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Ponting's revenge

Like a wounded animal, Australia bit back hard to regain the Ashes after England's 2005 triumph, whitewashing Andrew Flintoff's side 5-0. Graeme Mair looks back at a chastening series for England.

Mission accomplished: Australia celebrate a 5-0 Ashes victory in Sydney

England arrived in Australia to defend the urn having failed to build on their Ashes win of the previous year through a combination of complacency and injuries.

With Michael Vaughan still recovering from knee surgery, England coach Duncan Fletcher had to choose between the two Andrews, Flintoff and Strauss, for the tour captaincy.

Both had decent credentials and Fletcher stayed loyal to Flintoff, who had impressed the previous winter after being thrust into the role in India when Marcus Trescothick was taken ill. The Lancashire all-rounder oversaw a famous win in Mumbai to secure a 1-1 draw.

Strauss then filled in during the summer of 2006 while Flintoff recovered from his latest ankle operation and led England to a 3-0 win over Pakistan.

Two things later became clear. Fletcher made the wrong choice and Strauss dodged a bullet.

In the wake of their shock 2005 defeat, Australia kept faith with what was now an ageing side and, in skipper Ricky Ponting, had a man on a mission for personal redemption.

England's tour did not start well with Trescothick immediately suffering a recurrence of his stress-related illness. He returned home before the first Test and never played for his country again.

First Test, Brisbane

Steve Harmison served up a massive wide to start the series in Brisbane

Steve Harmison was handed the new ball after Australia won the toss and chose to bat. The Durham paceman ambled in, just about hit the cut strip and only Flintoff, stationed at second slip, prevented four byes.

To say it set the tone for all that followed is unfair but it offered an immediate hint that England were not the well prepared unit of the previous Ashes, a thought underlined when Ponting seized the initiative with an innings of 196.

Australia, unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988, declared on day two at 602-9.

England - who had gone with Fletcher favourites Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles in place of Chris Read and Monty Panesar in their starting XI - promptly collapsed to 157 all out, with Glenn McGrath taking 6-50.

Ponting declined to enforce the follow-on. Instead Justin Langer scored 100 not out before Australia declared their second innings at 202-1 early on day four to leave a target of 658.

A fourth-wicket stand of 153 between Paul Collingwood (96) and Kevin Pietersen (92) showed some fight but both fell within sight of centuries, Collingwood stumped after being suckered into giving Shane Warne the charge.

England were all out for 370 after 20 overs of the final day, Warne and Stuart Clark each picking up four wickets.

Second Test, Adelaide

Ricky Ponting was given a life in Adelaide when Ashley Giles dropped him off Matthew Hoggard's bowling

The second Test of the series goes down as an Ashes classic, although best forgotten if you're an England fan.

It all started so well for tourists, piling up 551-6 declared after opting to bat.

Collingwood atoned for his brain fade in Brisbane with a career-best 206, the first Ashes double century by an Englishman since Nasser Hussain at Edgbaston in 1997.

Pietersen (158) - Collingwood's polar opposite in style terms - again offered excellent support during a 310-run partnership.

Australia were 65-3 in reply but, 13 runs later, Giles dropped Ponting's miscued pull on the square-leg boundary off Matthew Hoggard's bowling. England had missed their moment.

Ponting went on to score 142 and Michael Clarke also contributed a century, his first against England, as Australia were all out for 513 after tea on day four.

England entered the final day on 59-1, a lead of 97, but Strauss, Ian Bell and Pietersen fell in the space of 20 balls as 69-1 became 73-4 and suddenly it was game on with all results possible on a wearing pitch.

Warne worked his magic with 4-49 but it was a slow death for England, who spent 54 overs adding 70 runs on the final day before being all out for 129 at tea. Collingwood was left stranded on 22 not out from 119 balls.

That Australia would complete the mugging by chasing down a target of 168 in a session was never really in doubt. Although they lost openers Langer and Matthew Hayden early, Ponting took control with an aggressive 49 and Michael Hussey's 61 not out steered them home by six wickets as the shadows lengthened.

Third Test, Perth

Adam Gilchrist slammed a 57-ball century in Perth

Finding themselves 2-0 down, England finally turned to left-arm spinner Panesar for the third Test in Perth, while Damien Martyn's sudden and unexplained retirement meant Andrew Symonds was given another chance to establish himself in Tests by Australia.

Panesar made an instant impact with 5-92 on the opening day, Australia all out for 244 with Hussey unbeaten on 74.

But again England failed to make the most of an opportunity, managing only 215 in reply as the unheralded Clark (3-49) continued his fine series with the ball.

Australia took command on day three. Hussey and Clarke scored centuries but it was Adam Gilchrist who stole the show with the second fastest hundred in Test history.

His 57-ball effort included 12 fours and four sixes and allowed Australia to declare on 527-5, giving England just over two days to chase 557.

Alastair Cook scored his maiden Ashes century, 116, and put on 170 with Bell (87) for the second wicket. England did at least extend the match into a fifth day before they were all out for 350.

Warne (4-115) bowled last man Panesar with the second delivery after lunch to ensure the Ashes were back in Australian hands after only 15 months.

Fourth Test, Melbourne

Andrew Symonds scored his maiden Test hundred in Melbourne

Warne's 5-39 on the opening day of his final Boxing Day Test at his home ground in Melbourne ensured there was no let-up from Australia, who had now turned their sights to inflicting a whitewash.

England were all out for 159 after opting to bat but briefly threatened to make a game of it by reducing Australia to 84-5 in reply on the second morning.

Queenslanders Hayden (153) and Symonds thwarted the tourists with a 279-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

Symonds' 156 was his maiden Test century and got Australia up to 419, a first-innings lead of 260.

Australia did not even have to bat again as the tourists, now an increasingly undisciplined and demoralised bunch, slumped to 161 all out and defeat by an innings and 99 runs. Strauss top scored in both innings with 50 and 31.

Fifth Test, Sydney

Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne walked off together into retirement at the SCG

The final Test of the series in Sydney was a retirement party for Warne, McGrath and Langer that England had little chance of spoiling.

England's batsmen again failed to make the most of first use, skipper Flintoff's 89 at least seeing them up to 291.

Australia rallied from 190-5 to 393 in reply with Symonds, Gilchrist and Warne to the fore.

There was one blot on the fairytale ending. Warne was stumped off Panesar for 71 ensuring he would finish his career as scorer of most Test runs without a century.

England's batting capitulated for one last time on the tour, all out for 147 in the second innings to set Australia a target of 46 early on day four.

McGrath (3-38) claimed the final two wickets to fall, respectively the 562nd and 563rd of his 124-match Test career.

All that was left was for Langer to sign off with 20 not out, although it was his great friend Hayden (23no) who hit the winning runs to seal a 10-wicket victory, a 5-0 whitewash and - little did they know it at the time - close Australia's era of Ashes dominance.