29 Dec 2010

Ashes taken away from Australia on day three in Melbourne

7:50 am on 29 December 2010

England stand on the brink of retaining the Ashes, 24 years on from their last triumphant tour of Australia, after their bowlers blasted through the hosts' top order in the fourth test in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Needing 415 runs just to make England bat again, Australia's brittle batsmen failed to withstand the pressure in front of a crowd of more than 68,000 at the MCG, limping to 169 for six at close on the third day.

England need only clinch the remaining four wickets to go 2-1 up with one to play in the five-match series and become the first team to take home the Ashes since 1987.

Australia, bundled out for 98 in the first innings, still trail by 246 runs with two days left to play in a match they cannot afford to lose, with England, as holders, only needing a drawn series to retain the urn.

Tim Bresnan, called into the side for Steve Finn, took three wickets in a brilliant spell after tea to leave Australia reeling on 104-4 before Graeme Swann and James Anderson took a wicket apiece to inflict further pain on the hosts.

Brad Haddin (11) and Mitchell Johnson (6) were left at stumps facing the virtually impossible task of halting England's victory charge on day four, after Bresnan recorded his best test figures of 3-26.

Shane Watson, who top-scored with 54 but ran out his opening partner Phillip Hughes for 23 to start the tumbling of wickets, concedes the Ashes are now beyond Australia's grasp.

The Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who struggled to 20 before chopping on to his stumps, continuing a woeful run in a series in which his highest score remains an unbeaten 51 in the drawn first test in Brisbane.

He stands on the verge of becoming the first Australian skipper in more than 100 years to lose the Ashes three times and after scores of 10, 1, 12, 9 and 0 in his five previous innings, can no longer lean on his batting record to justify his tenure.