Australia were on course to complete their first Ashes whitewash for 86 years after Shane Warne marked his farewell with a brilliant half-century and England's batting failed again in the final test on Thursday.
Australia Heading For Series Whitewash
Australia's Adam Gilchrist (L) stumps England's captain Andrew Flintoff during the third day of the fifth and final Ashes cricket test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground January 4, 2007. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA) Picture Supplied by Action Images
The world's greatest wicket-taker showed his prowess with the bat by cracking an explosive 71 off 65 balls to help Australia reach 393 in their first innings, a lead of 102.
Warne then demonstrated his genius with the ball when he dismissed England captain Andrew Flintoff in the second last over to put the tourists in disarray at 114 for five, just 12 runs ahead and needing a miracle to avoid a heavy defeat at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Brett Lee and Stuart Clark ripped through England's top order to capture two wickets each with their probing seamers, leaving Kevin Pietersen (29 not out) and nightwatchman Monty Panesar (nought) together at the close.
Lee dismissed Alastair Cook for four and Ian Bell for 28, both caught behind by wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, while Clark trapped Andrew Strauss lbw for 24 and had Paul Collingwood caught by Matthew Hayden at gully for 17.
The third umpire gave Flintoff out stumped by Gilchrist after the wicketkeeper combined with Warne for the second time following their heroics with the bat.
Australia were briefly in danger of falling behind England's first-innings total of 291 before their middle and lower order piled on the runs, with Gilchrist (62), Andrew Symonds (48) and Clark (35) joining Warne in the run-feast.
Warne, playing in his last test, delivered on his pledge to go out with a bang by belting nine fours and two sixes in his 12th test half-century.
He shared a 58-run partnership with Gilchrist to put Australia in front and a 68-run stand with Clark to stretch the advantage and keep Australia on course for their first Ashes cleansweep since 1920-21.
Warne, who has scored more test runs than any player in history without making a hundred, was foiled in probably his final chance when he was last man out, stumped by wicketkeeper Chris Read off Panesar.
Read also caught Gilchrist, Mike Hussey and Lee to become the first Englishman to twice take six dismissals in an innings after his success in Melbourne last week.
Gilchrist provided another demonstration of his awesome power, cracking eight boundaries and passing 10,000 first-class runs, before he was unluckily given out caught behind off James Anderson, with television replays showing he had failed to make contact with the ball.
Australia's prospects of leading on the first innings had looked bleak when Hussey was dismissed in the second over of the day without adding to his overnight score of 37 and Symonds then threw his wicket away.
Hussey edged a simple catch behind off Anderson while Symonds, who completed his maiden test hundred in Melbourne, wasted his chance of another big score when he was bowled by Panesar following a wild swipe.
© Reuters 2007.
By Julian Linden