Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 18 News List

Final Ashes test heats up

ASHES TEST SERIES Shane Warne took 5-118 while Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flintoff steadied the home side's innings with a 143-run partnership

AP , LONDON

England's Geraint Jones hits out against Australia during the fifth Ashes test at The Oval in London, Thursday.

PHOTO: EPA

Already marked by dramatic finishes, the fifth and final test in the Ashes seems to be headed for another.

Trailing the series 2-1 and needing a win to retain the Ashes it has held since 1989, Australia surged behind Shane Warne on the opening day at The Oval on Thursday.

Warne took 5-118 with England closing the day on 319 for seven. The not-out batsmen at stumps were Geraint Jones with 21 and Ashley Giles on five.

Andrew Strauss and Andrew Flintoff steadied the home side's innings with a 143-run partnership for the fifth wicket after England had stumbled to 131 for four.

Strauss reached 129 before he was dismissed by a catch from Simon Katich, diving forward at silly mid-off to grab the ball in his outstretched left hand and provide Warne with his fifth wicket of the match.

"I certainly hope not," Strauss said when asked about the prospect of another thrilling finish. "The way the series has gone, I think it's a great possibility that it might be a very close game.

"I think there will be a result and, if we keep working as we have done all series, there's no reason why we can't win it from this position."

England scraped home by just two runs at Edgbaston, and was given a scare by the Australian bowlers before winning by three wickets at Trent Bridge. In the third test, the tourists fought back to salvage a draw.

On Thursday, the stage appeared set for yet another big first-innings total for England.

An almighty roar went up from the crowd as England captain Michael Vaughan won the toss and forced Australia to bowl on a good batting wicket.

While rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday, England openers Marcus Trescothick and Strauss made the most of the warm, sunny conditions.

They looked well on course to steer their team toward a fourth straight first-innings total over 400, racing to 82 runs off 108 balls.

That was before Warne was brought into the attack in the 14th over.

The world's leading wicket-taker stemmed the run flow in his third over when he had Trescothick caught by Matthew Hayden for 43 off 65 balls.

Warne then had Vaughan caught for 11 by Michael Clarke, reaching to his right at midwicket, and trapped Ian Bell leg before wicket for no score.

After the lunch break, Kevin Pietersen was baffled by a Warne delivery that drifted between his pad and bat to be bowled for 14.

Paceman Glenn McGrath, who was declared fit to play on Wednesday having recovered from the elbow injury that kept him out of the fourth test, made a vital breakthrough when he had Flintoff caught by Warne at slip for 72.

Paul Collingwood -- in the England team as a replacement for fast bowler Simon Jones, who has an ankle injury -- was the next man out, lbw to rookie paceman Shaun Tait for seven.

Strauss was the last man out, having hit 17 fours in his 210-ball innings.

Warne bowled two spells, the first of 18 overs and the next of 16. It was the 31st five-wicket haul of his career and ninth against England. His five Thursday gave him 33 wickets for the series.

"It's been a bit of a trademark of the series. England sort of get ahead and then we fight back," Warne said.

"As we've all said over the last couple of weeks, it's been an unbelievable series and today was another good, hard day of test cricket."

McGrath finished with 1-48 off 19 overs, while Tait had 1-61 off 15 overs and Brett Lee no wickets for 68 off 17 overs.

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