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The Ashes 2009 3rd Test 4th Day: Flintoff Sets The Tone

By on August 3, 2009

The Ashes 2009 - Andrew Flintoff

Australia 263 and 88 for 2 (Watson 34*, Hussey 18*) trail England 376 (Strauss 69, Bell 53, Flintoff 74, Broad 55, Hilfenhaus 4-109) by 25 runs…

Andrew Flintoff extended his love affair with Edgbaston to inspire England’s victory charge in the third Ashes Test against Australia.

This ground was the scene of the all-rounder’s finest hour four years ago, when his heroics with bat and ball set up a sensational two-run win over the same opponents in what is remembered as the greatest Test.

Flintoff arrived at the crease today with England tottering somewhat on 168 for five in response to Australia’s 263, with the prospect of a first-innings advantage receding after Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell fell for the addition of 27 runs.

However, Flintoff wrested the initiative firmly from Australia with a scintillating 74 off 79 balls, propelling England to 376 and a lead of 113.

Australia lost Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting, the latter bowled by a perfect off-break from Graeme Swann, in reducing the deficit by 88 by the close, and, although a draw remains the most likely outcome, England will head into the final day’s play harbouring realistic hopes of a win which appeared improbable following the loss of five full sessions to rain.

Flintoff’s innings was the highlight of a middle-order rally featuring notable – and equally entertaining – contributions of 41 and 55 from Matt Prior and Stuart Broad respectively.

It represented Flintoff’s highest score since 2005, and he evoked memories of that heady summer with a magnificent display of hitting in front of an increasingly boisterous and appreciative crowd.

He added 89 in fewer than 16 overs with Prior, and a further 52 with Broad, who swung away merrily to thrill the spectators and enrage the Australians, and Mitchell Johnson in particular, in the final session.

The efforts of the middle and lower order served to puncture Australian optimism after Ben Hilfenhaus struck twice before lunch and Mitchell Johnson shortly after.

Although Bell repelled Australia’s advances during the hour’s play possible before lunch following a late start caused by a wet outfield, he saw Strauss depart for 69 and Collingwood perish to what proved to be the last ball of the session.

Strauss added just five to his overnight score before he was caught behind attempting to force a delivery from Hilfenhaus which was too close to his body, and bounced more than expected.

Bell, 26 not out since Friday evening, unfurled regal cover drives either side of a vociferous lbw shout from Peter Siddle and, other than a clip off his hips off Johnson which cannoned into Katich’s shoulder at short-leg, looked in little trouble despite the early discipline demonstrated by Australia’s seamers.

Hilfenhaus responded to being taken for three fours in an over through the off side by inducing a leaden-footed drive from Collingwood which flew head height to Ponting at second slip.

Though Bell brought up his half-century, off 96 balls and containing seven fours and a six, shortly after lunch, he fell shortly after for 53, pinned in front by a Johnson inswinger almost identical to that which brought an unsuccessful appeal on Friday.

Prior overcame a sketchy start to play with typical aggression, punching Hilfenhaus through cover and clipping Johnson off his toes early in an innings which helped change the complexion of the match.

His positive intent rubbed off on Flintoff, who struck Shane Watson straight back past the bowler twice in as many overs before slapping Siddle past point.

Boundaries came thick and fast as Flintoff and Prior raced along at almost six runs an over, the latter complementing his plentiful off-side strokes with an immaculate on-drive.

It took a mistimed pull, which looped tamely to mid-on, off the largely wayward Siddle to end Prior’s innings, but Flintoff, who averaged 47 in Tests at Edgbaston before this game, lifted Nathan Hauritz over deep midwicket to level the scores before a powerful sweep took him to 50 off just 53 deliveries.

He and Broad made merry as Australia’s bowlers continued to suffer, the left-hander matching his more celebrated partner with a straight drive of the highest class at Johnson’s expense.

Hauritz’s perseverance was rewarded when he found extra turn and bounce out of the footholes to take Flintoff’s glove as he attempted to leave the ball, providing Michael Clarke with a simple catch at slip.

Swann’s inventiveness earned him 24 rapid runs, as well as the wrath of Johnson. The left-arm pace bowler had Swann taken at cover off a slower ball, but he came off worst following a heated exchange with Broad, who brought up a 62-ball half-century with an emphatic pull.

Hilfenhaus had induced an edge from James Anderson moments earlier, and the entertainment finally came to an end when Siddle held a sharp one-handed return catch off Broad.

That allowed England the chance to make inroads into the Australia top order, and Graham Onions followed up his four-wicket haul in the first innings by breaking an opening stand of 47.

If England were delighted when Onions tempted Katich to push at a delivery slanted across him, they were positively delirious after Swann breached Ponting’s forward lunge with a delivery which turned sharply to hit middle stump.

Hussey avoided a king pair when a sprawling Onions narrowly failed to cling on to a bat-pad chance off his own bowling, but even an unbroken third-wicket stand of 36 between Hussey and Watson, who closed on 34 not out, failed to take the gloss off a stunning day for England.

Source: ECB

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