For the 5th, and final look back at my pick of sporting moments of 2006, i have chosen the pivotal day in the ongoing Ashes test series...
2nd Test (Adelade) Australia (513 & 168/4) beat England (551/6 dec & 129) by 6 wickets
Australia won the second Ashes Test by six wickets and went 2-0 up in the series after bowling England out for 129 on day five in Adelaide. England lost nine wickets for 60 (runs) in 43 overs, with Shane Warne taking 4-49 and key batsmen playing some poor shots.
Chasing 168 to win, Ricky Ponting (49) and Michael Hussey (61not out) shared a third-wicket stand of 83 in 16 overs. Ponting and Damien Martyn fell in quick succession but Michael Clarke joined Hussey to win with three overs left.
No team in history has lost after declaring on a higher total than England's 551 for 6 batting first in a Test. England now face the daunting task of winning two of the remaining three Tests over the next four weeks to tie the series and retain the Ashes urn, won amid triumphant scenes in September 2005.
This was one of the best examples of my theory of sport, that its not about how good you are but how good you are upstairs. For 3 days England dominated this test, England put together a big 1st innings score, Pietersen made 158 while Collingwood became the first English batsman to score 200 since 1936, while Australia were reduced to being 5 wickets down while being still 40 runs away from the follow on target. However on the day of the 3rd day the Australian Captain, Ricky Ponting told his players that he thought that they could still win the match.
It appeared to be a foolhardy claim, until the start of the final day's play. England had to bat out the rest of the day, or set some sort of unassailable target to make the game safe. Though 1-0 behind in the series, England had to make sure Australia did not win.
In reality, Australia cut off Englands supply of runs, starting with using Stuart Clark (who has turned into Australia's player of the series, 21 wickets to date with an average of 16.76 runs per wicket) and Shane Warne (who as i type is in the middle of his last test match, so far he has taken 706 test wickets at 25.35, the world record in test Cricket). For the first half hour it is just survival, runs are at a premium. 6 runs are added when Strauss falls, a leg before wicket that was a bit suspect. A couple of overs later comes the key moment. The new batsman, Collingwood calls for a quick single, and his partner (Bell) is hesitant. His hesitancy is his downfall as he is run out (see picture). Moments later the new batsman, Pietersen tries to sweep Warne, and is bowled. The much seen England batting collapse is on as 73/4 soon becomes 77/5, then 94/6, then 97/7...
England were bowled out just before the tea break on 129, leaving Australia with the gettable target of 168 runs, with 36 overs remaining in the match. When Australia won, with 3 overs spare, it was a crushing victory, which has sapped any confidence this team may have had in themselves. Australia have proved themselves that once again they are a champion team.
That's not to say that errors have not been made. They were under prepared going into the 1st test in Brisbane, they made errors when picking the team. It has been well documented that they should have picked Reid (as wicketkeeper) and Panesar (for Giles). The choice of Flintoff as captain is also a debatable one, his form with the bat has suffered, even if he has at times looked like the only capable England seamer. His field placings have been questionable, all in all he has looked like someone with too much on his plate (not surprising as he has just come back from injury).
The final score in the 5 match rubberended up with a 5-0 whitewash to the Australians, the first since the 1920's. This match went a long way to deciding the series.