Down Under plunder
England retained the Ashes in style with an unprecedented three innings victories over Australia in the winter of 2010-11. Joe Drabble was Down Under to witness the contest and looks back at a historic series...
Last Updated: 20/06/13 10:55am
There was a secret sense amongst England supporters that something special could unfold in the winter of 2010-11, but what materialised was beyond the most optimistic travelling supporter's wildest dreams.
Not since Mike Gatting had led England to victory in 1986-87 had Australia lost a home Ashes series but with messrs Warne, McGrath, Langer and Hayden no longer sporting the Baggy Green, there appeared to be a changing of the guard.
England were the side in form, winning the 2009 Ashes series despite not being at their best, while their one-day form was also beginning to click - not least in the Twenty20 format where they struck a psychological blow over the 'Old Enemy' with victory in the World T20 final in the Caribbean.
After encouraging warm-up displays in Perth, Adelaide and Hobart, England and the Barmy Army arrived for the first Test at the Gabba on November 25, 2010 quietly confident of putting the demons of their 5-0 hammering Down Under in 2006-07 to bed.
Andrew Strauss struck the first blow when correctly calling the toss of the coin, but his joy soon turned to unimaginable despair when he cut Ben Hilfenhaus' third ball of the Ashes series straight to Mike Hussey in the gully to perish for a duck.
England rebuilt, however birthday boy Peter Siddle then had the Gabba rocking when he dismissed Alastair Cook, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad in consecutive balls to claim the ninth Ashes hat-trick of all-time.
That deadly burst helped reduce England to a modest 260 all out, a total Australia romped past in reply thanks to a sixth-wicket partnership worth 307 between Hussey (195) and Brad Haddin (136).
A deficit of 221 faced England as they came out for a second bat, but openers Strauss and Cook almost wiped out the arrears themselves with a nerveless 188-run stand for the first wicket.
Captain Strauss eventually fell for 110, but England fans were soon staring at the scoreboard in amazement as Cook and Jonathan Trott took the score along to 517-1 declared. Cook surpassed the great Don Bradman with a record score of 235 not out at the venue and the match was eventually called a draw. It truly was, a great escape.
On to Adelaide and England could have been forgiven for thinking they had a 1-0 lead in the bank.
They soon did.
When Ricky Ponting won the toss and opted to bat first on a scorching hot morning, England would have feared a long day chasing leather, but after five balls of the match Australia had lost two wickets without scoring.
The hosts were eventually bundled out for 245 and England then showed the way to play on a perfect batting wicket, compiling 620-5 declared as Kevin Pietersen equalled his career-best Test score with a mesmerising double century. Cook also reached three figures for the second successive innings.
With rain forecast on day five, England needed a late strike on day four with Australia well-poised on 238-3 and Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey going well. It came from an unlikely source, Pietersen producing arguably the moment of the series to have Clarke caught at bat-pad in the final over of the day.
His dismissal paved the way for England to soar into a 1-0 lead on the final morning and the victory was made even sweeter when the heavens opened on the 'City of Churches' shortly after victory had been secured.
On to Perth, the scene of Australia's series-clinching win four years previous. The home side were on the ropes on this occasion, though, and made four changes in the aftermath of their Adelaide massacre. One of those, Mitchell Johnson, returned with a bang, scoring runs and taking nine wickets on his home patch to help Australia level the series.
England managed just 187 and 123 in their two innings and there was even time for another Western Australian, Hussey, to reach three figures during an emphatic 267-run win.
The scene was perfectly-poised over the Christmas period and an 86,000 strong crowd welcomed both sets of players on day one of the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
What transpired was one of the most famous days of Ashes cricket as England, who had bravely inserted Australia, skittled the home side for 98 inside 43 overs on the opening day.
As the home fans flocked for the exits in embarrassment, England's batsmen then set about batting Australia out of the match, and the series.
Cook made 82, Trott 168 and Prior 85 to open up an almighty 415-run lead and a famous victory was wrapped up on the fourth day as Tim Bresnan (4-50) enjoyed a match to savour.
There was a party atmosphere in the ground at Sydney for the fifth and final Test but also a sense that England were not about to rest on their laurels.
The final Test followed a frighteningly similar pattern to the one before, Anderson and Bresnan reducing Australia to just 280 in their first knock before Cook, who ended the tour with 766 runs to his bat, Prior and Ian Bell ran amok in the Sydney sunshine. England were eventually dismissed for 644 and an unimaginable third innings win looked inevitable.
England threatened to force victory with a day to spare when Chris Tremlett removed Haddin and Johnson in successive balls to leave the Aussies tottering on 171-7 in their second knock, but the champagne was kept on ice for just one more night.
Less than 20,000 fans turned up at the SCG for the final morning - 90% in red and white - and the 'I was there' moment was complete on the morning of January 7, 2011 when Tremlett bowled Michael Beer.
A 3-1 victory - ending '24 years of pain'. What a tour.