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England Closes on Cricket’s Ashes as Australia Slumps to 169-6

England Needs Four Australian Wickets Retain Cricket’s Ashes
Steven Smith of Australia leaves the field after being dismissed during day three of the Fourth Test match between Australia and England. Photographer: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

England enters day four of the fourth cricket Test in Melbourne needing to remove Australia’s tail-end batsmen to retain the Ashes with a match to spare.

Ashes rookie Tim Bresnan took three wickets and Graeme Swann and James Anderson each claimed one yesterday as England reduced Australia to 169-6 in its second innings after amassing 513 in reply to the home team’s first-innings 98.

“We’ve done a lot of hard work, hopefully we’ll do the rest and wrap up this win,” Bresnan said in news conference comments broadcast on Fox Sports.

England leads by 246 runs after removing Australia’s top-six batsmen and has two days left to force a victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground that would put it 2-1 up in the best-of-five contest with one match left. As Ashes holder, England would keep the trophy by tying the series.

An English team last retained the Ashes in 1986-87, when Mike Gatting’s squad sealed a 2-1 win in Australia.

“To be in the position that we are after our poor performance in this whole game, it is very shattering,” said Australia all-rounder Shane Watson, who top scored with 54.

Touring batsman Jonathan Trott earlier finished unbeaten on 168 as England established a 415-run lead, an Ashes record margin for a team batting second in the first innings.

Batting Slump

Australia had reached 95-1 at the tea break after opener Phillip Hughes was run out chasing a quick single. The home team then lost four batsmen for 35 runs to slump to 134-5.

Watson added four runs to his half-century after the interval before becoming the first of Bresnan’s three scalps when he was given out leg-before-wicket without offering a shot.

Bresnan, playing in his first Ashes Test after replacing Steven Finn in the England attack, then got Ricky Ponting on 20 when the Australian captain played onto his stumps. Ponting has now scored just 113 runs in the series at an average of 16.14.

Mike Hussey, Australia’s leading scorer in the series with 525 runs, lasted seven balls before Bresnan had him caught by Ian Bell at short cover without scoring.

Spin bowler Swann snared his first wicket of the innings when Michael Clarke, on 13, edged to Andrew Strauss at second slip. Steve Smith’s resistance ended on 38 when he bottom-edged a delivery from James Anderson onto his stumps.

Brad Haddin was 11 not out, with Mitchell Johnson on 6 as Australia faces its second innings defeat of the series.

Harris Injured

England may need just three wickets tomorrow to clinch the win after Australia fast bowler Ryan Harris was diagnosed with a stress fracture to his left ankle after breaking down in his run up yesterday. It’s not clear if Harris will bat.

Trott earlier batted through morning session as England added 69 runs to its overnight total of 444-5. Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle removed Prior, Bresnan and Anderson to finish with 6-75, while Ben Hilfenhaus took the wickets of Swann and Chris Tremlett.

Trott was at the crease for 468 minutes, faced 345 balls and struck 14 boundaries in his unbeaten innings, his third highest score in elite Tests. England’s total was the third time it had amassed 500 runs or more in the current series.

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