England routed Australia by 347 runs to move to within one victory of winning its third straight Ashes cricket series.
England bowled Australia out for 235 in the final over at Lord’s in London yesterday, having set the touring team 583 for to win after declaring its second innings on 349-7. Spinner Graeme Swann took 4-78 to finish with nine wickets in the match.
England’s third biggest Test victory in terms of runs put it 2-0 up in the best-of-five contest with three matches to play. Australia in 1936-37 is the only team in the 131-year history of Ashes cricket to have come back from 2-0 down to win a series.
“We won’t be taking anything for granted or taking our foot off the gas,” England captain Alastair Cook, whose team was three wickets down for 30 or less in both innings, said at a news conference. “At certain moments in this game we were right under the cosh. It’s huge credit to the lads that we’ve managed to pull through.”
Should Australia fight back to draw 2-2 after losing the first two matches -- something neither team has ever managed -- England would still retain the Ashes urn, having won their last two series.
Former players including ex-England captain Michael Vaughan said only the weather may prevent a 5-0 sweep.
“England are a different class to Australia at the moment,” Vaughan posted on Twitter. “For the first time I think only rain will stop a whitewash.”
England resumed yesterday at 333-5, a lead of 566 runs. Jonny Bairstow got out for 20 and man-of-the match Joe Root, who finished the previous day on 178, was unable to reach his double century. He was caught by Steve Smith off Ryan Harris after adding only two runs to his score.
Root’s dismissal prompted Cook’s declaration with his team 582 runs ahead. Australia then lost Shane Watson, Chris Rogers and Phil Hughes to stumble to 48-3 at lunch.
Captain Michael Clarke and Usman Khawaja added 98 for the fourth wicket before Clarke was caught by Cook off part-time off-spinner Root for 51. Khawaja was also dismissed by Root, for 54, then Smith, Ashton Agar and Brad Haddin went cheaply.
Peter Siddle was out for 18 and James Pattinson reached 35 before Swann trapped him leg-before-wicket to seal the victory.
England, which won the series opener in Nottingham by 14 runs, scored 361 in its first innings at Lord’s and Australia slumped to 128 all out in reply. Cook highlighted the contributions of Ian Bell, who scored 109 and 74, and 22-year-old Root.
“He’s taken to international cricket extremely well,” Cook said of Root. “It’s a lot about technique, but he has the right character to succeed at Test cricket. He adapts his game to whatever is required.”
Cook said he’s hopeful that batsman Kevin Pietersen, who left the game with a calf strain, will be fit for the next Test beginning Aug. 1 at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Clarke said the 10-day gap will give Australia, which faces English county team Sussex in a three-day match starting July 26, the chance to regroup.
“It was certainly not the performance we were after but we’ve got some time now to make amends,” he said. “We’ll continue to work hard in the nets and try to get right for Manchester.”
While England has won its last four Tests and is unbeaten in 10, Australia is on a six-match losing streak after a 4-0 sweep in India earlier this year.
Still, Clarke said it’s a realistic goal for his team to win the remaining three Tests and clinch a series win.
“It’s going to be hard, there’s no doubt about it, but I’d be silly to go into Manchester expecting to lose,” he said. “We’ll do everything in our power to try and improve our game because we need to do that, especially our batting.”