Farewell time for Ashes heroes
by CricketArchive staff reporter
DateLine: 1st January 2007
The moment dreaded by Australians has arrived as legends Glenn McGrath
and Shane Warne ready for their last match, Tuesday's final Ashes Test
against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
McGrath and Warne, with 1,263 Test wickets between them and the scourge
of English batsmen for a good dozen years, have been match-winners in a
golden era of Australian cricket. They will play their part again in
the fifth Ashes Test match as Australia, already 4-0 up in the series,
chase a rare whitewash. The pair is expected to receive an emotional
farewell as Australian cricket shows its gratitude to the two
modern-day bowling titans, who have announced their retirement.
The Ashes series ended as a contest in the third Perth Test, but Ricky
Ponting's team has the opportunity to inflict the ignominy of a 5-0
series clean sweep, last achieved by Warwick Armstrong's 1920-21
Australians at home. The Australians, driven by the loss of the urn in
England in 2005 after 16 years' ownership, have put an ever-widening
gap between them and Andrew Flintoff's demoralized tourists. England
sunk to a series nadir with an innings and 99-run capitulation inside
three days after winning the toss in last week's fourth Melbourne Test.
It prompted Flintoff to say with an air of desperation: "We don't want
to leave this country having been turned over 5-0. We want to win a
game of cricket."
If there is a glimmer for England it is Australia's susceptibility in
"dead-rubber" Tests. South Africa won the third Durban Test in March
2002 after losing the first two of the series and England won in Sydney
on the last Ashes tour here in January 2003 after going down in the
first four Tests. The West Indies scored a world record 418 for seven
in the last innings to beat Australia in the fourth Antigua Test in May
2003 and India won the dead rubber in Mumbai in November 2004. But the
McGrath-Warne farewell and the quest for an 86-year Ashes whitewash
will focus Australian concentration, vows Ponting, who senses "an
opportunity to create something very special for this team in Sydney."
"We've done everything in our power to make that be the way. England
wouldn't be happy with their (Melbourne) performance," he said. "When
we are playing as well as we are and we're on a bit of a run then I'm
sure all those little doubts turn into big doubts. We've seen that
through this game."
Australia shunned the opportunity to call up spin specialist Stuart
MacGill to bowl in "leggie" tandem with Warne, preferring to keep the
balance of the team that flattened England in Melbourne. But the
tourists, with few options to strengthen their lineup, may turn to
Middlesex off-spinner Jamie Dalrymple to team up with Monty Panesar on
the spin-friendly Sydney pitch.
Flintoff has spoken of putting on a belated show for the army of
English supporters who have trekked out to Australia in the vain hope
of seeing their boys retain the Ashes after last year's euphoric
series. But four heavy defeats, both on the field and psychologically,
have Flintoff's tourists on the verge of leaving Australia with one of
the worst touring records and recriminations centering on coach Duncan
Fletcher and Flintoff, who also act as the two tour selectors.
Australia have won their last 11 Tests and a fall in their intensity
looks England's only way of salvaging something out of the wreckage.
Australia - Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (captain),
Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Shane
Warne, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Glenn McGrath and Mitchell Johnson
(12th man to be named)
England (from) - Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin
Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff (captain), Sajid Mahmood,
Chris Read, Jamie Dalrymple, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Monty
Umpires - Billy Bowden (NZ) and Aleem Dar (PAK). Match referee - Ranjan