Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- England reduced Australia to 213-7 on day four of the deciding Ashes cricket Test in Sydney to move within three wickets of completing a 3-1 series win.
Matt Prior took four catches to remove Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin after earlier smashing 118 to help lift England to a record 644 in its first innings. Australia needs another 151 runs to avoid an innings defeat.
The touring team closed in on its first series win in Australia for 24 years, having already retained the Ashes by taking an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the best-of-five contest. England last won back-to-back Tests on Australian soil in 1979.
“Twenty four years since it was last done, there’s obviously a reason for that,” Prior said at a news conference. “The amount of hard work and preparation that’s gone into this tour all sort of came out today. It’s a fantastic feeling.”
Centuries from Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Prior and tail-end contributions from Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann lifted England past 600 for the second time in the series to give it a 364-run first innings lead. The total eclipsed England’s previous best in Australia of 636 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1928-29.
Andrew Strauss’s team has three sessions on the final day to try to inflict an unprecedented third innings defeat on Australia in the series. England dominated the second match in Adelaide and fourth Test in Melbourne.
“There’s no doubt there will be an inquest into what’s happened,” Australia allrounder Shane Watson told reporters. “We’ve been convincingly outplayed in those two Test matches and it’s not looking great for tomorrow as well.”
James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Bresnan each took two wickets, while opener Watson was run out for 38 when he was sent back by Hughes chasing a second run. It was the third time in the series that Watson was involved in a run out.
Bresnan had Hughes caught behind by Prior for 13 to make it 52-2. Khawaja and Clarke then shared a 65-run stand that Anderson broke when he got Test newcomer Khawaja to edge behind.
Clarke, standing in as Australia captain for the injured Ricky Ponting, made 41 before Anderson got a delivery to swing late and Prior took the catch off a thin edge from Clarke’s defensive push.
Bresnan had Mike Hussey caught by Kevin Pietersen at point for 12 to make it 161-5 and Tremlett removed Haddin and Mitchell Johnson in consecutive deliveries to put England within three wickets of the victory.
Strauss was granted an extra eight overs by the umpires to try and seal the win with a day to spare, although Steve Smith and Peter Siddle resisted until the close of play with a 42-run partnership. Smith will resume on 24, with Siddle on 17.
Prior earlier struck 118 off 130 balls to become the third batsman to reach triple figures in England’s reply to Australia’s 280.
Resuming on 54 with the score at 488-7, the wicketkeeper-batsman brought up his first hundred against Australia off 109 balls. His innings, which included 11 fours and a six, ended when he edged behind trying to play an uppercut shot off Ben Hilfenhaus’s bowling.
Tremlett was the last man out, caught behind off Hilfenhaus for 12, leaving Swann unbeaten on 36 from 26 balls. Bresnan fell in the morning session for 35.
England batsman Paul Collingwood, who announced before play began today he’ll quit elite Tests after the match, said securing England’s first series win in Australia since Mike Gatting’s 1986-87 squad would be a fitting finale.
“It is going to be the perfect moment to bow out of Test cricket,” Collingwood told reporters. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow as a final farewell.”
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