England retain the Ashes, Melbourne, day four

Close: fourth Test, day four, Melbourne
Match score: Australia 258 and 98 (Anderson 4-44, Tremlett 4-26) lost to England 513 (Trott 168*, Siddle 6-75) by an innings and 157 runs
Session score: Australia 89-4, England win
Session in six words: England retain the Ashes in Melbourne

It’s home. It was coming home from the moment Australia folded for 98 on Sunday afternoon.

It’s been a great four days for England, and gritty for Australia – their second innings defeat at home in three games after not suffering one for 17 years. Oh dear. For England, it’s the first Ashes success in Australia since 1986-87. Now they must make sure they win the series in Sydney, preferably 3-1.

Melbourne saved the best weather for the shortest day. That was one consolation for the many fans left to queue outside the ground after Cricket Australia’s bizarre decision to only open three gates and charge fans $35 dollars for the privilege of watching at best one session of play.

This morning was about how long rather than how. Brad Haddin and Peter Siddle hung around long enough for the MCG to finally open its gates for free, but it was never going to go beyond lunch from the moment Chris Tremlett bowled Mitchell Johnson in the second over.

For this observer the moment of victory was strangely anticlimactic. Andrew Strauss said post-match that this England team were focused on achievements beyond the Ashes, and with good reason. This Australia team just haven’t been good enough, it’s been a series featuring great performances but without a hint of a great game. The main satisfaction in victory was looking at the faces of the English players – the convincing wins here and in Adelaide just rewards for the many hours they and the coaching staff have dedicated to improvement. They are a likeable team who play aggressive, attractive cricket, and they deserve all the fevered support that the Barmy Army has given them. They couldn’t have chosen a better venue to celebrate, as 100,000 seats reverberated to the tune of Jerusalem.

The bowlers have been the key to England’s success – James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann all showing at times this series that they can attack and defend at the same time, crucial with a four-man attack. Steve Finn is a deliberate omission, he must improve his economy rate without damaging a freakishly productive strike rate. With an attack that balances bounce, swing, seam and spin and has proved it can operate in different conditions England have a chance to move rapidly up the rankings. The only thing they lack is a bowler of genuine pace.

Ricky Ponting spoke afterwards of his determination to continue as captain, while acknowledging that he might have to move down the order to do so. For a man who claimed to be in better physical condition than at any time in the last eight years he cut a strangely frail figure, with hunched shoulders and a gentler, considered speech. More than any time in this series he looked old. Australia have a decision to make.


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