Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 20 News List

England evens series with Australia

AP , BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND

England escaped with a two-run victory when Steve Harmison had No. 11 Michael Kasprowicz of Australia caught behind yesterday, ending a gallant chase for the closest result ever in an Ashes test.

Chasing 282 to win, Australia was dismissed for 279 with the No. 10 and No. 11 partnerships adding 104 runs between them to take the tourists within a batting stroke of a 2-0 series lead.

Instead, England held its nerve to level the five-match series 1-1. No. 10 Brett Lee ended unbeaten on 43 when Kasprowicz appeared to glove a legside catch to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.

Allrounder Andrew Flintoff took England to the brink of victory with two half centuries and four second-innings wickets, including key batsmen Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting in his first over on Saturday to trigger Australia's collapse.

England needed only two wickets on the fourth morning to wrap up the victory after Michael Clarke -- the last of the recognized batsmen -- was bowled by Harmison on the last ball of the third day.

Shane Warne and Lee added 45 runs in 56 balls until Flintoff claimed his fourth wicket when Warne stepped on his stumps and was out for 42 with the total at 220 for nine.

With the Australians at 262-9, Flintoff cannoned a sharply rising short-ball into Lee's left glove. Lee needed treatment on the field but survived the over. He got an inside edge to the boundary in the next, pushing the total to 267.

Kasprowicz had a reprieve, guiding Flintoff down to third man where Simon Jones dropped a low chance.

England had a 99-run, first-innings lead, amassing 407 on the first day after being sent into bat by Australian captain Ricky Ponting and then bowling the tourists out for 308 on the second.

It was Australia's first loss when a series could still be won by both sides in Ponting's 15-test tenure as captain, and its first loss in a "live" Ashes series since 1998-1999.

Flintoff was a worthy man of the match, going to the crease with England reeling at 75 for six in its second innings, and his 51-run, last-wicket stand with Simon Jones proved the difference.

Warne took 6-46, although Lee (4-82) had been the early destroyer for Australia, taking three wickets in an 11-ball burst as England slumped to 31 for four.

Flintoff endured shoulder pain and commanded the rearguard fightback until he was bowled by Warne for 73, including four towering sixes. His stand with No. 11 Jones (12 not out) came off 49 balls and swung the momentum back in England's favor.

Australia's opening batsmen had coasted to 47 without too much trouble before Flintoff -- later admitting he was still "buzzing" after his work with the bat -- was introduced as first-change bowler and removed Langer (28) and Ponting (0) with the second and last balls of his first over.

He had just missed a rare hat-trick -- his first ball of the second innings followed wickets with his last two deliveries to end Australia's first innings the previous evening.

It was a performance he rated the finest of his 49-test career which, surprisingly, has included only two Ashes tests.

"It's probably my best day of cricket to date," Flintoff said, "the highest point so far."

Australia never really recovered from 48-2. Flintoff chipped in with the later wicket of Jason Gillespie and returned 3-34, and Ashley Giles picked off Simon Katich (16) and dangerman Adam Gilchrist (1) inside six balls in a sequence that netted three Australian wickets for three runs.

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