew

England came perilously close to pulling off an extraordinary victory as Australia floundered spectacularly on the way to achieving their modest target of 107.

Had it not been for a bizarre incident which earned a reprieve for Steve Waugh, England might very well have exerted enough pressure to cause a dramatic upset.

The moment of truth occurred when Waugh had made just four, and Australia were 69 for 3, and still 38 away from victory.

The Australia captain blatantly edged Steve Harmison to James Foster.

The crowd gives a motionless Waugh his marching orders
The crowd gives a motionless Waugh his marching orders

But such was the raucous din generated by England's travelling supporters that none of the players on the field or the umpire, David Orchard, heard the sound of the edge.

Foster, finally, gave a half-hearted appeal, but it was all too late to produce an affirmative decision, and Waugh was dramatically reprieved.

The suspense reached fever pitch when, next ball, Waugh drilled Harmison to mid-off where Hussain took a brilliant catch.

England celebrated and Waugh set off for the dressing rooms, but no one had heard Orchard's call of no-ball.

Waugh returned and by the time he eventually fell to a diving catch by Butcher at slip, Australia were only 24 runs short of victory.

Alive

It was a truly dramatic morning which started in the best possible way for England with a wicket first ball.

Matthew Hayden top-edged a Caddick delivery to Tudor at deep square leg and, suddenly, the game was alive.

Ricky Ponting dashed to 30, but he was trapped down the leg-side by Harmison who, three balls later, nipped out Damien Martyn for a duck.

Justin Langer, the man of the match, helped Waugh through his sticky start, but even he could not see the job through as he fell lbw to Caddick for 24 shortly after Waugh's dismissal.

It was left to Martin Love and Adam Gilchrist to see Australia home, to complete a fourth consecutive victory and leave Australia on course for only a second ever five-nil Ashes whitewash.

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