LEEDS // Australia moved within touching distance of retaining the Ashes after completing a crushing victory over a hugely inept England at Headingley. The hosts, who began the day 261 runs adrift, were indebted to a show of bravado from Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, who both hit half-centuries, to the delight of the home crowd. The duo rekindled memories of Ian Botham's heroics 28 years ago when England came frombehind to record one of the most famous wins in Ashes history. Only when Broad fell for 61 did Australia finally look like wrapping up the contest to leaveEngland facing a win-or-bust scenario at the Oval on August 20. This was a brutal beating which underlined Australia's supremacy and exposed England's chronic lack of quality in the absence of Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. Now, with the momentum firmly behind his side, captain Ricky Ponting believes England face an almost impossible task to wrestle the Ashes away from Australia.
"The pressure is all on England now and we'll go to the Oval with a spring in our step," said a beaming Ponting. "But I've been waiting for this for four years and this is what I've been dreaming of. "Our attitude has been spot on in this game and every time we've been confronted with something difficult the boys have put their hands up and got the job done. "This is what cricket is all about for me. To go into the final Ashes Test match at 1-1 at the Oval is something everyone is looking forward to. It will be difficult for England to bounce back now but it will be like that because of what we've got out of this game. "Some of our guys had been struggling for touch and some of them are now probably in the best form of their careers and heading in the right direction. We're peaking at exactly the right time of the tour." Starting the day on 102 for five, England lost James Anderson to the third ball of the morning and Matt Prior soon after as Ben Hilfenhaus threatened to finish the game within the first half-hour. That he didn't was largely due to a wonderfully defiant partnership of 108 runs by Broad and Swann who refused to admit defeat. Their effort, the second fastest century stand in Test match cricket, briefly delayed the inevitable and raised the spirits of a largely distracted audience. Broad, who impressed with ball by taking six for 91, bludgeoned 10 fours on his way to 61 before eventually holing out to Shane Watson in the deep off the bowling of Peter Siddle. From there on it was Swann who took up the fight, playing an array of exquisite attacking shots. But when he edged behind for 62, Mitchell Johnson ripped through the tail to finish with five for 69 and condemn England. "It's pretty hard to take because we didn't really turn up to this game," said dejected England captain Andrew Strauss. "We have to take it on the chin. We're not very proud of what we've done this week but we're level in theseries with one game to go. "We need to lift ourselves over the next few days and make sure we're ready to win at the Oval." firstname.lastname@example.org