Stuart Broad re-ignited England’s hopes of Ashes glory with a sensational five-wicket burst on the second day of the decisive fifth Test against Australia at The Oval on Friday.
Broad took five wickets for 27 runs in 12 overs to remove Shane Watson, captain Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin as Australia, bowled out for just 160.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann provided fine support with four for 38 as Australia suffered their third first innings collapse this series.
That left England, who made 332 in their first innings, 172 runs in front and by stumps they had extended their lead to 230 after closing on 58 for three with three more days still scheduled in the match.
Australia left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson, with the aid of two catches at short leg by Simon Katich, removed England first innings top-scorer Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood, who again fell cheaply.
But England captain Andrew Strauss was 32 not out and Test debutant Jonathan Trott unbeaten on eight.
It was a dream position for England in a Test, with the series all square at 1-1, they had to win to regain the Ashes but one where Australia required merely a draw to retain them.
“We bowled well as a unit. We talked about putting pressure on together and it proved to be my day as well as Graeme’s,” said Broad.
“We were delighted as a team to bowl them out for just 160. It was a patient wicket. We saw (Australian seamer) Peter Siddle put it in the right area, kept it tight and the wickets came for him.
“We knew that if we could keep the scoring rate down, it would come for us. I was looking to hit the top of off because I knew there was variation in the wicket.”
Australia would have been wary of one blond, pace-bowling all-rounder.
But Andrew Flintoff, in his final Test before an injury-induced retirement, was a bit-part player on a day where Broad, in only his 22nd match at this level, took his third five-wicket haul – the same number as Flintoff had managed in 79 Tests.
Australia, on a dusty, crumbling pitch, had made steady progress to be 73 without loss before Broad, the fifth bowler called upon by Strauss, struck with only his sixth ball to spark a collapse that saw eight wickets lost for 58 runs in an extraordinary second session.
Broad, often lauded more for his batting than his bowling, had Watson lbw for 34. It was the first time the opener had failed to reach fifty since coming in for the dropped Phillip Hughes for the drawn third Test at Edgbaston.
Ponting got off the mark with a lucky inside-edged four off Broad.
But the 23-year-old captured the prize wicket of the star batsman, who made just eight, when Ponting played onto a full length ball.
Left-hander Hussey was then undone by a superb Broad inswinger that pitched in line and was lbw for nought.
Australia vice-captain Clarke, the leading batsman in either team this Ashes, had been a thorn in England’s side all series with 445 runs, including two hundreds at an average of 89, before this match.
However, he could only manage three on Friday before, driving, he was well caught off Broad by Trott at short extra-cover.
Australia’s slump continued when Marcus North was lbw to Swann for eight.
No sooner had left-handed opener Katich completed a 106-ball fifty, he gave a bat-pad catch off Swann to Alastair Cook at short leg.
Katich’s innings was one of only three double figure scores in Australia’s innings along with Watson’s knock and Peter Siddle’s 26 not out.
Broad, who maintained good control of line and length throughout his spell, then bowled Haddin with a beauty that hit the middle and off stumps.
It meant he’d taken five wickets for 19 runs in 47 balls, with Broad’s haul owing more to his skills and Australia’s batsmen than the pitch.
Broad had already had a decent day with the bat before he was last man out for 37.
Johnson fell next, well caught by wicketkeeper Matt Prior off Swann before Australia, at tea, had at least avoided the follow-on.
Flintoff, left out of the side that lost the fourth Test by an innings and 80 runs at Headingley because of fears his suspect right knee would not stand the strain of fast bowling, ended the innings when he bowled Ben Hilfenhaus.
Australia had lost 10 wickets for 87 runs in 30 overs.
England, in a way few had forecast, had given themselves a shot at only a second Ashes series win since Broad’s father Chris, the former Test opening batsman, had starred on the team’s victorious 1986/87 tour of Australia.