Friday, August 28, 2009

Pietersen makes all-time England XI

Kevin Pietersen is the only player from almost the past two decades to make it into the all-time England XI chosen by Cricinfo, with Ian Botham the next most-recent star to make the cut.
Pietersen's selection, by a panel of renowned cricket writers, journalists and commentators, confirms the impact he has had on the game since he made his Test debut in 2005, but there are no places for anyone else who contributed to England's Ashes victories in 2005 and 2009.
The opening positions are taken by Jack Hobbs and Len Hutton, two of the true legends of the game, and they are followed by Walter Hammond at No. 3 and Ken Barrington at No. 4. Pietersen, who is still in the early part of his career but is already recognised as a match-changing batsman, only just made it to final XI, beating off strong competition from Denis Compton, who captured the hearts and the minds of English fans in the post-war years.
Andrew Flintoff and Tony Greig both made it to the shortlist for allrounders, but Botham won that contest hands down. "A proven century-maker, unlike Andrew Flintoff, and capable of bowling either fast like Harold Larwood, or outswing like Fred Trueman," Scyld Berry, the editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, wrote about Botham. "Hammond at first slip and Botham at second would make a formidable cordon beside Alan Knott."
Knott was the unanimous choice as the wicketkeeper. Sydney Barnes and Harold Larwood won the premier fast bowler's positions by an overwhelming majority, but it was a closer contest for Fred Trueman who had stiff competition from Frank Tyson. Bob Willis was the only modern fast bowler who came close to selection.
The sole spinner's position went to Derek Underwood, who beat Jim Laker by a single vote.
Last month Cricinfo produced a definitive all-time great Australia team, which didn't include any members of the current Australian line-up. Over the coming year, the website will turn its eye to all of the top Test-playing nations and round off the deliberations with an all-time World XI.
Cricinfo also asked readers to select their all-time XIs and the only two differences were that David Gower was voted into the middle order ahead of Barrington and Laker took the spin position from Underwood.

ICC and PCB resolve 2011 World Cup dispute

The ICC and the PCB have resolved their dispute over the staging of the 2011 World Cup. The PCB, which was stripped of its rights to host the tournament in the aftermath of the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, will retain its host fees of US$10.5 million and also receive a payment, still undisclosed, as additional compensation for the loss of hosting rights. The two parties reached an agreement during a meeting between the ICC president David Morgan and the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt in Dubai. It is expected that the settlement will be signed later today, at which point the PCB will withdraw its legal proceedings against the ICC.
However, Butt told AFP that the PCB was aiming to include a clause in the agreement which would allow Pakistan to host some of the World Cup matches depending on the teams' approval. "We have also demanded to include a clause in (Thursday's) agreement that if the security situation improves in Pakistan, some of the World Cup matches be played in Pakistan subject to teams' acceptance," he said.
It was also agreed that the PCB would be free of its liabilities and obligations associated with hosting matches during the tournament, including the location of the tournament secretariat which had originally been set for Lahore.
"This resolution is good for world cricket and provides an improved platform for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 as we now have a degree of certainty surrounding the event that was not there while the dispute was ongoing, " Morgan said after the agreement was reached. "I am glad we were able to come to an amicable agreement and I believe this is a fair resolution for the PCB and the ICC."
He added that international cricket would return to Pakistan once the ICC deemed the security situation in the country was fit for teams to tour. "When the position in Pakistan, from a safety and security point of view, becomes satisfactory to the ICC and its specialist security advisors as well as to visiting teams, then international cricket will return to Pakistan," he said.
Butt, who had strongly opposed the ICC's decision to move matches out of Pakistan, welcomed the breakthrough. "The PCB is content with the settlement that has been reached," he said. "We are able to see this dispute from the other side. We realise also the logistical and administrative difficulties that would be associated with organising our matches in the other three co-host countries.
"Our number-one priority is that cricket in Pakistan must not be allowed to suffer unduly and I believe this agreement is the best possible outcome for the game," he said.
The PCB had reacted sternly over its loss of hosting rights for the tournament and had issued a legal notice to the ICC in May, calling the decision "discriminatory" and "legally flawed".
Six Sri Lankan cricketers were hurt in the attack on their team in March when they were touring for a two-Test series; other countries, prior to the tour, had refused to visit citing concerns over the volatile security situation in Pakistan. The PCB had also filed a case in the Lahore court against the ICC's decision to move the headquarters of the 2011 World Cup (the World Cup secretariat) from Lahore to Mumbai.
In June, the ICC ruled out the possibility of Pakistan's matches being hosted at neutral venues, including the UAE. It confirmed the decision to allocate Pakistan's share of the matches to the three other co-hosts, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The row showed signs of abating when, earlier this month, the PCB said it was looking for an out-of-court settlement to resolve the matter and added it was entitled to a substantial compensation for its share of matches being taken away.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vettori reaches Test double mark

First Test, Colombo, day one:Sri Lanka 263-3 v New Zealand
New Zealand's Daniel Vettori became only the eighth player to achieve the 300 wickets-3000 runs double on day one of the second Test against Sri Lanka.
Kumar Sangakkara was the left-armer's 300th victim on a day which ended with Sri Lanka on 263-3.
They were 75-2 earlier in the day put an unbroken stand of 147 between Mahela Jayawardene (79) and Thilan Samaraweera (78) put them in a strong position.
"I still see myself as a bowler, rather than an all-rounder," said Vettori.
"As a spin bowler, I did not think a feat like this would happen, so it's a very special feeling."
The left-arm spinner is the second player from New Zealand after Sir Richard Hadlee to achieve the double and joins a list that also includes the likes of England's Sir Ian Botham, India's Kapil Dev and Australia's Shane Warne.
But the Kiwis still face a tough task in trying to level the series after losing by 202 runs at Galle.
Vettori used himself as first-change and the move paid off when opener Tharanga Paranavitana, who failed twice in the first Test, pushed forward and edged to Ross Taylor at slip, departing for 19.
How do you think the match will pan out?
Seam accounted for Tillakaratne Dilshan in the third over after lunch when he lobbed a return catch back to Iain O'Brien after making 29.
But home skipper Kumar Sangakkara looked in good touch as he struck nine boundaries, only to sweep Vettori to Jacob Oram at mid-wicket just after reaching 50.
It proved to be New Zealand's final success of the day, however, and although the pitch was "extremely flat", according to Vettori, he professed himself slightly disappointed by the match situation.
"We were ideally looking at five wickets, but Mahela and Thilan are seasoned players and are at the top of their game," he said.
"I hope our batsmen will take a leaf out of their book and put up a big score too."

Hayden warns Pietersen to expect long recovery

Matthew Hayden has warned Kevin Pietersen that his comeback from an Achilles injury could be the toughest battle of his career, after it was confirmed the England batsman was admitted to a central London hospital for treatment on an infection in the stitching of his surgically-repaired right ankle.
Pietersen, who underwent the operation two-and-a-half weeks ago after England's victory in the second Test at Lord's, is expected to be discharged on Wednesday after spending two nights in hospital. He has been placed on a course of antibiotics and will be reassessed later in the week before resuming his rehabilitation programme, but Hayden, who also sustained a high-profile Achilles problem during the first season of IPL, said that it was a problem that was unlikely to go away.
Hayden's own Achilles problem did not require surgery, but it nevertheless curtailed his international career. He missed Australia's 2008 tour of the Caribbean and averaged just 23.93 in nine Tests thereafter. Despite harbouring ambitions to play through to the end of the current Ashes series, Hayden announced his retirement from international cricket in January.
"Frankly, the hardest thing I ever had to do was come back from that," Hayden told Cricinfo's Switch-Hit podcast. "My path was one of very gradual improvement over a long period of time. That was under very strict guidelines and rehabilitation programmes, and it's to a point now thankfully, touch wood, it's brilliant, but it's [an issue] of constant maintenance. What I do know about any kind of tendinopathies, having suffered them right the way through my career, is that they are often a degenerative injury.
"It's not like a hamstring where you go out and pull it, and you spend a number of weeks getting back in through rehab. These are degenerative tendons, so ever since Kevin Pietersen has been running around on the plains of Africa, he would have been wearing out his Achilles tendon. Being such a big bloke, as is often the case with very long levers, it tends to increase the degree of injury. He's got a long road to go, there's no question about that."
Pietersen's setback in his road to recovery was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon in a statement from the ECB. "He was seen by a wound care specialist yesterday and will receive a course of antibiotics in order to exclude infection," read the statement.
"Medical advice is that a complication can occur post surgery and in this case resulted despite Kevin closely following specialist advice on management of the wound. He will be reassessed by the specialist later this week and will return to his planned programme of rehabilitation once the wound has fully healed."
Pietersen's operation was conducted by a leading Swedish specialist, who was flown in at the ECB's behest, and an initial estimate was that he would be out of cricket for six weeks.
That may now have to be revised. The operation, which Pietersen underwent after labouring to twin scores of 32 and 44 in the Lord's Test, involved a small incision and trimming of the blood vessels and nerves around the inflamed tendon and was considered, in a statement from Nick Peirce, the ECB's chief medical officer, to have been routine.
"Kevin will look to undertake a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to ensure there is no risk of recurrence," said Peirce at the time. "This is expected to be approximately six weeks but will be taken at an appropriate pace following constant review."
Pietersen was never in contention to be fit for the remainder of the Australia tour, and his initial target was the tour of South Africa which gets underway with the Champions Trophy on September 22.
However, England's national selector, Geoff Miller, admitted to Cricinfo that there were already concerns about his long-term fitness. "I'm hopeful he will be fit [for South Africa]," said Miller. "I wouldn't say I'm confident, but I'm very, very hopeful, because he's an integral part of the side."
In Pietersen's absence, England's middle order has struggled to match his authoritative style of batting, and at Headingley this week, Nos 3, 4 and 5 - Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood - mustered 16 runs for six dismissals, the lowest combined tally in Test history.
"I hate missing matches for England and especially during an Ashes summer but now that the decision has been made to undergo surgery I'm confident I can return to the England team injury-free following a course of rehabilitation," said Pietersen at the time of his injury.

Ponting open to giving Clarke limited-overs captaincy

Australia's captain Ricky Ponting is open to the idea of handing deputy Michael Clarke the leadership responsibilities for the Twenty20 and one-day teams, and preserving himself for Test cricket.
Clarke, 28, has already captained Australia in 11 limited-overs and two Twenty20 internationals while Ponting has been rested or injured. He was installed as Test vice-captain after the retirement of Adam Gilchrist, and led all Australian batsmen with 448 runs at 64.00 during the 2009 Ashes series.
Ponting assumed the one-day leadership in 2002 while Steve Waugh was still at the helm of the Test side. The pair shared the captaincy until Waugh's retirement from Test cricket in 2004. Ponting has been the first-choice captain of Australia's Test, ODI and Twenty20 sides ever since.
"If that's the way that I or others outside of what I'm thinking decide (is) the right way to go, there's absolutely no reason why that couldn't happen," Ponting said of splitting the captaincy with Clarke. "It has happened in the past with Australian teams. It is happening with other teams around the world right at the moment.
"Paul Collingwood is captain of the England Twenty20 team and Andrew Strauss is captain of the one-day and Test cricket teams. Those things are things that need to be thought long and hard about, but if it means that I'm going to be better off for Test matches and bigger series when they come around."
Ponting returned to Sydney on Wednesday after becoming the first Australian captain since Billy Murdoch to twice surrender the Ashes in England. The defeat at Lord's ensured Australia the added ignominy of slipping to fourth place on the ICC Test rankings, having lost three of their past five series.
Australia's transitional issues have led to calls from certain sections of the local media for Ponting's axing as captain, however he has reaffirmed his desire to play on until the 2013 Ashes series.
"Having a pretty bitter and sour taste in my mouth at the end of that Test match, I'd love to be able to go back and give it one more crack," he said. "I've got to worry about the next 12 or 18 months and see if all that hunger or commitment is still there. It's probably higher right now than ever before. Who knows, 2013 might be something achievable.
"I still think I've got a lot to offer the team, as a batsman and as a captain and as a leader. If it ends up getting to the point where I'm not the captain, my hunger and determination to keep playing this game are as good as ever.
"If that's with a 'c' next to my name, all well and good. If it's not, I still think I have a lot to offer, particularly a lot of younger guys who are around our set-up at the moment."
Australia's returning cricketers have expressed their ongoing support for Ponting, with Stuart Clark describing calls for his sacking as "ludicrous". "He's the best man to captain," Clark said after arriving at Sydney airport. "I think it's ludicrous that anyone would say any other [person should captain Australia]. That's the way it is."
Simon Katich was similarly defensive of Ponting. "There were eleven of us out there that had the opportunity to win the Ashes and you can't just blame it on one person," Katich said. "We had our chances through the whole five Tests."

Ireland aim to burst the Ashes bubble

Pity poor England - Ashes winners one minute, grist to the mill the next. "Not ideal," is how Paul Collingwood summarised the team's requirement this week, as they prepared to cleanse their minds of all lingering traces of glory, and get back to the drawing-board in preparation for two Twenty20s and seven ODIs against the all-too-recently vanquished Australians. First-up, however, there is a stop-over in Belfast that might, in days gone by, have represented a convivial way to unwind in a green and pleasant land renowned for its appreciation of a party.
But not in this unstinting professional era. The Irish are the pace-setters of cricket's second tier - streets ahead of their traditional rivals, Scotland (who take on the Aussies in Edinburgh on Friday) and itching to put one over the English, for a variety of reasons that extend beyond mere sporting instincts. For starters, there is the likely presence in England's line-up of Eoin Morgan - a member of the Irish side that captured the imagination at the 2007 World Cup, but now a targeted man after switching his allegiance to further his career. And then there's the large Australian influence in the squad, all of whom are gunning for vengeance for their mother country, not least the former captain, Trent Johnston.
Form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
Ireland - AWWWW
England - WWAWW
Watch out for…
Eoin Morgan is guaranteed a banter-fuelled reception from his friends and team-mates in the Irish dressing-room, not least the captain Will Porterfield, who has promised to try to unsettle his close mate. However he fares, it's going to be an emotional day for young Morgan, whose skills in the traditional Irish sport of hurling have had a direct influence on his unconventional batting style, not least his ability to play a paddle sweep with the power of a cover drive. In the absence of Kevin Pietersen, he is shaping up as England's most innovative member of the middle-order.
In the temporary absence of Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood is back in charge of England's ODI fortunes, and he'll be leading them in the two Twenty20s in Manchester as well. But his tenure could not feel any more ad hoc. His form fell away horribly at the tail-end of the Ashes, with an average of eight from the final three Tests, and while a change of format can sometimes be as good as a rest, his bosses at the ECB aren't sending out too many encouraging messages about his future. "I am Twenty20 captain at the moment," he said, "and until I'm told I'm not Twenty20 captain, that's how I'll perceive myself to be."
Team news
A forgotten man is set to return to the top of England's order - Ravi Bopara was absent from the Oval celebrations on Sunday because he was busy on county duty with Essex, where he put his Ashes traumas behind him in some style with a timely double-century. He could well be joined at the top by a debutant, with Kent's Joe Denly being named in the squad for the first time. Stuart Broad's new life as a megastar couldn't really begin in more bucolic surroundings.
England (possible) 1 Ravi Bopara, 2 Joe Denly, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Luke Wright, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Ryan Sidebottom.
Ireland's preparations took a blow when their senior seamer, Boyd Rankin, was ruled out with a groin strain, but they are not a unit short on confidence these days, and have sufficient resources to overcome his absence. The captain, Will Porterfield, confirmed his form by top-scoring with 47 for Gloucestershire in their Pro40 defeat to Hampshire on Tuesday evening.
Ireland (possible) 1 Will Porterfield (capt), 2 Gary Wilson (wk), 3 Paul Stirling, 4 Niall O'Brien, 5 Kevin O'Brien, 6 Andre Botha, 7 Andrew White, 8 Trent Johnston, 9 Regan West, 10 Alex Cusack, 11 Kyle McCallan.
Pitch and conditions
England and Ireland both topped 260 in their last encounter in 2006, and the Stormont surface has a reputation as a batting track. The outfield, however, is currently boggy, to put it mildly. It could take some serious super-sopper action to get the game underway on time.
Stats and trivia
Ireland have played England only twice in official ODIs, including their maiden senior fixture, at Stormont in June 2006. On that occasion, England were indebted to a century from Marcus Trescothick, who carried them to a comfortable but far from convincing 38-run win.
Their second meeting came in the 2007 World Cup in Guyana, and again it was tighter than perhaps England anticipated, although Paul Collingwood did his best to assuage any fears. He top-scored with 90 from 82 balls in a 48-run win.
"Tomorrow is a one-day international against a very good side, as we've seen in the past. We've got to get ourselves up for it, simple as that."Paul Collingwood issues a rallying-cry to his post-Ashes England team.
"I've played against him once before for Ireland, against Middlesex, and he admitted himself he was a bit nervous. I'm sure there'll be a bit of banter to make him uncomfortable, but he's a good cricketer and a good lad."Will Porterfield promises not to go easy on his former team-mate, Eoin Morgan.

Jayawardene and Samaraweera grind New Zealand

Sri Lanka 262 for 3 (Mahela Jayawardene 79*, Samaraweera 78*) v New Zealand
For the second Test running, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera batted with a purity of purpose, which New Zealand have been unable to produce all tour, to help the hosts share the first day's honours. The truncated first session was shared by both sides, the second saw Kumar Sangakkara try and dominate with a sweep-fuelled 50 before he became Daniel Vettori's 300th Test victim, and in the third Sri Lanka fully assumed control as Jayawardene and Samaraweera put together an unspectacular alliance of 147 that chipped away at New Zealand's spirits.
A sparse crowd at the SSC witnessed a slow-paced, gritty battle between bat and ball leading into tea. Neither Sri Lanka nor New Zealand really took control on a slow surface and under constantly threatening clouds, but the final session solidified the hosts' position. In the first session Sri Lanka scored 62 and lost one wicket; in the second they made 83 and lost two; between tea and stumps they scored 116 without loss. New Zealand are still one wicket away from an inexperienced lower middle order but need something spectacular tomorrow because conventional wisdom says that day two is best for batting at this venue.
Jayawardene batted as if he expected to score another century at the SSC. It was a typical effort, full of careful leaves and textbook pushes to the off side played with perpendicular front elbow and resourceful tucks off his pads. No frills, just obstinate, indomitable, remorseless batting.
By the time Samaraweera walked out, Jayawardene had eased himself in; all he needed was someone to reciprocate. They blocked their way through the start of their association with hardly a shot in anger. Yet as he settled in, Samaraweera began to use his feet well and looked to score off Jeetan Patel. Jayawardene waved the bat in acknowledgement of his half-century and then prepared for his 118th delivery.
The pair stepped up a gear as they built on their platform. Samaraweera twice hammered Patel for fours and Jayawardene paddled Jacob Oram to fine leg and then played a pearling drive on the up off the same bowler. Samaraweera raised his half-century in a Jesser Ryder over in which he clipped, drove and edged 13 runs. Sri Lanka meandered along at a leisurely pace.
In the last session, with the sun out and a pleasing breeze blowing, batting was easy. Vettori used pace and spin at the same time and later brought himself on with the new ball, but a flat pitch and twinkle-toed batting from Jayawardene and Samaraweera ensured the ball was worked all across the field. Vettori operated with a slip and short leg with spin, for the most part, but put only one man out for the seamers. He could perhaps have been more productive with an inside-out field when the clouds passed over in the afternoon. Overall, batting together in Tests, Jayawardene and Samaraweera have scored 2132 runs.
Once again Vettori was New Zealand's best bowler, maintaining a consistent line and length to take 2 for 65 in his 30 overs. There wasn't much bite in the track, which offered slow spin, and Vettori had to rely on flight and variation to test the batsmen. He was not given much support, though, by his spinner partner Patel, who the batsmen were able to drive off both front and back foot with ease. Patel rarely threatened as he was a bit flat and frequently dropped short. Oram once more failed to make a mark.
Earlier in the day, both teams had fought for a truncated first session's honour, which was evenly shared. In their first spells, Chris Martin and Iain O'Brien operated on two lengths, back of a length and full outside off stump, to keep the openers quiet. Martin was making the ball move late and O'Brien repeatedly tried to extract lift from the surface. It set the tone for Vettori.
Either side of the lunch interval, Vettori bowled 17 unchanged overs with a slip and short leg throughout. In that spell, he took the two wickets needed to reach 300. Vettori's introduction in the 11th over, from around the stumps, was welcomed by an announcement over the PA system that he was two short of 300 wickets. Wicket No. 299 came immediately, when Vettori drifted his second delivery away from a bemused Tharanga Paranativana, who edged to slip for 19. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sangakkara took a few chances against Vettori, frequently trying to get under his skin by sweeping, and denied him the landmark wicket going into lunch.
Dilshan fell early in the session, popping a leading edge back to O'Brien. Sangakkara had a plan against Vettori, perhaps because he'd heard him say how sweeping unsettled him the most. He swept two of his first five deliveries from Vettori for four and showed a preference to get on the front foot, looking to drive anything on the fuller side. Most of Sangakkara's innings was against Vettori's bowling: 65 of his 96 deliveries in fact. There was a man at deep midwicket and long leg yet Sangakkara went for his sweeps.
He stepped out twice to club Vettori over mid-on for four, but fell to a slog-sweep to Oram in the deep for 50. With that, Vettori became the first left-arm spinner to take 300 wickets. He raised his arms and allowed himself a smile, nothing fancy. From there on the lack of support told. It is the story of Vettori's career.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Flintoff's fling inspires England Ashes glory

England 332 and 373 for 9 dec beat Australia 160 and 348 (Hussey 121, Ponting 66, Swann 4-120) by 197 runs

Andrew Flintoff celebrates his run out of Ricky Ponting that sparked England's march to the Ashes © PA Photos
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News : Menacing Harmison kills off Australia
Players/Officials: Andrew Flintoff Steve Harmison Michael Hussey Graeme Swann
Matches: England v Australia at The Oval
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of England and Scotland
Teams: Australia England
Amid scenes of delirium unwitnessed in South London since the unforgettable summer of 2005, England's cricketers reclaimed the Ashes on a tumultuous fourth afternoon at The Oval, as Australia's brave resistance - led by a century of incredible mental fortitude from Michael Hussey - was unpicked, wicket by wicket, minute by minute, until, at 5.47pm, and with an expectant crowd willing on the moment of glory, Hussey prodded Graeme Swann to Alastair Cook at short leg to spark the celebrations into life.
At the moment of victory, all of England's players rushed into a huddle on the edge of the square - all except for one, that is. In his moment of Test retirement, Andrew Flintoff's first instinct was to seek out and console the crestfallen centurion Hussey, whose 121 from 263 balls had given his side a hope of salvation, but whose careless running between the wickets during a fraught afternoon session had been the single biggest factor in their demise. By calling for the single that led to the run-out of his captain and resistance-leader Ricky Ponting for 66, Hussey is unlikely to recall this particular innings with any fondness whatsoever.
Inevitably, it was Flintoff who stole the show from the Australians. He could not be the tub-thumping batsman of old in this series, while his bowling - though thunderous at Lord's - faded cruelly as the concerns about his right knee began to mount. But as a presence, and as a man who can make things happen on a cricket field, his spell has scarcely diminished. In a moment that is sure to be replayed for years on end, he gathered a firm clip from Hussey, steadied himself as Ponting hesitated fatally, then unleashed a fast, flat, unerring swing of the arm that plucked out the off stump with Ponting a foot short.
Though the decision went to a replay, Flintoff was in no doubt. He raised his arms in his now-habitual Kodak pose, and waited to be enveloped by his jubilant team-mates. It was a moment eerily reminiscent of Gary Pratt's series-turning shy at Trent Bridge in 2005, when Ponting once again was the fall guy, and it uncorked the tensions in the crowd as surely as the champagne was uncorked in England's dressing-room some three hours later. It brought to an end an unnerving stand of 127, and it shattered Australia's collective will.
Five balls later, their batsman of the series, Michael Clarke ran himself out for a duck after a clip off the pads ricocheted to Andrew Strauss at leg slip, and Australia could not recover their poise. Though Hussey was badly dropped by Paul Collingwood at slip on 55 off Swann, in Swann's next over, Marcus North dragged his back foot out of the crease as he swung at a big ripper, and Matt Prior, having gathered well high to his left, flicked off the bails almost as an afterthought. Their target of 546 had become a distant figment of their imagination, and at 236 for 5, their only remaining hope was to bat out the final four sessions of the series.
Brad Haddin chose pugnacity as the means to reboot Australia's innings, and he signalled his intent with two fours in his first nine balls, including a fizzing cover-drive as James Anderson overpitched. But Anderson might have dismissed him three times in a single over, including a regulation clip to short midwicket that was spilled by the substitute, Graham Onions. As he and Hussey took their seventh-wicket stand to 91, an ever-anxious crowd began to shuffle in their seats. On 34, however, his luck finally ran out, as he advanced down the track to Swann and picked out Strauss with a lofted flick to deep midwicket.
It was to be the game-breaking moment. Strauss, usually the coolest of characters in the field, celebrated euphorically as The Oval erupted once more, and seven balls later, the end truly was nigh. Steve Harmison - hitherto muted on a pitch that did not suit his style - extracted enough life for Mitchell Johnson to fence to second slip, where Collingwood, to his relief and joy, finally held on. Then, when Peter Siddle played around his front pad to lob a simple chance to mid-off, Harmison had his second scalp in the space of 12 balls.
Mike Hussey was last man out for a magnificent, if in vain, 121 © Getty Images
That quickly became three in 13, as Stuart Clark fenced nervily to Cook at short leg, and though Hilfenhaus averted the hat-trick with a stabbed defence straight back down the track, there was no longer any way to stem England's tide of emotion. With Harmison stalking to the crease with a predatory menace unseen in Ashes cricket for four long years, the crowd finally dared to proclaim the Ashes were coming home. Fifteen balls later, they were.
Some six hours earlier, England's day of destiny had dawned with more than just a frisson of anxiety in the air, thanks to the ease with which Australia's openers had pushed along at four runs an over on the third evening of the match. But Swann soothed the nation by claiming the initial breakthrough at the end of his second over, tweaking a succession of sharply spinning offbreaks past Simon Katich's edge, before nailing him plumb lbw with the arm-ball.
Swann bounced for joy in the middle of the pitch as a massive roar of relief and ecstasy erupted from the stands, but almost immediately the fervour morphed into a respectful standing ovation for the incoming Ponting, in his 136th Test and almost certainly his last in England after four memorable Ashes tours.
Before he had faced a delivery, however, England had struck again, as Broad this time hurried Shane Watson on off stump and beat the inside-edge of his defensive prod. Watson did not seem best amused at the decision, but replays suggested there was nothing wrong with the appeal at all. For all of Watson's impressive form in five innings at the top of Australia's order, it was nevertheless the fourth time this series he had fallen in such a manner. Food for thought as he works on his new career as an opener.
At 90 for 2 and with a jittery Hussey at the crease, England swarmed onto the offensive, with Swann camping four men around the bat at all times and at one stage sending down 28 dot balls in a row as Hussey prodded and smothered with desperate determination. At the other end, Ponting's eagerness to play the pull was tempered by his wariness of the vagaries of the wicket, although whenever he was tempted, he executed the stroke with the mastery that has made it his calling-card for the past decade.
In the first over after lunch, Ponting laced a first-ball full-toss from Broad through the covers for four, then tickled Swann around the corner to bring up a battling and brilliant half-century from 76 deliveries. Broad subsequently received a warning for running on the pitch to deepen the crowd's growing concerns, who had just seen Collingwood at slip parry a rare Ponting edge with his left boot. But then up popped Flintoff, and once he'd had his say, there was no holding back the inevitable.

Hurt Ponting may return to England

Ricky Ponting: 'With a loss, I'm more determined than ever to be a better player and leader than I am at the moment' © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Ricky Ponting
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Listen to Ponting's press conference audio here
So acute is the pain of a second Ashes defeat that Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, has declared himself amenable to the idea of a fifth tour of England in 2013. Ponting, who on Sunday became the first Australian captain since Billy Murdoch to twice lead Australia to Ashes series defeats in England, said the prospect of atoning for losses in 2005 and 2009 could convince him to return for one final campaign at the age of 38.
"We'll see how I'm going in four years," Ponting said. "Hopefully I'll have another chance to play another Ashes series back in Australia, but it would be nice, with everything I've done in my career and the games I've played, to have some good memories from this ground. I might have to come back next time and find some.
"With a loss, I'm more determined than ever to be a better player and leader than I am at the moment. I don't really know what to expect when I get back. Hopefully most of the questions will be from journalists, not from people above. But we'll see. I've felt I've given myself the best opportunity and done a good job as a captain and leader in this series. Leaders are always looked upon on their results on their team. Unfortunately for me and the rest of the guys we haven't got the results we would have liked. Ultimately it is my responsibility to get the best out of the guys and to win series. I felt I ticked most of those boxed, other than making a few more runs myself."
Ponting cut a forlorn figure at Sunday's post-match press conference, having watched his side squander a shot at a world record run-chase with two run-outs - one of which cost him his wicket - in the space of six deliveries. First innings collapses at Lord's, Edgbaston and The Oval, coupled with the failure to extract England's final wicket at Cardiff, contributed heavily to Australia's 2-1 series defeat; the same margin by which they lost in 2005.
Ponting said the sting of defeat at The Oval on Sunday was every bit as painful as that he felt at the same ground four years ago. "I don't think you can get any more disappointed than I am right now," he said. "Looking back at 2005, I was feeling exactly the same back then. We all spoke about it and built the series up so much...but we've come up short. I'm obviously hurting, the rest of the guys are hurting as well.
"For me, the leader, the captain, the most experienced player, it's difficult for me to accept. It's just as difficult for the rest of the guys. We couldn't have done anything else, we have given ourselves the best opportunity. Just a couple of really bad sessions during the course of five Tests have cost us the series. When we were been good we were exceptional, when we were bad we were very poor. We need to become more consistent in our performances across the board."
Australia have won just six of their past 16 Tests, during which they have suffered series defeats to India (away), South Africa (home) and now England. Sunday's loss at The Oval has ensured their Test ranking has plummeted from first to fourth, marking the first time since 2003 the Australians have not held the top spot.
Despite their slide, Ponting insisted his current squad should be persisted with for future series. "I think there are a lot of Test wins in this series of players," he said. "In a couple of years there are going to be a couple of guys coming in and going out with a couple of us getting a bit long in the tooth. They will win a lot of Test matches for Australia in the future. They will learn from their mistakes in this series."
Andrew Strauss, Ponting's conqueror in 2009, warned that Australia's youthful squad would learn from the Ashes defeat and emerge a motivated unit for the return clash in Australia next year.
"The fact that they didn't have the aura is because they have a lot of guys at the start of their career," Strauss said. "If you think about it logically, they're going to get better and better. Those guys are going to have experienced a huge amount in this series and they're probably going to be more determined and hungry to make sure it doesn't happen again. The last thing you'd ever say is that Australian cricket is in a bad place, because it's far from it. They will continue getting better over the coming years."

Vettori and Moles in New Zealand's selection panel

In a move that could radically change how cricket teams are selected, New Zealand Cricket has formally appointed captain Daniel Vettori and coach Andy Moles as national selectors. With voting rights given to them, Vettori and Moles will now have a powerful say in selection matters, along with the two other voting members on the panel, Glenn Turner and Mark Greatbatch.

Justin Vaughan, the New Zealand Cricket chief executive, said the new make-up of the panel was "innovative but consistent" with the way the board had been operating.

This is indeed a unique state of affairs: captains and coaches are consulted in other countries when it comes to selections - and most attend selection meetings - but this is the first time they have been given voting rights. When Moles first took over from John Bracewell he had wished to not be involved in the selection process. However, just after India's tour of New Zealand, he said he wanted to be on the panel to make sure "my views and the captain's views are taken into consideration so we get the balanced side to win games of cricket".

Greatbatch, who was a non-voting advisor, takes on selection duties while John Wright, on the shortlist for Kolkata Knight Riders' coaching job, will be the non-voting advisor and concentrate on his work as the high-performance coach. In other development, Dion Nash has stepped down from the panel because of personal commitments.

Vaughan said after the new appointment: "Andy and Dan see and work with our leading players constantly, and are directly accountable for team performance. Therefore we believe it is important they have a formal input into the selection process. Both captain and coach currently form our 'on-tour' selection panel, who select teams when the Blackcaps are playing."

Vaughan said in many countries captains already had a big role in selection of teams, but New Zealand Cricket wanted to go a step ahead and give him formal responsibility. "Daniel is a strong and very able leader. He has vast international experience, and is absolutely committed to driving the team to improved performance. New Zealand Cricket has complete trust and confidence in Daniel Vettori being up to the task and we are convinced the team will benefit as a consequence."

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